Grounds Department's Structure Creates Efficient Mowing Operations
The department has 68 full-time employees and, in a normal year, 12 seasonal employees. This spring, given the national economy, the department hired just six seasonal employees and kept them only until June. As a result, crews have cut back on some of their activities.
“If you are in the landscape field, you know some of the things that aren’t getting done,” Burns says. “But if you are the general public, you probably don’t notice. We’re cutting back on some things you can let go for a year.” Among those items are fertilizing and edging.
Burns’ department divides the campus into eight zones, each with a crew leader and up to five staff members. Each zone uses its own fleet of 21-inch, walk-behind mowers — the department has about 20 in all — and operators in all zones share the department’s larger mowers — four 72-inch diesel outfront mowers and one 72-inch outfront mower powered by propane. All mowers have mulching decks.
“We are an urban campus, so we don’t have a lot of large open areas, nothing where we can use a gang mower,” he says.
The department replaces its walk-behind mowers on a three-four-year rotation, Burns says, adding the strategy has paid off.
“It’s been amazing, the amount of downtime and the amount of maintenance we’ve prevented,” he says.
The department also has specialized teams assigned to irrigation, forestry, landscape installation, large equipment — which includes the riding mowers, skid-steer loaders, and tractors — and horticulture, which plants and maintains annuals and oversees greenhouse operations, Burns says.