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Arbor Age magazine recently asked a wide range of equipment manufacturers and suppliers to share their insights about equipment for professional arborists, and how the trends they are seeing will impact your equipment decisions. Their observations are as follows:

Equipment Trends 2013

Arbor Age magazine recently asked a wide range of equipment manufacturers and suppliers to share their insights about equipment for professional arborists, and how the trends they are seeing will impact your equipment decisions. Their observations are as follows:


 


What trends are you seeing with regard to equipment and supplies for professional arborists?


 


With Tier 4 emissions in our sights, we have seen professional arborists make purchasing decisions sooner than they may have anticipated due to the new emissions. Another trend that we are seeing is that professional arborists are trying to keep their machines under 10,000 pounds to avoid the need for special licenses to haul larger equipment.


— Casey Gross, tree care products sales manager, Morbark, Inc.


 


Advanced equipment and safety. From a manufacturing perspective, there is always the demand to make equipment more effective in performance and design, especially proper ergonomic design. For example, some equipment advancements in compressed air excavation tools now afford a greater output on performance, and yet are easier to use and are lightweight in construction. From a safety perspective, it is always striving to ensure that safety is infused from all possible angles, i.e., not just the operator or equipment, but throughout the entire work site, including drop zones.


— Rick Sweet, Air-Spade product specialist


 


More and more companies now are starting to use mini skid-steers to feed their brush chippers. In the labor-intensive tree-care industry, a mini skid-steer is another tool that can go a long way toward improving productivity and profitability. Instead of dragging or carrying logs and brush from the backyard to the chipper, a mini skid-steer does the work. It is easier on employees, and allows them to concentrate on other aspects of the project. Plus, arriving at a jobsite with a mini skid-steer enhances the chances of picking up more work. For example, the mini skid-steer can be used to restore the landscape after various tree removal projects. Multiple attachments, which can be changed easily and quickly, allow you to diversify your business, doing jobs such as using an auger to the plant trees. Three attachments that are especially popular in the tree-care industry — an all-purpose bucket, a log grapple, and a brush grapple — can handle most of your jobsite needs.


— Mike Rector, solutions specialist, Vermeer Corporation


 


The use of compact equipment continues to gain momentum in the industry. Many arborists are starting to understand how compact machines can boost efficiency by accessing areas where large-scale equipment can’t.


— Bill Schafer, product manager for Loftness Specialized Equipment


 


Gasoline engines are showing up on many new machines in lieu of diesel engines. This is especially true in applications that had been using diesel engines below 100 horsepower.


Electronics are being used more. Some arborists are fearful of machines heavily laden with electronics. But as machine controls become more sophisticated the use of electronics will likely continue. Advanced safety features, emissions controls, remote controls, etc., are all fueling the use of electronics on modern stump cutters, brush chippers, and the like.


— J.R. Bowling, vice president, Rayco Mfg.


 


Our professional arborist customers are looking for lighter, more cost-effective units. New regulations are forcing tree-care professionals to work even higher than before, and these larger units need to stay as light as possible to stay on cost-effective chassis. Also, we continue to see a trend with our customers managing their equipment investments very carefully. That is, when our customers do need to purchase equipment, they are choosing machines that are the right fit for their particular business needs. We are seeing less “buying off the rack” and more focused purchasing decisions.


— Dan Brenden, product manager, Terex Utilities


 


The majority of arborists have to travel to many small jobs throughout the day. They may have to trim a tree in one neighborhood, cut one down in another, and remove a stump — all in the same day. Professional arborists are always looking for ways to cut down on the amount of time it takes to get equipment into position to do the work. In some cases that means finding a stump grinder that is easy to get on and off the trailer, and travel faster to where the stump is. In other cases, it means using smaller equipment, like a brush chipper than can fit through a standard 36-in gate rather than having to haul branches to the curb.


— Sean O’Halloran, marketing product manager at Toro


 


Professional arborists are looking for ways to expand their businesses and increase their market opportunities. As a result, more arborists are branching out into new areas by buying equipment that allows them to effectively and profitably offer additional services and do more with less. For example, arborists are using the Brush Blazer for clearing retention ponds and in certain areas working with fire authorities to handle brush that poses a safety risk. Not only does the Brush Blazer open doors to new markets and opportunities but it also offers a more efficient and profitable way to tackle jobs.


— Peter Cook, president, New PECO Inc.


 


From a sales standpoint, our customers are continuing to actively purchase new equipment, even during the traditional slow months. We are also selling more chippers with less horsepower than in the past, which we attribute to our larger drums and aggressive feed systems. Our customers seem to understand that efficient, productive chipping isn’t just about horsepower, but how all the components of the machine work together to process material.


— Christopher A. Smith, Bandit Industries communications director


 


One of the biggest industry trends this year is that battery-powered products are becoming more common in the professional tree care market, especially for smaller jobs and applications. Thus, we are continuing our design and manufacturing efforts in zero exhaust emissions and low noise.


We continue to focus on fuel efficiency in gasoline-powered products, as well as improving overall ergonomics, including reducing vibration, and power-to-weight ratios in all product segments.


