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Equipment Trends 2014

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?

 

All spray equipment being installed in fully enclosed trucks; all in the name of marketing, advertising and safety.

— Tom Duffy, spray equipment manager at SherrillTree

 

A trend we noticed last year continues to be important to our professional arborist customers — lighter, more cost-effective units. Today’s industry regulations have enabled tree-care professionals to work even higher than before, and larger aerial devices need to stay as light as possible to stay on cost-effective chassis. Terex is committed to providing equipment to meet these demanding and ever-changing needs.

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. Every lineman, operator or field crew team member has specific ideas about the design of a utility fleet truck, including aerial devices and digger derricks, and how it will best suit their jobsite needs. These ideas start with the specs of a base truck, which includes the work zone capacity for digger derricks or working height and side reach for aerial devices, and then they are tailored to fit the work practices and requirements of each individual utility or contractor’s fleet. With higher price tags and longer lead times on custom equipment, customers are looking for manufacturers like Terex to develop a more standard equipment offering that is more cost-efficient and time effective to produce. By standardizing truck options and accessory offerings, as well as the installation process, equipment suppliers can improve manufacturing productivity, and utilize materials and technologies that are already engineered and designed in order to better support the product after the sale with an inventory of stock parts. And, proven installation methods can reduce downtime. For arborist customers, these benefits translate into lower sourcing costs, less production time, and reduced issues.

— Tommy Nix, vice president — strategic accounts, Terex Utilities

 

We continue to see a trend toward the use of compact equipment and attachments. Professional arborists are discovering that these types of products can help increase their efficiency, while achieving a quick return on investment.

— Bill Schafer, product manager for Loftness Specialized Equipment

 

We see a trend toward higher reach, increased capacity, increased maneuverability, and the ability to travel and self-level on uneven surfaces.

— Jeff Ford, global product director, aerial work platforms, JLG Industries, Inc.

 

Our customers are busy. It seems that 2014 has been a very busy year for our customers and we’ve been running at full capacity to fulfill new equipment orders. It seems there might still be some concern on Tier 4 engine costs and higher diesel fuel prices, as we’ve been selling more gasoline-powered equipment.

— Christopher Smith, Bandit Industries marketing and communications director.

 

Manufacturers are continuously working to make arborist equipment safer without sacrificing efficiency and productivity. Another important trend is looking to alternative fuel sources for our engines. As Tier 4 Final requirements come into effect, we are seeing increased interest in fuel-flexible engine options, which are offered on all of our brush chippers and stump grinders. Alternative fuel can help reduce emissions and noise levels, as well as fuel and operational costs. We’re seeing interest in compressed natural gas, propane and electric engines, and engine suppliers are exploring other organic fuel options.

— John Foote, vice president of sales and marketing, Morbark

 

With injectables and Targeted Zone Root Feeding, trucks can be smaller. Sprinter-style truck designs that were for turf are morphing into tree sprayers. With up to 5,500 pounds of payload capacity and new 4-cylinder engines that produce 25 mpg, these rolling billboards can be extremely profitable, even to include multi-tank systems and dual hose reels.

— Gary Maurer, president, Green Pro Solutions, LLC

 

One of the dilemmas the industry is currently facing is the lack of trained employees that have the ability and willingness to climb trees. So, trending now is equipment that takes away the need to attract or train professional tree climbers. An example of this can be seen in an increase in popularity of backyard aerials.

— Andy Price, Altec tree care market manager

 

What we’re seeing with our tree service clients is a definite emphasis on efficiency, performance and safety. From an efficiency standpoint, our clientele wants to be as productive in the field as possible. They are always evaluating their efficiency in the field, and looking for ways to improve. It’s been that way for years in the major right-of-way maintenance sector where many have moved to the use of mechanical tree trimming from a pure efficiency standpoint; and from a safety standpoint as well.

As far as performance, the big knock on mechanical trimming in residential areas, for example, was that you could never get the arborist-quality cuts with mechanical equipment. At Jarraff, we’ve tried to address that with our rear lot trimmer by incorporating precise cutting capability in the machine. We’ve developed a patent-pending 180-degree rotating saw head capable of precise horizontal cutting and tree topping. That has really gotten the attention of municipalities, as well as tree service companies that operate in residential areas. Anytime you can improve efficiency, while maintaining or exceed quality expectations, people will take notice.

— Heidi Boyum, president, Jarraff Industries

 

While increased comfort and efficiency are perennial trends, we’re seeing increased interest in stationary rope systems, and any products that upgrade ascension.

