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Choosing the right mowers and tractors is the first step toward increasing efficiency. Equipment maintenance also is essential, but research and discussion during the specification phase can guide managers toward equipment that is reliable and matches a department’s skill levels and performance needs.
The selection process involves developing a comprehensive strategy that takes all of these issues into consideration.
Before making purchasing decisions regarding mowing equipment, grounds care managers must consider these issues in developing a strategy:
One final issue that managers should address both during the selection process and once equipment is in operation is operator training. Managers need to discuss training options with the manufacturer and the dealer and make the most appropriate decision based on operator and mechanic needs and skill levels.
Whether an operator is new to the job or an experienced veteran, he or she should receive training about proper operating procedures at the beginning of each mowing season. The training should cover safety issues, as well as any required maintenance activities for which the operator is responsible.
Preseason planning can result in increased efficiency and cost savings. Equipment is in top condition, a plan for keeping it that way is in place, procedures for streamlining routing and unexpected maintenance are set, and operators are trained and ready to go.
Tuning Up the Process
The required complement to an comprehensive strategy for selecting mowers is a close look at equipment features and functions. Managers and their mechanics and operators should review these areas:
Ergonomics. Departments must do more work with fewer people. So workers must perform repetitive tasks for up to eight hours a day, five days a week. As a result, ergonomic design has become a higher priority. Today’s ride-on equipment has more comfortable seating and back support than previous models. Manufacturers have improved mowers’ shock absorption with independent suspension and vibration control to make equipment use less fatiguing.
Power. Not long ago, mowing equipment power did not exceed 18-20 horsepower (hp). But today, mowers offer up to 65 hp, with many models in the range of 25-30 hp. More power means higher blade-tip speed, which enables mower operators to produce a better quality cut more quickly.
Fuel efficiency. Manufacturers have made advances to reduce emissions and noise. Federal, state and local regulations have largely driven these efforts to produce mowers that pollute less and are more community friendly. For example, some communities have ordinances that ban running machinery during certain hours of the day. Fuel efficiency also is constantly improving.
Maintenance. Manufacturers have improved mower maintainability and durability. A few new features include improved air filters, built-in jacks for raising mower decks when changing blades, easier-to-read temperature gauges, and cutting decks that use blade spindles without grease fittings on the bearings. They are simply replaced instead of continuously maintained, but replacement is infrequent. Some mowers require fewer tools to service, and in some cases, one tool does it all.
— Cathy Walker