We also continue to include advanced anti-vibration systems allowing professionals to work comfortably.


We encourage tree care professionals to consider fuel economy when making their purchasing decisions.


— Stephen Meriam, director of sales, Stihl Inc.


 


Green, both in its energy use and what kind of services it performs (for example, applying compost tea) continues to gain momentum.


The development of new products is already having an impact on both equipment and labor efficiency and cost. For instance, products that can be sprayed on the trunk of a tree, are absorbed and translocated to all of a tree’s extremities, do not require expensive high-pressure, high-volume pumps or high-capacity spray trucks. Although we still build large capacity, high pressure spray systems, we are also building a totally new generation of spray equipment for those companies who have transitioned to the new application technologies.


As for “green” products, sale of organic acids, fish hydrolysate, kelp, compost and compost tea brewers and sprayers continue to increase. We also see companies moving toward more proactive and comprehensive health management programs, not just disease management. It can include soil amendments, foliar sprays, compost tea, tree growth regulators and various other health focused services.


— Gary Maurer, president, Green Pro Solutions, LLC


 


We design and manufacture tree saddles, positioning lanyards, and climbing spikes and the trend is lighter weight and more flexibility. Our saddle designs use lightweight synthetic fabrics and aluminum hardware, but also have to be streamline and comfortable so the user can easily move around in the tree. We are also including more Ergonomics in the saddle designs to help alleviate stresses on the body. Even our tree spikes are made from Titanium, cutting the weight almost in half of a steel climber.


— Todd Lambert, arborist accounts manager, Buckingham Mfg. Co., Inc.


 


In the past year, what outside factors have had the biggest impact on equipment design/manufacture and/or on equipment sales to professional arborists?


 


Tier 4 emission standards


— Casey Gross, tree care products sales manager, Morbark, Inc.


 


Ergonomics and safety.


— Rick Sweet, Air-Spade product specialist


 


We are now beginning to implement Tier 4 final engines into some of our brush chippers. When trying to go through an engine change to meet the coming EPA emissions standards, we have had to put in a lot of engineering time and resources to ensure that this will be a smooth transition.


— Mike Rector, solutions specialist, Vermeer Corporation


 


Tight budgets continue to influence the industry. As a result, arborists are always looking for new ways to work more efficiently. Oftentimes, a new piece of equipment can significantly improve productivity on a task that had traditionally been completed by hand. Another way to work within tight budgets is to purchase versatile equipment that can use multiple attachments to accomplish a variety of jobs.


— Bill Schafer, product manager for Loftness Specialized Equipment


 


Engine technology is changing rapidly, meaning that repair and maintenance routines will likely different on new diesel engines than they had been in the past. New emissions control components are being added to diesel engines that could make it necessary for mechanics to learn the nuances of maintaining these new engines.


— : J.R. Bowling, vice president, Rayco Mfg.


 


The biggest impact on equipment design/manufacturing and/or on equipment sales to professional arborists in the past year has been availability of product, pricing and service. Equipment manufacturers have had to become even more innovative with their products to keep prices low in this highly competitive market.


Natural disasters, like the tornadoes in Oklahoma this spring, as well as super storms and hurricanes along the East Coast, do tend to spur equipment activity, particularly rentals, but these events do not impact manufacturing, distribution and sales as significantly as the overall economic conditions. As mentioned, a trend we’re seeing is that when customers do make an equipment purchase, they are adding equipment that meets of their specific business objectives — whether that is to increase efficiency, enhance productivity, or fit into a particular market or application.


— Dan Brenden, product manager, Terex Utilities


 


In recent years, we’ve had a lot of natural disasters. These large storms have had a huge impact on the amount of work for arborists. For example, in many parts of the country, there were snow and ice storms through the month of April. Those storms left communities and even cities without power for days. That obviously generated a lot of work for arborists and utility companies. Much of that work has continued through the summer.


— Sean O’Halloran, marketing product manager at Toro


 


With the pressure of a struggling economy and our customer base looking to diversify and do more with less, we’ve been called on to answer those demands with new and innovative designs.


In addition, the demands of the current economic situation mean that most companies are looking closer at total cost of ownership, which places a strong emphasis factoring in your maintenance costs and operation costs.


— Peter Cook, president, New PECO Inc.


 


Tier IV diesel emission regulations continue to be a dominating factor in both the design of our equipment and sales of new equipment. Many of these new engines are requiring equipment redesigns, and with the costs of the new engines coming in significantly higher, there’s no way to escape higher machine costs. We’ve been able to work closely with our engine suppliers to minimize this transition, and we’re also implementing new gasoline engine options on larger machines that can provide excellent combinations of power, fuel economy, and engine longevity.


— Christopher A. Smith, Bandit Industries communications director


 


We have seen that arborist and professionals chain saw sales increased as a result of continued storm cleanup from the impact of 2012’s Hurricane Sandy and various large storms throughout the country. Unfortunately post-storm tree removal is common due to dead and damaged trees, and professional tree care specialists are contracted as they conduct the job in a safe manner, while reducing further risk of damage to property.


— Stephen Meriam, director of sales, Stihl Inc.


