Your goal in selecting equipment should be to purchase equipment that will cut your labor costs the most. You must not be concerned with the expense of the equipment, except to find the best available price and financing.

I attended a national landscape meeting in Phoenix, Arizona. One of the landscape maintenance contractors I met there was very knowledgeable about equipment. He was from Wisconsin where equipment is manufactured and where landscape properties typically have large lawn area. Contractors in Wisconsin make heavy investments in equipment to mow, edge, fertilize and spray these large lawns.
In contrast to Wisconsin, where industrial land sells by the acre, property near our headquarters in California sells by the square foot. The land is expensive and so is the water needed to irrigate the land. As a result, the average lawn we maintain is relatively small compared to the midwest.

Nevertheless, my firm had expanded to four branches, with hundreds of landscapes under contract, so our equipment needs and investment had become quite large.

My new acquaintance and I enjoyed lunch together there, in Phoenix, and we talked about equipment. Actually, he talked about equipment while I listened. He described a new 72″ triplex riding rotary mower with a 20 horsepower engine he had just begun using. He also told me about the 21″ and 26″ self–propelled walk–behind Bobcat rotary mowers he was buying. The amount of mowing this equipment could do in an hour far exceeded the best output riding and push mowers could hope to do.

As soon as I returned to our office, I ordered some of the equipment I had just learned about. Coincidentally, this was just at a time when we needed both replacement and additional mowers

  Green Industry lawn equipment fast
  World Fastest Racing Lawnmower driven by Scott Evans. 2.93 Seconds In 150 Feet! (Aprox 80 MPH). See webcamshafts.com.
 

for the upcoming busy season.

At first, our operators experienced oil pump and engine failures with the new and larger mowers. They were unfamiliar with the equipment and they also lacked the proper training. Our employees complained. In a few months, however, our operators became comfortable with the big mowers and our breakdowns were few. In fact, the operators of the new mowers were much less tired at the end of the day and soon everyone wanted to replace their push mowers with the new self–propelled ones.

Because we had a good record–keeping system, I was able to make a comparison of man hours after we started using the new mowers. I found that we saved $40,000 with the new equipment in the first 12 months. Our other branches switched to the self-propelled equipment very quickly. A year later I estimated that our costs had been reduced by $100,000. This meant we could bid new work more competitively and still make our desired profit of 20%.

The major point here is that you make money in the landscape maintenance business by reducing your direct costs.

Servicing Your Equipment

In our early years, equipment breakdowns and the resulting repair costs were excessive because we were hiring untrained workers. We tried to train our people properly, but the failure continued. In those years, servicing equipment was done by the supervisor or by ourGreen Industry lawn equipment cartoon mechanic. We approached the problems in two ways…

First, we asked our mechanic to initiate training sessions for our operators. The mechanic saved frozen engine blocks, took them apart, and then showed our operators why the engine failed. The problem was often caused by lack of oil, dirty oil, ventilation fins plugged with grass, etc. Our operators began to better understand the equipment they were running.

Secondly, we started requiring each crew to service all of its equipment after work each day. The supervisor and the mechanic were strictly limited to inspecting and instructing the operators. We allocated 1/2 hour daily for this servicing, and our employees were paid for the time. Incidentally, each crew was assigned its own Green Industry lawn equipment victorequipment, and no other crew was permitted to borrow or use it. In this way we established accountability and a personal interest by each employee in his own equipment. We found that in–field breakdowns were reduced significantly by using this system.

Equipment Production Goals

Because we had good statistics on each phase of our operations, we were able to establish goals for each piece of equipment. If the operator of a large mower, for example, worked a 45–hour week, we set a goal of 35 hours actual mowing. This allowed five hours for traveling and unloading with another five hours set aside for servicing. Good production control resulted from this system because our operators were aware of our goals and expectations.

One of the major developments in the efficient use of equipment in recent years has been the introduction of larger walk–behind, self–propelled mowers. Starting with the 21″, many contractors have now advanced to using 36″, 48″, 52″ and 56″ walk–behind mowers. Compared to the 72″ riding mower, your investment is lower. So are your operating and maintenance costs. These machines are more flexible and your operators don’t have to struggle as much. Once, again, if you’ll use the biggest and fastest equipment available for the job, you will cut your cost and make more money.

Green Industry lawn equipment mule

Equipment Safety

Now, let’s look at ways to ensure the safe operations of your equipment. OSHA requires the protection of workers. When using loud power equipment, the hearing of your employees must be protected. Over time, repeated noise will damage hearing. The evidence is good and the law is clear. Ear muffs or ear plugs should be worn by your in–field workers.

