Equipment Trends: User Survey
While the equipment manufacturers and suppliers weighed in on trends that are shaping the industry, equipment users provided us with their feedback about their equipment purchases and their overall equipment decisions in 2010 and going forward. The results are as follows:
What type of new equipment and supplies do you plan to purchase during the next 6 months?
Chain saws 72%
Safety gear or work apparel 68%
Climbing equipment 63%
Manual hand tools or hand saws 53%
Aerial lifts or bucket trucks 21%
Trucks (custom) 19%
Spray equipment (or other chemical application equip.) 17%
Computers or software 17%
Stump grinders 16%
Right-of-way maintenance equipment 15
Tree transplanting equipment 6%
Air excavation equipment 5%
Grinders (tub or horizontal) 5%
During 2010, how did you approach your equipment needs?
(Users could select multiple options on this response)
Used and maintained only the equipment from our existing fleet 44%
Purchased new equipment this year to fill specific needs 37%
Purchased used equipment this year to fill specific needs 23%
Rented equipment to fill specific needs 26%
During the next six months, which of the following would you be most likely to do should a specific need arise?
(Users were required to select just one of the following options)
Purchase replacement parts for existing equipment 48%
Purchase new equipment 21%
Purchase used equipment 13%
Rent equipment 18%
Source: Arbor Age reader survey conducted between 8/24/2010 and 9/10/2010As buying habits, industry regulations, and maintenance trends continue to change, the providers of arborist equipment and supplies are keeping a close eye on the overall market in an effort to meet end-user needs. Arbor Age magazine recently asked a wide range of equipment manufacturers and suppliers to share their insights about the market, and how the trends they are seeing will impact your equipment decisions. Their observations are as follows:
In the mulching market, there has been a trend for equipment under 140 horsepower or over 350 horsepower. There is still activity between 140 and 350 horsepower, but, in this economy, the jobs are often smaller, contractors are looking to remain flexible in the types of work they perform, and financing has become more difficult. This is resulting in mulcher attachment sales for compact track loaders or excavators that offer great flexibility for many applications. The cost of attachments is more affordable, and they can often be obtained through factory financing with an excavator or compact track loader, making it more appealing than traditional financing options. There is also a trend toward compact purpose-built mulching equipment (typically under 140 horsepower) due to increased consumer awareness regarding the durability and increased productivity that was not understood six years ago when the category got started.
On the other end of the spectrum there is a big push for 350- to 600-horsepower purpose-built tracked mulchers. This is being driven by large-scale clearing projects for pipeline and transmission line construction that demand high production on large-diameter materials — often in remote areas with challenging terrain.
[When making equipment decisions,] evaluate cost of ownership and revenue generated over the life of the machine, as well as the initial purchase price. The initial purchase price is always an important consideration, especially with regard to obtaining financing for a larger capital item, but the hourly cost of ownership and revenue produced over the life of the equipment ultimately results in what you take to the bank. A piece of equipment that costs 30 percent more up front but provides 40 percent more useful life may have a lower hourly cost of ownership. Additionally, if the premium paid up front provides equipment with greater productivity per hour, there is potential for greater revenue.
Mike Slattery, vice president, Fecon, Inc.
With the downward trend in the housing market, there is also a downward trend in the large-size chipper market since there is less of a need for lot clearing. Arborists are focusing their efforts on tree maintenance; therefore the demand is increasing for lighter, easier-towing chippers. Also, the stump grinder market is leaning more heavily toward self-propelled units.
Diesel emission standards for engines used on chippers and stump grinders will soon be entering Tier IV. This means the use of particulate filters, catalytic converters, or other devices. This will naturally add cost to the machinery, so owners should consider whether to purchase prior to these standards being implemented, or whether they want to hold off for “greener” equipment at a higher initial investment. Using engines equipped with catalysts or particulate filters requires a different user mentality — it is best to be maximizing the horsepower use in order to keep the chamber clean, and idling of engines for extended periods is discouraged for the same reason.
Mark Rau, dealer support director, Morbark, Inc.
“Green” is in this year, both for tree service companies and their clients. Homeowners and commercial businesses seem to be more interested in protecting their trees than just trimming and pruning. This puts an emphasis on products and services for tree health management.
As always, tree care companies need to consider the reliability of the supplier, maintenance requirements, and the ability to get technical information and help when needed. An analysis should be conducted for any major purchase to ensure that the business that is generated from a new piece of equipment generates sufficient return on investment.
Rick Sweet, Air-Spade product specialist, Guardair Corporation
From what we’re seeing in the Midwest, with [Emerald Ash Borer] here and spreading, tree care companies and municipals can be in a position to do removals with [small truck-mounted loaders that can perform multiple jobs].