— Alma Hill, president and CEO of SherrillTree

 

With the increase of noise and emission restrictions, 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, niche applications, and for customers preferring more environmentally friendly options — especially in municipalities. To meet marketplace needs, we are continuing our design and manufacturing efforts in zero-exhaust emissions and low noise.

Power-to-weight ratios and fuel efficiency continue to be important in the tree care industry. Our top handle chain saws continue to be in high demand because they are easy to maneuver while doing in-tree work, durable and fuel-efficient.

— Kent Hall, senior product manager, Stihl Inc.

 

The addition of engine options is something that is becoming an important need for the tree care industry. For the most part this is driven by the emission standards. Many manufacturers, including Vermeer, are coming out with gas engine options for brush chippers and stump cutters.

— Todd Roorda, tree care and rental sales manager for Vermeer

 

 

What outside factors have had the biggest impact on equipment design/manufacture and/or on equipment sales to professional arborists?

 

Fleet/curb appeal, company logos and cleanliness of the equipment.

— Tom Duffy, spray equipment manager at SherrillTree

 

The two biggest factors that impact equipment design/manufacturing/sales are pricing and availability. Pricing is a significant consideration when customers are purchasing new trucks. Another major consideration is consistency within the customer’s fleet. The more common components a customer has among his/her trucks, the more streamlined the purchasing process is in the future because he/she doesn’t have to remember what components on which trucks are custom and where those custom components were specially sourced from.

By basing a trucks’ specifications on standard options and accessories, customers get a vehicle that meets its crews’ needs, adheres to the company’s work practices, saves money, and takes less time to produce because the design and construction phase of the purchasing process is considerably shorter.

— Tommy Nix, vice president — strategic accounts, Terex Utilities

 

When the economy slid into recession several years ago, it forced professional arborists to increase their efficiency. Although the economic environment has improved today, the mindset of doing more work with fewer resources persists. As a result, Loftness and other manufacturers have a strong focus on helping arborists be more productive.

— Bill Schafer, product manager for Loftness Specialized Equipment

 

Environmentally friendly products, like the lithium-ion and other hybrid platforms [are]replacing a larger portion of the traditional applications for gas- or diesel-powered solutions.

— Jeff Ford, global product director, aerial work platforms, JLG Industries, Inc.

 

Tier 4 engines have necessitated many equipment redesigns in order to accommodate the new engines, which are generally larger in size. With fuel costs remaining high, greater efficiency from machines is also a factor. Customers are looking more at long-term operating costs instead of just purchasing solely on a low initial price point. On our chippers, we’ve spent considerable time looking at different engine options that work well with our oversize drums, matching power bands and torque curves to chip more efficiently. As a result, we’re able to literally process more material faster, using smaller engines than other machines in the same category.

— Christopher Smith, Bandit Industries marketing and communications director.

 

The increasing emissions regulations that make up Tier 4 Final have had the largest impact on equipment design, whether it be accommodating the newer engines or working with alternative fuel engines.

— John Foote, vice president of sales and marketing, Morbark

 

Product development probably drives equipment issues more than any other factor. Then too, a significant application breakthrough like Target Zone Root Feeding can dramatically reduce liquid carrying capacity. High-quality liquid and fully soluble ingredients can eliminate expensive mechanical agitation components. All of this, in turn, drives down equipment cost.

— Gary Maurer, president, Green Pro Solutions, LLC

 

Safety has to be at the top of the list. Our clients are keenly concerned about the safety of their employees and the safeness of the equipment they buy — we are also. We’ve taken steps to manufacture our products to an optimum safety level. We’ve spent a lot of effort getting products like the Geo-Boy and Jarraff ROPS, FOPS and OPS certified. We want to provide equipment that our customers believe in — not only from a performance standpoint, but from a safety standpoint as well.

— Heidi Boyum, president, Jarraff Industries

 

Internet and social media have a big impact on equipment design. Equipment designers, inventors and retailers all have instant access to groups of arborist, and often use those groups’ participation to crowdsource feedback.

— Alma Hill, president and CEO of SherrillTree

 

As an industry, outdoor power equipment manufacturers work together to adhere to new emission regulations. Stihl has a continual product evolution model, and works to bring our customers the best products in the market. Our customers are important, and as new technologies are developed, we will continue to make improvements to increase fuel efficiency and user comfort, as well as safety.

Ethanol too remains a challenge, but the industry, via a campaign developed by the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute, is helping to address those challenges by cautioning professionals and other users to “Look before you pump!” to ensure the ethanol content is legal for use in your equipment. Pre-mixed fuels, such as ethanol-free Stihl MotoMix, can also help address ethanol challenges.

— Kent Hall, senior product manager, Stihl Inc.