An operator should also wear protective goggles when using a steel blade edger. There is always a chance that a stone or wood sliver can be thrown by the equipment. Wearing goggles is also important when blades are being sharpened on a grinder.

Whenever an accident does occur, the employee should be taken to a doctor authorized by your worker’s compensation insurance company. The supervisor and manager should be informed, and an investigationGreen Industry lawn equipment bike made the day of the accident. You might consider having a tailgate meeting of all crews when they return to the yard that day.

By focusing on accidents immediately and discussing their causes and prevention, you’ll find fewer accidents occurring. Valuable workers won’t be lost during the busy season (when most accidents happen) and your insurance premiums will be lower.

Specialty Equipment

The nylon cord trimmer is a tool that has been very popular since its introduction some years ago. Unfortunately, it is often misused. I’ve seen grass around sprinkler heads being cut with a trimmer although a herbicide, such as Round-Up, is a far superior technique which also cost less. If the owner complains about the brown grass caused by the herbicide treatment, use an organic dye. The dead grass around the sprinkler heads will gradually disappear.

The worst example of using trimmers improperly occurred while I was visiting with a landscape maintenance contractor in Texas. He proudly showed me three of his employees mowing a large lawn with extended nylon cord trimmers. He said, “I’m saving a lot of money on this project because I haven’t had to buy a 72″ rotary mower.

Green Industry lawn equipment mower To see if the contractor was right, we timed how long it took to mow a portion of an acre with the trimmers. We calculated the entire labor and equipment cost, and then we did the same for an equal size area using a large mower. We determined that the cost per acre was 75% less with the large equipment. He was convinced.

There are legitimate uses for the trimmer, of course. They’re effective for cutting weeds along a fence and on rough slopes not reachable by mower. In general, however, you can find more efficient, less costly ways to accomplish the work.

Looking for ways to improve

Just when you think you have the best equipment available, something better inevitably comes along. It’s important to your success to keep abreast of these new developments…

Green Industry lawn equipment robomowerWe were awarded a contract to maintain the landscaped perimeter of a business park. The project included eight miles of turf, 22 feet wide, which had to be edged weekly along a concrete curb. The operation required two employees working 2 1/2 days, or five man days in all.

Two years after we started the contract I saw an advertisement in a Texas trade journal describing a new piece of equipment call the “Curb–Dresser.” It has a disc wheel with a box to mount weights that could be attached to the three–point hitch of a tractor. It cost $500. I ordered one to use on that project. With the Curb–Dresser, we were able to edge that eight miles of turf in just three hours instead of five man days. That’s how you make money in business… by reducing your direct costs.

Lawn clippings and renovating

Very often, owners insist that lawn clippings be raked or swept in order to present a better appearance. University research shows that clippings disintegrate quickly and return valuable nutrient to the soil. We convinced our owners that the lawns would be healthier and more attractive if the clippings remained. In some situations where the grass is growing fast and clippings lie in unsightly swatches, your operators can return later in the day to run the mower over the lawn and scatter them.

During some seasons, or in damp climates where the grass stays wet all day, you can utilize mechanical pickup attachments occasionally on your mowers.

If you must must renovate a large turf area occasionally, use efficient equipment to do the work. An excellent technique is to use 40 horsepower tractors with turf tires pulling six–foot flail mowers equipped with slicing knives. This unit will do the verti–cutting while six–foot aerifiers pull the six–inch long plugs.

Your best approach, however, is to use horticulturally sound practices so that thatch development is minimal. Renovation is very costly, over $400 per acre, and it comes out of your pocket.

Here’s a final equipment technique we found that can help you maintain attractive ground cover areas…

Since groundcover planting require less than half as much irrigation as lawn, it is now being planted very extensively. After a period of time, however, groundcovers get thick and woody, collecting trash and becoming generally unsightly. In order to prevent this, you can mow the groundcover with flail mowers in the spring just before new growth starts. Fertilize the area, and within three to four weeks you’ll have an attractive, flat groundcover.

To keep costs down, use a large tractor and flail mower wherever possible. In the smaller areas, the high wheel Yazzoo push rotary works very well. You’ll be able to leave most of the cut plants in the beds as mulch.

A note of caution: Because this technique temporarily (and dramatically) alters the appearance of the landscape, ALWAYS advise the owner before you mow. Let him know why you are mowing the groundcover, and tell him how nice it will look in a month.