Maggie Schoenfeld, Scaffidi Grapple Truck
There are more eco-conscious options for outdoor power equipment users, from reduced exhaust emissions and noise to biodegradable oils. In addition, reducing vibration levels on equipment is an engineering product development goal; this applies to saw chain as well.
Tree care company owners and decision makers should consider a full-service dealer that offers brands known for durability, dealers who can supply expert product advice, outstanding service and inventory a full range of accessories such as oils, saw chain, guide bars, personal protective equipment — in other words, a one-stop shopping source. Also, building a loyal relationship with the dealer now may reap rewards in the future.
Kent Hall, senior product manager from Stihl
Today’s economy puts more stress on arborists, and is having an influence on buying habits. Depending on the particular individual’s circumstances, behavior is changing in many ways. Buying habits seem to be shifting away from the higher-end products and more toward the middle-tier products. In other words, people are buying more Chevys and fewer Cadillacs. Sometimes, they’re buying a machine but cutting out some of the extra, higher-priced options, like selecting a 70-horsepower engine instead of a 100-horsepower engine. Other times, they are buying the machine they need, rather than the one they want, such as buying a 12-inch chipper instead of spending the extra money for the luxury of a 15-inch machine. Without question, it is obvious that people are not buying unless they have the means to pay for their purchase. In some cases, the buyer simply writes a check and, for those in this group, there exists a proverbial “buyer’s market.” But, in most cases, the buyer requires financing through a commercial bank. In today’s economy, it is more important than ever before that the customer has a good credit rating and a significant down payment. Without a near-perfect credit score, gone are the days of zero down, low interest financing. Arborists need to be aware that the foreseeable future will require vigilance to maintain good credit scores, repair poor ones, and save money for future purchases as down payments will be required.
Given the forces at work, equipment buyers should plan to manage their equipment fleets for longevity. Arborists should plan to own machines for longer periods of time than in years past. In order to do so, more care must be taken with each piece of equipment to keep it in good working order. For many, this requires tightening up maintenance programs, investing more time training employees and operators, more employee/operator supervision, and more interaction with the local dealers for parts, service, and maintenance advice.
JR Bowling, vice president, Rayco Mfg. Inc.
Synthetic cabling seems to be one of the best growth areas for the arborist market. It is much more popular in Europe than in the United States at present. We are seeing great growth in this market as the U.S. sees the advantages of a synthetic system over a wire system, due to the elasticity of the product. Synthetic cabling is easy to splice in the field and can be used for other purposes such as new tree planting, tree bracing etc. Synthetic cabling is a nice “add on” sale for tree service companies.
When buying supplies in 2010, all tree care companies should consider adding onto existing sales. One example of a supply which could add on to an existing sale is the [aforementioned] synthetic cabling. Each add-on job could potentially have an added one- to two-hundred-dollar price figure included in the sale and provide preventative care for the tree for many years into the future.
Tom Daly, All Gear, Inc.
It seems like the trend lately with the arborist market is they are looking for a more compact unit that will perform at a high level. Units equipped with smaller horsepower engines get better fuel consumption and meet the needs for most of these operations.
The EPA will be enforcing new engine emission requirements in the upcoming year. Tree care companies that are looking to buy a machine with a diesel engine should really consider purchasing early in 2011. Our engine vendors are telling us that these new engines will be higher in price and heavier in weight.
Jason Morey, marketing manager, Bandit Industries, Inc.
We continue to see advancements in arborist accessories such as techlite bars and safety apparel. Techlite bars have been developed that are made with an aluminum core and steel side plates. The manufacturing process gives the bar structural integrity comparable to a professional solid bar, but with a lighter weight which benefits the user. Safety gear continues to advance as well. Vests, chaps and gloves continue to be developed with the latest in weather- and tear-resistant materials, while providing full coverage protection for arborists.
Quality, durability and safety are very important when considering equipment and supplies. Tree care company owners using the equipment themselves or providing product for the crews need to know that the equipment is going to deliver consistent, safe and quality performance.
When selecting products, special care should be paid to product ergonomics and safety features. We know accidents happen when people are fatigued. That is why it is important professionals use products that reduce burden and fatigue and include the most intuitive safety options.
Evin Ellis, marketing communications manager, Husqvarna
The main thing we are seeing in the industry is that tree care experts and arborists are hanging on to their equipment longer. They are running machines longer than in years past and are extending the trade cycle by a year or so. However, with the downturn that occurred in 2009, we are starting to see the trade cycle pick back up again this year and expect even more increase in 2011.
