Turf professionals must be careful when buying new equipment

Following on from my previous blog, A Groundsman’s Lot, I thought it relevant to talk about the resources, machinery and aides that are essential for turf professionals to enable them do their job efficiently.

As an ex greenkeeper / groundsman I am acutely aware of the need to have the appropriate machinery and tools to enable you to do many of the tasks required to maintain and sustain a playable grass surface.

Particularly on large sports complexes, the economics of being efficient are paramount. When I started out in the industry some 45 years ago, specific grounds equipment and machinery was fairly limited. I remember vividly the basic equipment we had at Cocks Moors Woods GC, the council’s 18 hole municipal golf course near Birmingham.

Effectively we only had one tractor, a set of trail rough and fairway gang mowers, two Auto Certees greens mowers, two Acto tees / banks mowers and a Pattison spiker.

Today on a typical 18 hole or large golf complex we now see a large fleet of rotary, cylinder and flail mowers being used along with a rack of complementary renovation and maintenance machinery such as aerators, fraise mowers, strimmers, blowers, scarifyers, brushes, sprayers, trucksters, tractors and other tractor mounted equipment.

Similarly, schools, local authorities, contractors, football clubs, National Trust properties and large estates need an array of machinery and equipment to do their jobs.

We are now perhaps spoilt for choice with many new manufacturers joining the ranks of long-established companies such as John Deere, Toro, Ransomes, Jacobsen, Charterhouse, Dennis, Wessex, Kubota, Allett, Scag, STIHL and Husqvarna. In recent years we have seen the introduction of Etesia, Baroness, Trimax, Club Cadet, Echo and many others - the list is now almost endless.

In my experience, machinery has always been bought on reputation and reliability. Over the years each and every manufacturer has had to develop new machinery to keep up with the demands of the industry, along with falling in line with current government health & safety legislation.

We now have a plethora of machinery to choose from and in recent years have benefited from many overseas products that have become popular in the renovation of our pitches. A special mention goes to the Koro Fraise mower and other Dutch and European machinery that Richard Campey of Campey Turf Care and a number of other companies have introduced to our industry.

Manufacturers have certainly been working hard to develop new and more efficient machinery. However, this comes at a price of having to meet tough legislation that covers pollution, noise and vibration and operator safety laws, along with meeting their ongoing R&D strategies. The cost of machinery has gone up significantly.

Many of the larger ride on mowers can cost in excess of £25,000. Therefore, end users must be careful when choosing and buying new equipment. Also, you need to be mindful of the aftercare and servicing requirements of the machinery purchased.

I would always advise that you buy your machinery from a reputable machinery dealer, who has the relevant skills and experience in selling and after-sales servicing of machinery. Today there are more than 600 machinery dealers in the UK servicing our needs, whether they are large Ag machinery dealerships or smaller dedicated professional turfcare dealerships.

These dealers are often family run businesses that have been in operation for more than three generations and have over the years built up fantastic relationships with both their suppliers/ manufacturers and customers.

Having interviewed a number of these dealerships, I have found them to be very caring and driven in supporting and catering for their customer’s needs. Their job is never easy. Each year they have to forecast what products / machinery they are likely to sell and work hard with manufacturers to get the best deal they can to offer a wide range of machinery deals for their customers.

With machinery becoming ever more complex and precise, these dealers also have to invest in new technologies to be able to repair and service customers machines to retain manufacturers warrantees.

The benefits from buying from an established machinery dealer also gives you the satisfaction you are buying a professional product that has the appropriate back up, parts servicing and repairs service during its working life.

My colleague Steve Gibbs, who edits TurfPro’s sister title Service Dealer, a specialist publication aimed solely at the independent machinery dealer sector, says of the network, “As well as selling you the right machine for the right job, your local dealer will be offering you much more – their expertise. For a professional outfit, be it a sporting facility, local authority or contractor, building a long-term relationship with a specialist retailer near you will be mutually beneficial. You will have the support and advice required to keep your equipment working, with as little downtime as possible, throughout the machine’s lifespan.”

Most dealerships are generally happy to carryout machinery demonstrations to secure a sale of a high value product. Most if not all dealers have extensive knowledge and experience of their products and their capabilities, therefore enabling them to recommend the appropriate product for their customers’ needs.

Also, the dealers can offer a range of finance and service packages to suit the needs of both client and customer. At the end of the day it is all about choosing the right product for your individual needs.

Attending our two industry shows Saltex and BTME is also a great way to see a vast range of machinery and associated services that will help you decide on the right machine for you.

Laurence Gale, TurfPro Editor

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