 

Vermeer is putting a conscious effort toward cost of ownership and trying to minimize costs of a machine over its lifecycle. Going back to the gas engine options, acquisition costs are less for these models, which not only lowers capital costs up front for arborists, but also helps lower the cost of ownership too. A focus on equipment longevity allows equipment owners to see Vermeer equipment as an excellent investment.

— Todd Roorda, tree care and rental sales manager for Vermeer

 

 

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

 

Are they getting the best return on there investment to better help grow their business/ Plant Health Care.

— Tom Duffy, spray equipment manager at SherrillTree

 

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 the overall quality and cost of ownership of the product, and their capability to service the product after the sale.

— Tommy Nix, vice president — strategic accounts, Terex Utilities

 

Efficiency remains key to the success of any business. Therefore, when purchasing equipment, think about versatility and return on investment. Also, consider the company that makes the equipment. Selecting a reputable manufacturer with a solid customer service program can help ensure the success of any new equipment purchase.

— Bill Schafer, product manager for Loftness Specialized Equipment

 

Choose the best piece of equipment for your application — one with the proper height, reach and capacity for what you need to accomplish, as well as one that can traverse potentially rugged, uneven terrain. Depending on frequency of use, determine whether it makes more sense to rent or purchase a machine. Also, consider necessary operator training that is in compliance with OSHA standards. Many original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) offer training programs on how to safely and effectively use their equipment. Being properly trained will not only help you operate the machine safely, but will ensure you maximize the value of your investment.

— Jeff Ford, global product director, aerial work platforms, JLG Industries, Inc.

 

Modern gasoline engines tuned for industrial use are proving to be a very strong alternative to diesel power. Diesel certainly has the torque advantage, but especially on machines like our 12-inch capacity Model 990XP and 15-inch capacity Model 1390XP chippers, the gasoline engine options we offer have really impressed customers on their performance. As professionals look to replace older equipment and upgrade their fleets, gasoline engine options could provide a cost-effective solution. Bandit also still has a limited supply of Tier 3 flex engines available on certain models for those wanting diesel power at the lower price points.

— Christopher Smith, Bandit Industries marketing and communications director.

 

Tree care industry professionals need to consider several factors when choosing equipment, and we help our customers through this process. You’ll want to think about what your typical jobs are, as well as what types of jobs you want to be able to do in the future. Look at the types and size of wood you usually work with. This will help you determine the capacity your equipment will need. Look at your operating costs, including labor and long-term maintenance costs. Look at the safety and productivity of the equipment. Consider if support equipment will reduce your costs. Depending on your typical work, a piece like our Boxer compact utility loaders may save you enough hand labor to pay for itself quickly.

— John Foote, vice president of sales and marketing, Morbark

 

Fully research products, application options and the range of services you want to offer before selecting spray equipment. The equipment is tailored to the programs, not the other way around. Your largest overhead cost will always be labor. Do everything possible with your equipment, even if it costs a little more money initially, to drive down labor costs over the long term. Your bank account will thank you.

— Gary Maurer, president, Green Pro Solutions, LLC

 

It’s important for industry professionals to consider the total cost of ownership, not just the upfront cost. The reliability of the equipment and the service network, and support after the sale should factor in to equipment investment decisions.

Also, consider the availability of equipment when needed.

— Andy Price, Altec tree care market manager

 

We always look for value and return on investment. And I think that’s applicable anywhere. Value doesn’t mean buy on the cheap. It means find the equipment that’s right for the job and built right for the job. You always have to look at who’s making the equipment. What’s their perspective? Do they know the job we do? Are they part of our industry? There is no substitute for that knowledge, and it will show up in the quality of the product they’re selling. Take the time to get to know the people you do business with, the quality and effectiveness of the equipment, and don’t just let your decision be dictated by price.

— Heidi Boyum, president, Jarraff Industries

 

When purchasing equipment, tree care professionals need only to consider themselves. Tree people come in all shapes and sizes, as do the trees in their parts of the country, so tree care professionals need to make sure the gear they’re buying and using suits their specific needs, the specific trees they’re usually dealing with, and the specific type of environment they’re typically working in.

— Alma Hill, president and CEO of SherrillTree

 

With volatile fuel costs, fuel consumption is an important component in the buying decision that not only impacts the bottom line, but also worker productivity. Greater fuel efficiency keeps the crew working longer before refueling.

Anyone working with outdoor power equipment knows less fuel consumption means more work in a shorter period. Therefore, fuel efficiency is a critical consideration. We encourage tree care professionals to consider fuel economy when making their purchasing decisions.