As we begin to gear up for the transition to Tier IV engines, the tree care industry is paying more attention to their costs and looking for ways to reduce operating expenses and increase efficiency.
It is important for arborists and tree care companies to partner with a dealer that they feel confident will support them, including service, availability to parts in a timely manner, and answers to basic questions about equipment. The technical advice that comes from a dealer who really knows the equipment and has a strong affiliation with the manufacturer can be very beneficial as well.
When looking to purchase replacement equipment or add a new model to an existing fleet, arborists should carefully evaluate the types of work they are currently doing and match new purchases to the type of work they are completing most often. We encourage customers to apply the 90/10 rule; where a piece of equipment should be able to effectively manage completing 90 percent of the types of work they are doing in order to get the maximum use from that specific model.
They may also want to consider adding a new model that will allow them to expand their current service offerings that will ultimately increase the amount of work they do, and hopefully generate more income. We are seeing this more and more, where tree care professionals will purchase a new piece of equipment for the sole purpose of expanding their services with hopes of increasing their bottom lines. Many have gotten into the biomass processing and supply business, for example.
Todd Roorda, environmental solutions specialist, Vermeer Corporation
Customers are looking for quality products and trustworthy suppliers now more than ever. They want long-lasting, effective tools that keep their team productive, while coming from a source centered in safety.
Tobe Sherrill, CEO, SherrillTree
We have seen the arborist industry bounce back from a disappointing 2009 year and we are expecting this trend to continue through 2011 as the economy improves and more homeowners get the tree work done that has been put on hold for some time.
Jim Cass, northeast account manager, Samson
Economic conditions have caused contractors to reevaluate equipment spending. At the same time, contractors are looking to expand their business with existing customers by offering services they may not have in the past. This is resulting in contractors looking at new and different equipment, while also looking at equipment that may make them more efficient and productive. Contractors must look at their equipment needs and determine if they can continue to operate their existing fleet, or if they need to upgrade to new machines. When evaluating new machines, contractors need to operate the products in real-world environments and jobsites, by demoing products from several manufactures. Buying equipment solely off of brochure specifications can result in dissatisfied customers.
Greg Lawrence, product manager, compact utility equipment, The Toro Company
Equipment Trends 2010: New Products
Our “Equipment Trends” respondents share some insight regarding their new and updated products for 2010.
Guardair Corporation recently introduced a new, larger version of the popular Air-Spade — the Air-Spade Series 3000. This tool excavates up to three times faster than the standard Air-Spade, while still providing all the same advantages. The Series 3000 will uncover the root flare, aerate soil and excavate trenches with astonishing speed without damaging tree roots or any underground utilities. It operates off of a 375-cfm air compressor and is commonly used for bare rooting trees prior to transplanting.
All Gear’s Rocket Line, neon yellow and red, is a tree climbing line that will work well with all mechanical descenders and ascenders. A triple construction keeps the line round for high performance. It is a 7/16-inch or 11.5mm 24-strand polyester cover, a 16-strand polyester core and a neon orange cabled and twisted center core. The colored core allows for easier splicing into a girth hitch eye or a small tight eye. Quality is guaranteed by premium fibers and excellent quality control. Climbers will find that it is lightweight, fast and holds a knot very well. An excellent choice for an Arborist Line in high visibility Neon Yellow and Bright Red! Two other color options are “Securelite” (neon orange, yellow and black) and “Prolite-24” (neon blue, green, yellow and black) Rocket Line is available in 120-, 150-, 600-, and 1,200-foot lengths. Samples available.
We have introduced our Model 990XP, which is a highly productive yet compact 12-inch-capacity drum-style chipper. It can be equipped with a wide array of engine options ranging from 48.1 to 84.5 hp. The 48.1-hp. option is a great solution for those companies in California that have to meet certain emission requirements enforced by the EPA. This unit is appealing to due to its compact size. It is extremely easy to tow and can easily be maneuvered from one location to the next.
Fecon’s CEM36 excavator Bull Hog mulching attachment with HDT fixed-tool cutting system provides durability and performance for smaller excavators of 7 to 12 tons. The combination expands usefulness of the versatile excavator platform that is easily transported, works in tight spaces, and clears large areas with minimal tracking to reduce ground compaction.
Fecon’s FCM Chipper Module configuration makes new efficiencies in processing and transportation possible. With curbside in-feed and top rotating discharge to fill trailers at the rear or side, roll-off installations are efficient solutions for storm clean-up or roadside clearing. Mounted on a rubber tired forwarder, an operation gains jobsite travel of 13 to 15 mph with rough terrain and road crossing capabilities. One operator drives, loads, and broadcasts or collects chips from the forwarder. FCM chipper modules come with 365 or 500 hp. and 22-inch diameter capacity.
