Equipment Trends

Equipment Trends, Part I

For insight into outdoor power equipment trends, Landscape Business, sister production to SportsField Management, recently reached out to representatives from equipment manufacturers throughout the outdoor power equipment industry. The following is an excerpt from that effort, and responses are presented here in the order in which they were received.

Q: What trends are you seeing with regard to outdoor power equipment for professional applications?

Trends continue to focus on productivity, ease of use and reduced service. And, as landscapers are now navigating the COVID-19 challenges with no more than two – and often only one man – per truck, equipment that offers high productivity for getting through jobs faster with less fatigue is more important than ever. Self-propelled reciprocating aerators with hydro drive and variable hole density for single pass aerations, and overseeders that can verticut and overseed in a single pass are examples of turf renovation units that offer more productivity. Equipment offering longer service intervals for oil changes saves downtime.

– Pierre Pereira, director of sales, N.A. at Billy Goat

We have seen many of our professional lawn and landscape teams paying more attention to their efficiency and effectiveness. Each owner wants to know how products make their daily operations easier and more cost effective. Some have even calculated out how a new machine saves them money and, therefore, how quickly it will pay for itself. Operators and owners are also diversifying their services. Groups that focus on one service, such as mowing, are exploring landscaping, stump removal, snow removal, or installation of hardscapes and landscapes. It has been great to watch the lawn and landscape industry grow and adapt to new needs in the market.

– Sam Williamson, a regional sales manager for Steiner, a Doosan Bobcat brand.

There is a trend around value, with a focus on “What am I getting for my money?” – in terms of the mower itself and what it can do. Landscape contractors want a durable piece of equipment that is simple to operate. Comfort is also a key motivating factor – especially when it comes to owner/operators. We hear a lot about ergonomics, so we are designing seats that eliminate the chances of ending the day with bumps and bruises. 

We are also seeing a desire for an extension of the maintenance intervals. With seasonal work, it’s important to keep contractors out there making money instead of facing downtime with their mowers in the shop. 

– Brad Unruh, director of new product development, Hustler Turf Equipment

Improved performance and efficiency continue to be on the minds of the lawn care professionals. With a continued need for labor, commercial landscapers rely on equipment that provides quick and easy service, so as to get back to the jobs at hand. Fast, DIY maintenance and cleaning access allow for more jobs done today, and less time getting ready for tomorrow. Landscaping software is also growing interest and helping contractors with improved planning for the long days ahead. With efficiency being a priority, stand-on mowers are also continuing to gain acceptance.

Battery-powered equipment is gaining a lot of attention and interest in the market, especially with all the discussions on a greener environment happening in the news.

– Ron Scheffler, senior product manager, BOB-CAT and Ryan

There’s been an increased focus on battery-powered solutions, though it’s been a slower transition for professionals than it has been with consumers. Many professional landscapers are starting to recognize the benefits of battery-powered equipment, so they’ve started to use them as supplemental tools to their gas units. For example, when a crew is working early in the morning in a residential area or doesn’t want to bother people in a commercial setting, they’ll turn to battery-powered equipment due to the reduction in noise. Crews will also turn to battery-powered equipment when they’re working in municipalities and hospitals that do not allow the operation of gas-powered equipment. 

Indeed, while the professional market is slower to adopt, those who are using battery-powered equipment are seeing the benefits right away: no gas, ease of use, less noise, less vibration, lighter weight, less maintenance, and lower operating costs.

– Tony Buxton, senior product manager for Milwaukee Tool

We’re seeing a trend of professional landscape contractors looking for multi-application-capable equipment. In addition, we’re seeing more contractors take advantage of small sit-in compact track loaders instead of stand-on and walk-behinds. Stand-on and walk-behind loaders offer the same compact benefits of track loaders in terms of transportability and the ability to operate in tight spaces, but, at the end of the day, they can’t compete in terms of speed and low ground disturbance, as well as operator safety and comfort.

– Buck Storlie, ASV product line manager

The labor shortage continues to be a top concern for our customers. As a result, manufacturers have developed equipment solutions that help enhance operator productivity.

Fuel is another hot trend, driven by customers either looking for ways to decrease fuel costs or exploring alternative fuels such as diesel. To meet this trend, we’ve focused on expanding our equipment lineup to offer more solutions for customers.

– Nick Minas, product manager, John Deere Commercial Mowing

Battery-powered equipment continues to be an area of growth throughout the country, primarily out west, where stronger regulations have pushed many landscape contractors to add more “green”/battery-powered equipment. Mowers and handheld tools, like trimmers and blowers, effectively reduce/eliminate emissions and help to take advantage of the noise-mitigation that battery-powered equipment offers.

