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A host of factors contribute to the total cost of owning and operating a mower. The issue of inventory management and its impact on total cost might be the toughest.
"When (managers) look at this category of equipment, parts play a critical role," Sliefert says Paula Sliefert. "Some of them need to do better analysis on which components they should have on the shelves versus which ones they should special order. In some cases, there's a lot of cash tied up in inventory, and there probably needs to be an annual review in place to evaluate their position."
Conry says the issue can affect both long-term finances and short-term productivity.
"If the parts aren't available within 24 hours — sometimes less — the machine may experience extended downtime," he says. "Again, it's a productivity and uptime conversation. If there's unscheduled maintenance, what's the reliability of whoever is going to be performing service on this product?"
Manufacturers stress that managers need to emphasize parts availability and the effect on inventory during the specification process because they ultimately have to live with the equipment decision.
"If he's not getting his parts on time or getting his service — even if it's somebody calling him back helping to address his issue on the phone the first time he calls — he's got to live with that," Conry says. "He's the one that everyone at his facility or institution is going to look at and ask, 'Why aren't you getting your work done?' "
Conry points out another specification consideration that can contribute to inventory woes.
"There's a hidden cost of your parts inventory if you have a rainbow fleet of different brands of products," he says. "You're going to have one oil filter for a Kubota engine, but someone over here is using a Yanmar, and someone over here is using a Detroit diesel. So instead of having one filter that can fit three machines, you have three different filters, and a stock of them for three different machines. Progressive fleet managers will say, 'I don't want a rainbow fleet.' "
Managers also need to make decisions on cost-effective mower maintenance before making a final selection.
"One area that is growing quickly is fleet maintenance, either using automated programs to keep track of necessary maintenance and repairs or keeping up with things manually, "Palmer says.
Finally, rising fuel costs are affecting managers' equipment decisions.
"From time to time, we hear requests about fuel consumption, so in our catalogs, we'll include a fuel-consumption number that we've come up with when we've tested the machine," Conry says. "Unlike the automotive industry, however, there's no standard government test. Especially in mowing machines, the usage can vary widely depending on grass type, how tall it is, how wet it is, how fast you're driving, etc. But we will provide a number based on what we found in a certain set of conditions so at least they have something to look at."
Components of a Mower's Life-Cycle Cost