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Equipment Trends

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

 

Arbor Age: What trends are you seeing with regard to design, manufacture and sales of equipment and supplies for the arborist market?

 

The tree industry is decades behind in aerial lift technology, still using antiquated methods to reach trees. Most tree companies do not even realize that this inefficiency is costing them a lot of money, making them far less profitable.

— Lenny Polonski, manager at All Access Equipment

 

I see professional arborists now going to specialty companies for their tools. They are buying everything from gloves to heavy machinery from companies that specialize in the needs of arborists and landscapers rather than big box retailers.

Similarly, the tools themselves are being designed with more specific work in mind.

— Rick Sweet, AirSpade product specialist at Guardair 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. It also provides major safety and productivity advantages over hand climbing.

— Bill Schafer, product development supervisor for Loftness

 

It seems to be that buyers are trending more toward the features that add more productivity to their machines than before. For instance, buyers are looking to get not only the most horsepower in their stump cutters, but also want features such as 4-wheel drive and hydraulic backfill blades. Those items may have been optional “convenience” features before, now customers consider them a must have. On the chipper side, the gasoline engines in 12- and 15-inch chippers are starting to catch on. Buyers are avoiding the high prices of the Tier 4 diesel engines, and are realizing that gasoline is a now viable option.

— Erika Harwood, marketing, Rayco Mfg.

 

Innovation is key. Customers are always asking for products that are quicker, faster and safer. We’ve also seen an increase in questions regarding battery-powered equipment.

— Mitch Carb, marketing manager, SherrillTree

 

Vermeer continues to focus on cost of ownership, and is working to minimize costs of a machine over its lifecycle. We feel this will have a great impact in the industry, especially as arborists deal with narrowing margins. We also continue to see a demand from arborists for more engine options — diesel, gas and propane. Each option provides advantages — diesel-powered units offer higher torque and power; gas-powered units provide a lower up-front acquisition cost, which can help with the overall cost of ownership; and arborists in certain markets may be looking at propane-powered units to help meet and address emission regulations.

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

 

A trend we noticed in the last few years 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.

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. For example, we are seeing less “buying off the rack” and more focused purchasing decisions. Every arborist has specific ideas about the design of a fleet truck, including aerial devices, and how it will best suit their jobsite needs. These ideas start with the specs of a base unit, which includes working height and side reach for aerial devices, and then they are tailored to fit the work practices and requirements of each individual arborist’s fleet. With higher price tags and longer lead times on custom equipment, customers are looking for manufacturers 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.

— Dennis Poulakos, Terex Services North America

 

 

Arbor Age: What are some of the key factors driving the buying decisions of professional arborists?

 

Better profits: If there is a better way to make a profit at less cost, smart, progressive tree companies are quickly embracing this new technology.

Safety: Insurance companies are tightening their safety standard requirements and are cancelling insurance policies or raising premiums astronomically, due to the high accident and fatality rates in the tree industry.

–Lenny Polonski, manager at All Access Equipment

 

Professional arborists, like everyone, will always consider price and value when buying products. They need tools that make their jobs easier, not ones that complicate them. One of the most important factors for professional arborists buying products is safety. We are aware of these issues, and believe our AirSpade line of products aligns with these buying considerations. They are easy to use because they are lightweight and operate with dead-man triggers.

— Rick Sweet, AirSpade product specialist at Guardair Corporation

 

Service has become the main factor in purchase decisions today. Arborists depend on manufacturers not only to provide quality products, but also to support them long after the sale is complete.

— Bill Schafer, product development supervisor for Loftness

 

ANSI Certifications (Europe and Canada, too). Shipping cost and competitive price.

— Mitch Carb, marketing manager, SherrillTree

 

We find that arborists are seeking great value from their products, but need the professional features. Power, performance, dependability (minimal downtime) and quality are hallmarks of the Stihl product line, and why we believe arborists use our products.

— Kent Hall, product manager at Stihl

 

The two biggest factors that impact equipment design/manufacturing/sales are pricing and availability. 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. Because of this, 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 or her tree equipment, the more streamlined the purchasing process is in the future, because he or she doesn’t have to remember what components on which trucks/aerial devices are custom and where those custom components were specially sourced from.

