Turf Magazine - February, 2012

DEPARTMENTS

Contractors' Corner

Standing Your Ground
By Rick Cuddihe

Stand-on mowers have been in the market for almost 15 years now. With seven manufactures making and selling them, plus a couple of manufacturers making hybrid versions, stand-on units are widely accepted in the landscape maintenance industry.

Initially thought to replace wide area hydro walk-behinds, stand-on mowers are the equipment style of choice for many contractors, and they're adding them in significant numbers to their fleets. Up until just recently, the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute (OPEI) had categorized stand-on mowers as transmission steer, mid-mount riding turf mowers. This is the same category that zero-turn riders are reported in. The OPEI now has added a category for stand-on mowers to their shipment reporting system, and this will bring more attention to their growing numbers as the reports are published.

The small footprint, maneuverability and increased production rates are the main reasons contractors are increasing their use of stand-on mowers. Increasing productivity is important now that maintenance has become the primary revenue generator for many contractors. Some are replacing sit-down riders because they say they can accomplish the same amount of work at a lower cost, and in many cases with increased efficiency.

I've watch the stand-on mower market from its beginning and know many contractors that swear by their performance benefits. Models with cutting decks from 36- to 61-inch are available, and most manufacturers match their decks with their riders and walk-behinds so the height of cut is consistent.

"We've been using stand-on mowers since before 2000 and believe in their versatility, productivity and ease of operation," says Todd Pugh, president of Todd's Enviroscapes, Louisville, Ohio. "Continuing improvements in the design has further contributed to the demand for stand-on mowers. Seven out of 10 mowers we purchase are stand-on mowers with 52- or 60-inch cutting decks.

"Our mangers and crews ultimately drive our equipment buying decisions based on overall cost of ownership, productivity and operator comfort. Stand-on mowers continue to outperform ride-on mowers or wide-area walk-behinds with sulkies on our job sites. If you're not currently using stand-on mowers in your fleet, demo one and see if they could increase your crews' performance and productivity."

Jeff Foulds, fleet operation manager at Signature Landscape, Inc., Olathe, Kan., adds, ''We have 60 stand-on mowers in our maintenance fleets, mostly 52-inch, 19 hp and 20 hp. According to our production managers, the stand-on mowers are more maneuverable and productive, plus we can get more of them on our dovetail Isuzu cab-over trucks.


PHOTO COURTESY THE TORO COMPANY.

"Our crews used to use hydro walks-behinds with sulkies, and while we still have a number of those, we prefer the stand-ons for most of our jobs." Foulds adds, "We use fixed-deck stand-on mowers because blade sharpening is easier and we can specify an exact height of cut that results in a quality uniform finished cut that our customer like."

Another benefit of using stand-on mowers according to Flouds is that their simpler design means parts stocking requirements are less than heavier and more-complicated zero-turn riders.

While not all contractors are using stand-on mowers and not every contractor using them has converted their entire fleet to stand-on mowers, these mowers are certainly one of the fastest growing equipment categories in the industry.

"I really prefer the stand-on mowers over both riders and the walk-behind mowers," adds Mike West, operations manager at Carol King Landscape Maintenance, Orlando, Fla. "They have the mobility of the zero-turn as well as the efficiency, and are much easier to get on a trailer and store. More importantly, I think they are safer than the walk-behinds. It doesn't seem to feel as awkward as standing on a sulky and you have much more control over the machine. I really believe that these are the machines of the future. Increased productivity, cost-effectiveness and safety of these machines make them a valuable asset and a wise decision to use."


PHOTO COURTESY SIGNATURE LANDSCAPE, INC.

Regardless of what style of mowing equipment you're using, be sure the machines and your crews are operating safely and at peak efficiency. In today's competitive environment, getting the most productivity from your equipment and keeping your people comfortable and safe as they service clients' properties is more important than ever.

Rick is president of Lafayette Consulting Co., a PLANET Trailblazer and owns a maintenance company and works with contractors to improve their businesses. He serves on PLANET's Landscape Management Specialty Group, Safety and Governmental Affairs Committees. You can reach Rick through LawnSite or at rick@lafayetteconsulting.com.