Larger, more productive, and more versatile machines continue to be an area of growth, where larger deck sizes can really step up productivity. In general, higher-horsepower engines continue to be a strong trend across multiple different product categories.

– Mitch Hoffman, marketing manager at Toro

While vacuum excavation is not a new technology in the landscape industry, lawn and landscape contractors are increasingly using vacuum excavators for a variety of jobs. The versatile machines are being used for irrigation installation, garden and flowerbed clean-out and tree care. Vacuum excavators can be less environmentally invasive than other machines, and can be used to remove ground cover without harming vegetation. Landscapers also are turning to soft excavation, which is using pressurized water to excavate the soil while using the vacuum to remove slurry. This practice is commonly used for excavating irritation trenches or around established trees with a shallow root network. Due to their versatility, low maintenance and minimal environmental impact, vacuum excavators are an asset to any lawn and landscape fleet.

– Chapman Hancock, Ditch Witch vacuum excavation product manager

There is definitely a trend toward stand-on mowers, as more lawn care professionals take advantage of their small footprint, maneuverability and ease of operation. Long-term, we see a slower but consistent move toward battery-powered outdoor power equipment and autonomous functionality that will help lessen the impact of labor shortages.

– Josh Sooy, business segment director, professional products, Cub Cadet

Customers remain on the lookout for ways to make their businesses and operations more environmentally friendly. This means that fuel-efficient and zero-emissions products are proving to be attractive, along with battery-powered products. 

Noise abatement, both for operators and consumers, is an increasingly important aspect of environmental sustainability. Quieter operation of power equipment helps reduce operator fatigue and increase productivity of crews. And as people in the community are asking for less noise from landscaping activities, quiet operation reduces sound pollution.

Outdoor power product owners remain focused both on how to get the most value from their equipment and how to most effectively complete outdoor landscaping maintenance and projects.

Despite the business challenges presented by the continuing COVID-19 pandemic, outdoor power equipment manufacturers still operate around several constants —chiefly, knowing and understanding that the industry is a very seasonal one, and sales are driven largely by weather patterns and weather events. 

– Gary Childress, senior manager, Honda Power Equipment

Commercial users continue to place a premium on dependable tools that allow them to get their work done quickly and with as little fatigue as possible. In particular, the popularity of lightweight products with high power output continues to increase.

– John Powers, director of product marketing, Echo, Inc.

With the combination of labor shortages and rising labor costs, Exmark is seeing landscape contractors looking for ways to become more productive and efficient. Customer feedback from users of our 96-inch Lazer Z models has been overwhelmingly positive. Landscape contractors, parks and rec departments, municipalities and savvy homeowners understand that up-front cost is quickly offset by the machines’ increased productivity and reduced labor, fuel, service and maintenance expenses.

We’re also seeing increased interest in turf care products. Due to the specialization required, turf care is a more difficult category to enter than maintenance, so profit margins are typically better. Expanding into turf care can help contractors overcome low revenue from poor weather and/or economic conditions. As a result, we’re seeing a growing number of our core customers dive into the turf care and/or application side of the business.

– Lenny Mangnall, Exmark product manager

We’re definitely seeing the need from professional lawn and landscape professionals to pack more performance and productivity into the same sized equipment they use today. We’ve responded to this trend in multiple ways.

The new L23 and L28 small articulated loaders deliver an impressive combination of heavy lifting capability and an agile, turf-friendly package, thanks to its nimble design and smooth articulation.

– Jason Boerger, marketing manager – excavators, Bobcat Company

The biggest industry trend is still the demand for battery-powered products among the professional and consumer markets. Many municipalities and residential areas are starting to require low to no exhaust emissions and lower noise levels so the market is adapting to meet those needs. We are prepared to support landscapers with this transition over the next few years with a wide-range of powerful professional battery equipment. 

The landscaping business is becoming increasingly more sophisticated with high-tech tools like robotic lawn mowers and apps to manage business operations and fleet management from a mobile device. We are seeing more smart technology used in the landscape industry. 

– Nick Jiannas, vice president of sales and marketing, Stihl Inc.

We have seen, and will continue to see, the evolution of rechargeable and battery-powered solutions for both handheld – specifically string trimmers, blowers and trimmers – and ride-on equipment. Following the progression of the automotive industry, the adoption of these technologies will continue to spread into consumer and professional outdoor power equipment.

Tweels, an airless tire option, have increased in popularity over the years. The benefit to these tires is that they never go flat, saving on maintenance time and budget, and allowing heavy equipment to carry more weight and engage with more rugged terrain. 

We’re also continuing to see a rise in the popularity of zero-turn mowers, which allow landscaping professionals to get the job done efficiently and effectively.

– Steve Cathey, Kioti Tractor territory manager – Kansas, Oklahoma, and Eastern Texas