By basing a truck’s/aerial devices’ 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.

— Dennis Poulakos, Terex Services North America

 

Product longevity is key. An arborist wants to know that the product they purchase will have a long useful life with proper maintenance. This helps to control the cost of operation.

The market also wants to partner with a knowledgeable dealer who can provide superb service and support after the sales, but is also a resource and 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, Vermeer Corporation

 

 

Arbor Age: What is the overall outlook for the arborist market during the next year?

 

The future looks bright for the tree service industry. For the past 50 years, the tree industry has been one of the few very lucrative industries that is stable with little affect by economic downturns. However, with increased competition, being lax and not investing in new technology costs companies dearly in profits. Only tree companies that work smart make a good profit.

— Lenny Polonski, manager at All Access Equipment

 

I see the arborist market remaining extremely stable over the next year. We will likely see an uptick in the construction sector, which will drive the need for arborists and landscapers. The need for arbor expertise and experience will always exist.

— Rick Sweet, AirSpade product specialist at Guardair Corporation

 

We expect the market to be stable over the next year, as there is always a need for tree maintenance. Similar to the past few years, we see the largest growth potential for those who provide right-of-way maintenance services.

— Bill Schafer, product development supervisor for Loftness

 

Rayco anticipates strong demand into 2016. The industry seems to continue growing, arborists are profitable, and are keeping their equipment fleets updated to maximize their productivity. On top of that, interest rates remain low, making it an attractive time for large-equipment purchases.

— Erika Harwood, marketing, Rayco Mfg.

 

We’re optimistic that 2016 will continue to have breakthroughs in innovation, design and safety.

— Mitch Carb, marketing manager, SherrillTree

 

This market is always hugely important to our business. We believe that new innovations such as advanced engine technology and fuel efficiency will remain top-of-mind for our customers.

— Kent Hall, product manager at Stihl

 

In the next year, equipment manufacturers serving the professional arborist market 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 their specific business objectives — whether that is to increase efficiency, enhance productivity or fit into a particular market or application.

Tree care industry professionals also need to consider the supplier’s/manufacturer’s capability to service the product after the sale.

— Dennis Poulakos, Terex Services North America

 

We believe the market will continue to grow in 2016. However, arborists will face some challenges, including narrowing margins and difficulty finding qualified labor. We believe it’s important that arborists focus on their business in 2016. Take time to update your business plan, and if you don’t have one, then create one. As margins continue to tighten, arborists will need to spend more time managing their business to identify ways to grow their business. Network with other successful businesses in your area, and learn more about the innovative approaches they are using to attract and retain qualified candidates.

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

 

 

 

 

Equipment Trends 2015: New Equipment

 

We also asked our Equipment Trends respondents what is new or different with their company and what new offerings they have for the professional tree care market. Their responses are as follows:

 

All Access Equipment introduced a new high-productivity mini lift specifically designed for faster and safer tree work operations. This lift features the most advanced and fastest-operating lift technology for arborists, with 83-foot work height, 46-foot lateral outreach, and is capable of entering a 36-inch gate.

  • New “truck mounting ability” replaces the bucket truck, and a mini lift with one versatile lift. Operate as a rear-mount bucket truck on a 17,000 to 19,000 under CDL truck, or self-load/unload in less than three minutes and drive through a backyard 36-inch gate. Additional features include the following:
  • New “turbo hydraulics” technology, allows operator to simultaneously operate three functions at once, at full speed, for faster-than-bucket-truck boom operation.
  • New easier-to-use controls speed up lift operation, allowing multiple tasks at once for faster boom operation.
  • New boom articulation allows upper boom to articulate not only to the ground with lower boom in vertical position, but also reach 20 feet below ground.
  • New track adjustment system allows each track assembly to independently articulate and telescope for faster travel on slopes.
  • New, more powerful, engine for faster boom operation.
  • New automatic self-open and self-park feature speeds up lift operation.

