Grounds managers and grounds manufacturers have worked together more closely in recent years, resulting in equipment that addresses users’ needs.
“The manufacturers have done a fantastic job of listening to their customers, and every year they get better at it,” Arlington says. “They have a lot of peer group feedback sessions with grounds managers. That happens constantly. They definitely have an ear to what’s going on and what (grounds managers) want.”
One area manufacturers have embraced is rolling out more equipment powered by alternative fuels.
“I’m talking about propane, electronic fuel injection and even flex-fuel compatible engines that we didn’t have in the past,” Hutcheson says. “With alternative fuels, it’s not only about reducing costs. It allows you to be more environmentally responsible, and that’s something more grounds managers are talking about. To be more environmentally responsible, reduced carbon footprint, those are important things.”
A growing number of manufacturers are getting into the propane game. About 20 manufacturers offer more than 135 models of propane-powered commercial lawn mowers, according to the Propane Education and Education Research Council. That number has increased significantly since 2011, when just a dozen manufacturers offered about 20 propane-powered models.
In addition to greater environmental friendliness, new grounds equipment also seeks to address managers’ reliability demands.
Manufacturers “have become more eco-friendly, (and) for the new generation of grounds managers, that’s become a really big issue,” Arlington says. “The maintenance requirements are a lot less than they used to be. You get longer life before the equipment has to be repaired if you take care of it. And obviously, there’s been growth in efficiency. Equipment is doing more than it used to. For example, consider the (increased) ground speed of a mower. That tremendously increases the efficiency of a crew using that equipment.”
New equipment also seeks to offer greater flexibility to give managers a greater return on the investment.
Attachments “are more interchangeable, especially the utility vehicles,” Arlington says. “That’s made things a lot easier on grounds managers. Before, you were stuck with one thing and that was it.”
One innovation that manufacturers have unveiled to address productivity concerns and reduce maintenance time is an airless radial tire that is designed to eliminate downtime resulting from flat tires and offers three times the tread life of normal turf tires.
Finally, rider comfort and improved ergonomics are higher priorities in a manager’s specification decision.
Improved “seats and operator controls reduce fatigue and makes the operator more efficient and productive,” Hutcheson says. “It also helps maintain a positive work environment, which enhances employee retention.”
The Changing Landscape of Grounds Equipment
Grounds Managers, Manufacturers Work Closely Together
Consider Lifecycle Costs When Purchasing Grounds Equipment
Products: Grounds Management