Durability and reliability remain important, especially for those who earn a living from their equipment. Downtime can equal loss of income.

And when you are using a piece of equipment all day, a good power-to-weight ratio can help ensure productivity and reduce operator fatigue.

Overall ergonomics, including reduced vibration, are important in helping reduce operator fatigue and provide comfortable operation.

We recommend consulting with a local servicing dealer who can offer advice based on a customer’s specific needs to suggest the product that will be the best fit and value for their money. Also, developing a relationship with your local servicing dealer provides benefits on those occasions where your equipment requires maintenance or repair.

— Kent Hall, senior product manager, Stihl Inc.

 

It is important to find a knowledgeable equipment dealer who arborists can see as a partner, and can not only provide goods and services, but also has expertise in the arborist industry and can advise in overall business versus just serving their equipment needs.

— Todd Roorda, tree care and rental sales manager for Vermeer

 

 

What is your overall outlook for the professional arborist market in the next year?

 

To continue with strong growth.

— Tom Duffy, spray equipment manager at SherrillTree

 

In the next year, equipment manufacturers serving the professional arborist market, including Terex Utilities, will continue to be even more innovative with their products to keep prices low in this highly competitive market.

As this happens, we see that customers will continue to be very diligent in their equipment purchase processes, only 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.

— Tommy Nix, vice president — strategic accounts, Terex Utilities

 

We’re very optimistic about the future. Our customers are experiencing a steady workflow and, as a result, we’re seeing strong demand for quality equipment.

— Bill Schafer, product manager for Loftness Specialized Equipment

 

The outlook for mechanical tree trimmer orders will be strong, especially first and second quarter next year, as many utilities continue needed power line clearing projects.

— Mike Balkom, sales manager at Kershaw

 

It’s a very busy time for this market, and we see no reason why that won’t continue through next year. Fuel economy and overall machine performance are still important, and we think long-term cost of ownership versus initial sticker price will continue to grow as a predominant factor when purchasing new equipment. Often times, simply going for the cheaper machine leads to a higher overall cost of ownership once maintenance and fuel are factored in. Just going on the sticker price isn’t as acceptable to customers as it was in the past, and that trend should continue as companies seek the best investments for their future.

— Christopher Smith, Bandit Industries marketing and communications director.

 

We have seen significant growth in the professional arborist market, and expect that to continue for years to come.

— John Foote, vice president of sales and marketing, Morbark

 

The products and processes designed to maintain plants will continue to evolve. Increasing governmental regulation will continue to impact everything from products to application requirements to equipment. Continuing to explore new methods and staying current with options and opportunities are becoming increasingly critical for maintaining a profitable business.

— Gary Maurer, president, Green Pro Solutions, LLC

 

It will continue to be strong. As a result, Altec will continue to spend time with our end user customers to create new products and features that will make for a more productive, safe work environment.

— Andy Price, Altec tree care market manager

 

The overall outlook is very dynamic, especially when it comes to utility right-of-way (ROW) maintenance and tree service companies. There are so many things going on in the energy sector right now. Pipeline proposals and pipeline build outs. Existing pipeline maintenance. This is a big area for ROW maintenance equipment. Those pipelines are more valuable than ever and there will be significant emphasis on maintaining those pipelines.

The same goes for the electrical transmission and distribution industry. There’s been a lot of talk over the years on the age and condition of the electrical grid. We’re finding out that maintaining the ROWs is more critical than ever as energy demands rise and the age of the infrastructure does as well. So tree trimming, brush cutting and land clearing are more important than ever, and we expect to see continued emphasis in these areas.

— Heidi Boyum, president, Jarraff Industries

 

I expect the professional arborist market to continue its pattern of growth. From a retailer’s point of view, I think safety consciousness will also continue to grow, which is something SherrillTree has been promoting and encouraging for years.

— Alma Hill, president and CEO of SherrillTree

 

Overall, we have a positive outlook for the industry and Stihl. The professional arborist market is very strong. One reason may be that recent major storms have made municipalities and tree care companies take a much more proactive approach toward maintenance. In addition, with municipalities looking to increase their tree population and/or tree canopy, the need for tree care workers is on the rise, as well. In 2015, Stihl will launch new chain saws specifically designed for the arborist community and new protective apparel items.

— Kent Hall, senior product manager, Stihl Inc.

 

2015 is going to be another dynamic year with manufacturers going to Tier 4 Final and the associated costs involved with that. There is a lot of uncertainty driven by emissions standards and how that is affecting the marketplace is a little bit of an unknown.

— Todd Roorda, tree care and rental sales manager for Vermeer

 

 

Editor’s Note: Reponses were presented in the order in which they were received.

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