— Lenny Polonski, manager at All Access Equipment

 

We’ve been selling AirSpades to arborists for more than 20 years, and the feedback we’ve gotten is that sometimes they are too large for certain close-in work. To address this unmet need, we developed and launched the HT144, or Shrub Gun, which is a more compact version of our AirSpade. It weighs less than five pounds with a two-foot barrel, and operates on a smaller air compressor. The Shrub Gun features a smaller nozzle, which makes for less soil dispersal on the job while still being extremely powerful and effective.

— Rick Sweet, AirSpade product specialist at Guardair Corporation

 

Loftness most recently introduced a new version of the Kwik-Trim, a compact mechanical tree trimmer for right-of-way maintenance work. It features an upgraded chassis and powertrain with more horsepower, increased stability and easier maintenance than the previous model. In 2016, Loftness will be introducing two new mulching head products with features such as higher displacement motors and new cutting tool options.

— Bill Schafer, product development supervisor for Loftness

 

Rayco is introducing the RG45 Trac Jr stump cutter to its line of stump cutters. This new model is a 44-hp., compact stump cutter with expandable rubber tracks that can fit through a 36-inch gate. The machine is equipped with a hydraulic backfill blade and radio remote controls.

— Erika Harwood, marketing, Rayco Mfg.

 

We have introduced three new products to the market:

  • Big Launcher
  • Big Shot with Berger Pole
  • X-Rigging Rings

— Mitch Carb, marketing manager, SherrillTree

 

The Stihl MS 193 T is the newest addition to the extensive line of Stihl chain saws designed for arborists and tree care professionals. Its fuel efficiency and improved technology make it an ideal choice for the demanding professional who wants a premium, top-handle chain saw for in-tree cutting.

This chain saw is built for professional tree care experts who are looking for great value along with performance features. It packs 1.3 kW of power, and is 20 percent more fuel efficient as compared to the previous model, which reduces downtime and fuel costs. It also produces 65 percent fewer exhaust emissions as compared to the previous model, significantly lowering its environmental impact.

Advanced engine technology in the MS 193 T delivers peak performance in a variety of conditions. The IntelliCarb Compensating Carburetor automatically adjusts the air/fuel ratio to maintain the engine’s RPM when the air filter becomes restricted.

— Kent Hall, product manager at Stihl

 

Terex now offers the TL50P and TL55P backyard aerial devices for the professional arborist market. These models feature over 52 feet of working height (the TL55P achieves 58 feet) and the longest side reach in the industry at 38 feet, exceptional stability, and the ability to fit through a standard 36-inch gate. Both units are mounted on a rubber-tracked SDP carrier, and, because they are lighter weight than other backyard aerial devices, boast a low 5.2 psi of ground pressure, designed specifically to meet an unmet need for stability with an extra-long reach in backyard tree trimming and backyard power line maintenance. These compact units are only 11 feet 2 inches wide when the outriggers are down, which means they offer a smaller footprint, enabling them to set up in much more confined spaces. The TL50P and the TL55P are insulated, which enables arborists to work near live power lines with these units. And both models are equipped with Tier 4 Final diesel engines for powerful, emission-compliant operation and state-of-the-art electronics for easy setup and maneuvering. These Terex backyard aerial devices can run for 50 hours on one tank of fuel and come with a variety of options, including a sound-deadening system to enable them to work quietly in residential neighborhoods, and a display screen that alerts the operator of the unit’s angle when it is driving on a slope.

— Dennis Poulakos, Terex Services North America

 

This market needs high-horsepower stump cutters to remove mature stumps and complete high-volume stump removal jobs, and Vermeer recently introduced two new higher-horsepower stump cutters — the SC552 and SC852 — to meet this need. Arborists can complete stump removal projects faster with the SC552 and SC852 than with smaller machines, enabling them to bill more jobs per week.

Earlier in 2015, Vermeer introduced the SC40TX stump cutter — the first stump cutter on the market with a stand-on platform to drive the machine. A counter-rotating track undercarriage enhances maneuverability by making it easier to reposition the machine when cutting a stump and operators will be able to maneuver the machine from stump to stump faster.

Vermeer now can offer a versatile line of stump cutters ranging from 25 to 74 horsepower, allowing arborists to select a model based on their individual price points, productivity needs and business models.

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

 

 

Above: Photo provided by Terex Services North America

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