If an industry-wide landscaping labor shortage wasn’t enough of a problem, add the cost and difficulty of recruiting seasonal employees. These are primary reasons why many landscapers are turning to equipment solutions to get the job done. As you prepare for the projects the new year will bring, following are some important considerations when purchasing or renting equipment for your business.
As you probably already know, recruiting landscape laborers who are not only dependable, but also able to operate your equipment, is quite the challenge. Therefore, it is especially important to consider the user-friendliness of the machines you plan to rent or purchase. So, what constitutes “user-friendly” landscaping machines?
Machine safety. Above everything, the safety of you and your crew is critical. Some of today’s machines, such as advanced compact track loaders, are factory-built with back-up cameras, so the operator can remain aware of his/her 360 degree surroundings without having to turn around in the cab.
User interface. Machine operation should be intuitive, with easy-to-use displays, so even the most novice operators are able to quickly learn the controls within the cab. Look for landscaping machines with graphic display systems that allow operators to customize operation and language settings.
Ease of maintenance. Daily maintenance checks are essential to the health and performance of your machines. Therefore, the easier it is for equipment operators to complete these checks, the better. Look for a machine that allows operators ground-level access to daily service points (e.g., fluid levels, filters, gauges).
Operator comfort. When you find hard-working employees, you certainly want to keep them on board. This is where machine ergonomics and comfort come into play. A machine with a fully pressurized, air-conditioned cab, as well as adjustable armrests and joystick controls, will enhance operator comfort.
Advanced machine technology and attachments are not only replacing the need for added manpower, they are helping landscape laborers tackle tasks in half the time. Some advancements proving to be especially useful in landscaping applications include:
- Some advanced mini excavator models combine normal functionality of a mini excavator with a skid steer loader coupler interface to allow landscapers to handle multiple tasks with one machine. For example, in a debris-clearing application, pick up items, place them into a material handling bucket, and carry them off site to be dumped—all in one pass.
- Laser-guided box blade attachments allow you to grade surfaces to accurate levels from within the cab, eliminating the need for a second person to manage grading stakes.
- Common landscaping tasks, such as raking dirt or stones and digging holes for planting, can now be automated through the use of augers and landscape rakes. This not only replaces the amount of manual labor needed, but also significantly speeds up the process.
- Hydraulic couplers allow equipment operators to change out attachments using controls from within the cab and more quickly than with manual couplers. Hydraulic couplers are an ideal option for companies that must change out attachments several times throughout the day.
In addition to solving labor shortage issues, equipment costs are more predictable than manual labor costs. Creating the optimal balance of equipment and labor is the best way to reduce total overhead expenses and bid on jobs more accurately. Purchasing or renting the right equipment may just be the key to being able to tackle more jobs throughout the busy season next year.
Janes is landscape marketing manager for Caterpillar, bringing his diversified expertise to sales and marketing initiatives to the company for more than a decade. He holds an LIC certification from NALP and CSP and ASM certifications from SIMA.
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