 


Although the consumer has loosened the purse strings somewhat, the fundamentals of the economy are still shaky. Regions of the country are seeing a rebound in business, but a lot of areas (e.g., Detroit) are not. Larger regional and national companies are moving their equipment from low use to higher demand areas. Return to the business climate of the previous decade is not in the foreseeable future. That is why it is more critical than ever to buy equipment that provides the greatest flexibility and lowest life cycle cost. That means buy the best value, not the cheapest price.


— Gary Maurer, president, Green Pro Solutions, LLC


 


Climbing techniques are always changing with the advancement of the gear used. We are constantly keeping up with these changes to be sure our equipment is compatible when a new technology is introduced.


— Todd Lambert, arborist accounts manager, Buckingham Mfg. Co., Inc.


 


 


What should tree care industry professionals consider when purchasing equipment or supplies during the next year?


 


Tree care industry professionals should make sure they are looking to the future when determining the equipment and supplies they need. For example, don’t just think about what diameter materials you currently need to chip, but what’s the largest diameter you will need as your company grows. Also, what ancillary products would help your business become more profitable.


— Casey Gross, tree care products sales manager, Morbark, Inc.


 


It is important to purchase equipment that will get the job done safely without compromising performance. When it comes to compressed air excavation tools, the safety components include lightweight construction, dead-man trigger, thermal and electrical insulation, ergonomic design, and being compressed air safe (i.e., shields that protect operator from fly-back.)


— Rick Sweet, Air-Spade product specialist


 


When considering purchasing new equipment, the tree care professional will really need to look at life cycle costs and fuel usage. With the rising cost of fuel, having a machine that runs efficiently is going to be a major factor when purchasing something new. When you take a look at the life cycle cost of a machine, you have to take into consideration fuel usage, wear parts, service work, and you also need to look at your employees. Having properly trained employees also will help to reduce the risk problems with the machine.


— Mike Rector, solutions specialist, Vermeer Corporation


 


Consider the time and money savings in transporting compact equipment. For example, both a compact mechanical trimmer and a skid-steer with a mulching head attachment can fit on one trailer behind a truck. Larger pieces of equipment may require a semi to transport.


— Bill Schafer, product manager for Loftness Specialized Equipment


 


Tree care professionals looking to purchase new machinery within the next year should consider that interest rates are near historical lows, and holding off may prove costly if rates continue to edge upwards.


— J.R. Bowling, vice president, Rayco Mfg.


 


When purchasing equipment or supplies in the next year, Tree-care industry professionals need to consider the supplier’s/manufacturer’s financial stability, as well as their capability to service the product after the sale.


— Dan Brenden, product manager, Terex Utilities


 


A desire to quickly bring equipment close to where the jobs are will continue to influence purchasing decisions as contractors look for more productive ways to tackle tree-care projects. Also, companies should look beyond purchase prices, and focus the reliability and long-term cost of ownership of any given tree-care equipment.


— Sean O’Halloran, marketing product manager at Toro


 


Return on investment is key. In addition to looking at the maintenance costs already discussed, they need to consider the overall efficiency and profit potential.


— Peter Cook, president, New PECO Inc.


 


Tier IV emission regulations are already in effect, but in the coming months Tier III flex engines will no longer be available. Investing in new equipment now, while the less expensive engines are still available, could save thousands of dollars versus purchasing next year.


— Christopher A. Smith, Bandit Industries communications director


 


There are several things to consider before purchasing equipment. It is important to factor in both the short- and the long-term effects of an equipment purchase. Whether arborists are buying multiple products or even one pruning or trimming tool, every purchase should be an investment. We recommend consulting with a local servicing dealer who can offer advice based on a customer’s specific needs, rather than generalizations, to ensure that the right products and supplies are selected.


Potential questions that tree care professionals should consider are:


•           Are you using the equipment all day, 40 hours or more a week?


•           What scope of work will you be doing each season?


•           Are you working in a noise-sensitive environment?


•           Are there client or community restrictions on exhaust emissions?


That being said, customers should be concerned with getting the best value for their money, and the cheapest option is most likely not be the best long-term option.


— Stephen Meriam, director of sales, Stihl Inc.


 


With the high cost of fuel and labor, it is economically impossible to make multiple trips to the same property. A company must have the most flexible IPM unit, one that can do everything necessary with one trip. The investment will pay off quickly.


It is critical that arborists investigate the latest product technology both for its viability as a treatment option and its impact on equipment needs. Always keep in mind that the treatment program (products) determines the spray system (equipment), not the other way around.


— Gary Maurer, president, Green Pro Solutions, LLC


 


Make sure the equipment is compatible for the work being done. Choose the correct ropes and saddles for the climbing technique being used, and that the equipment is manufactured by a reputable company that can supply test data. Buckingham Mfg. has many different saddle options for DRT & SRT systems, and meets all the test criteria set forth in the ASTM F-887 standard. Also, you should be properly trained before trying a new climbing technique that involves unfamiliar gear.


— Todd Lambert, arborist accounts manager, Buckingham Mfg. Co., Inc.


 


[Editor’s note: Responses were presented in the order in which they were received.]


 

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