Our Slow (But Steady) March To Increased Productivity


The introduction of Hustler Turf’s new Maximum Duty Vehicle (MDV) into the commercial market in April set me to thinking about the pace of innovation within the landscape industry. This is something I mull over from time to time, given the ever-increasing scarcity of willing workers. To increase our productivity and continue growing our industry we must continue developing and adopting new labor-saving technology.

The Hustler’s MDV is one of the latest and most-promising products that takes us yet another step away from wheelbarrows. I am particularly impressed by the unit’s patented LeveLift technology being offered as an option. With the flip of a switch the LeveLift brings the MDV’s cargo bed up, back and down, letting you load at ground level or any point along its arc of motion. The unit has an impressive 750-pound lift capacity. Obviously, combining that kind of muscle with the bed’s operating flexibility allows an operator to do the work of at least two people.

I highlight this product, in particular, because it seems to be a good example of just how suppliers are implementing technology into the landscape market — and that’s one incremental innovation at a time.

We’re a conservative bunch

There are probably many reasons for the cautious approach industry suppliers are taking in regards to technology. But one in particular seems to stand out: landscape contractors are a conservative lot. By and large, they have to see their colleagues and competitors benefiting from a particular innovation before whipping out their checkbooks and adopting it themselves.

For that reason and others, we seem to be in a pattern of adding to and improving upon technologies that we’ve been relying on for the past 30 years and more. Bringing a new option to the utility vehicle product category is just one of many examples of that.

To me, at least, it seems to have been a long time since the industry has experienced a product as innovative and revolutionary as, say, the zero-radius-turn mower. Long time? The first commercial model of a zero-turn hit the market in the 1960s. And how about the string trimmer (as humble as it now seems), which traces its linage to the introduction of Weedeater in 1971? That was almost a half-century ago. More recently (about 20 years ago), the introduction of mini construction equipment probably qualifies as an industry game-changer, as well, given the productivity gains these little units provide contractors.

Whiz-bang tech not on our horizon

Obviously, it’s easy to get wowed by today’s whiz-bang technologies ­— given the advancements being made in biotechnology, 3-D printing, virtual and augmented reality, robotics, artificial intelligence, etc. So, admittedly — being of an impatient nature — I’m being a bit too critical about the pace of innovation within our industry.

While I’m not expecting the introduction into our industry anytime soon of a technology as sexy as the driverless car, I am nevertheless confident that we will continue to innovate and improve technology that most of us already trust and use. Whether these innovations come from the minds and efforts of scientists, engineers or persistent tinkerers, they will come.

This brings me back to the MDV LeveLift, which ­– Hustler Director of Sales Bruce Cooper shares – was given lots of thought as it was being developed and prior to its release to distributors this spring.

Says Cooper: “The LeveLift design was conceived almost a decade ago by Paul Mullet and Hustler engineering; however the patented and unique parallel linkage has been patiently waiting for the applicable platform on which it could correctly be utilized to showcase its productivity.”