Husqvarna introduced the T435 chain saw, which is equipped with two clamping hooks instead of one. This gives the user the choice to fit the saw in the most suitable way in the harness, while using both hands in other work. The T435 has its center of mass close to the handle, which makes it easier to control and creates a great balance. It is also equipped with LowVib, a steel spring construction that significantly reduces the vibrations of the handle.
Morbark has introduced the Beever M12R (12 inch) and Beever M20R (20 inch) chippers on tracks, to meet the needs of specialty markets. These are remote-controlled units that are ideal for utility right of ways or other off-road use. To satisfy the growing international market, Morbark is partnering with its overseas dealerships to identify requirements of their customers. This initiative began with Recycling Systems Australia to build road- and work-ready chippers for foreign markets — eliminating the need for modification of units sold outside the U.S. With the Morbark stump grinder line, Morbark is now offering up to 99-hp. diesel engines and a choice of cutter wheels — the Hillside wheel that will accept conventional cutter teeth, the New River Revolution wheel, or the Leonardi M-1 or Phantom wheels.
Rayco introduced its latest 12-inch drum chipper, the RC1220. This chipper has a wider infeed opening than its predecessor and also features Rayco’s exclusive X-Charge discharge system, which delivers extremely high air flow velocities not seen in comparable drum-style chippers. The X-Charge system prevents discharge plugging and adds efficiency by packing chips tighter, resulting in fewer trips to dump and eliminating dribble between the chipper and truck — saving clean-up time. Rayco will unveil its new 18-inch brush chipper this fall. This new model, the RC1824 also utilizes the X-Charge discharge system, and will feature a wider infeed opening and more standard horsepower than its competitors.
Scaffidi Grapple Truck
Scaffidi saw an opportunity for a small loader, and introduced the Serco 4500. Scaffidi worked with Two Harbors Machine to engineer and bring this product to the tree care service market. With a truck-mounted loader, such as the Serco 4500, one truck can do multiple jobs (equipment savings). Additionally, work becomes less back-breaking as the machine is doing the lifting.
Lightning lightweight lanyards are the latest craze for climbers seeking a unique look in this long-lasting 100 percent polyester Samson rope with awesome feel and performance. Three options include the popular 2-in-1 lanyard, the ropegrab-friendly flipline, and the more traditional adjustable buckstrap.
Lowe Series 5, 8 and 20 performance pruners are highly prized German made tools that are sweeping the horticulture industry with strong cutting action and low maintenance requirements. They are available in both hand shear and handled lopper designs.
Designed for lowering tree parts with minimal stress and abrasion to costly ropes, the new stainless steel Portawrap is not only rustproof, but tree-friendly too.
In the spring, Stihl introduced two new professional saw models the MS 362 and MS 362 C-Q — offering a great combination of fuel efficiency, torque, power and reduced vibration; engineered to save arborists both time and money. These saws deliver up to 20 percent greater fuel efficiency and reduce emissions by up to 70 percent as compared to previous models. The MS 362 C-Q model also includes the Stihl Quickstop. Plus and an additional chain braking feature.
The Toro Company
The Toro Company offers the new, dedicated STX-26 stump grinder. This is the latest machine to join the Toro lineup. The addition of this new stump grinder enhances Toro’s product portfolio. Designed for ease of operation, the new STX-26 stump grinder features the patented Toro Dingo TX style control system. This easy-to-use control system offers smooth operation and fewer levers, allowing for maximum productivity and little strain on the operator. Two simple controls operate all traction and grinder functions. The offset grinder head offers a 47-inch arc, providing the operator excellent visibility of the stump. The track design allows for easy travel over muddy areas, providing a low center of gravity that aids in side hill stability. The STX-26 is 78 inches long and fits through 36-inch gates. Combine the ease-of-use with a transport speed of 4 mph, and users can get to the stump in nearly half the time.
The Vermeer BC1200XL provides arborists a chipper with the ability to handle brush up to 12 inches in diameter. The BC1200 also has dual horizontal offset feed rollers that help promote more aggressive feeding action.
Vermeer also added a 49-hp. 2.2-liter Tier 4a CAT diesel engine option to the Vermeer BC1000XL model. The 85-horsepower Cummins Turbo Tier 3 engine is still an option on this model; however Vermeer wanted to provide arborists with a choice and is finding that many appreciate the increased fuel efficiency they are realizing with 49-horsepower option. Vermeer also changed the material used in the construction of the hood to steel.
Vermeer also introduced the SC372 stump cutter designed for both residential and municipal stump removal. This model has a compact frame that can navigate tight spots and doesn’t leave a big footprint.