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Home Magazine MOWERS/POWER EQUIPMENT: Getting Attached

MOWERS/POWER EQUIPMENT: Getting Attached

Features - Equipment

A mower attachment can be a contractor's best friend.

Heather Tunstall | October 13, 2006

People end up with cavities in their teeth because sometimes too much of a good thing produces poor results. In the case of a dental exam, every sugary treat a child eats can come back to haunt him when he is sitting in the dentist’s chair. 

The same goes for a landscape contractor who starts off with one great piece of equipment and then can’t help but purchase every trendy tool of the trade. 

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Once those large machines start taking up too much storage space, transportation time and money to maintain, they become a pain instead of the resourceful machines they were intended to be.
 
For contractors who have a variety of landscape jobs to perform and not enough manpower to do it all by hand, a single mower with multiple attachments could be the perfect solution. Instead of spending a fortune for dedicated machines to do each job, contractors can attach anything to a mower – from an aerator to a snow blower – and get jobs done in a hurry.
 
Attachments such as dozer blades (also used as snow plows), dethatchers, rotary brooms, blowers, motor buckets, edgers, sprayers, chippers/shredders and grass collection systems are just a few of the tools that can make landscape work a bit easier.

ATTACHMENTS ABOUND. Mowing attachments are growing in demand as landscape companies  begin to realize their advantages. Rather than walking behind separate machines, contractors are looking to ride-on tractor attachments to get the job done because zero-turning radius technology fine tunes the movements.
   
“Over the last five years, we’ve seen more contractors increasing their revenue stream by offering more services using implements,” says Ruthanne Stuckey, marketing director, The Grasshopper Co., Moundridge, Kan. “We expect this moderate growth trend to continue.”
   
Other manufacturers note similar trends. “There has been a move to riders vs. walk-behinds,” says Peter Andonian, president, Accelerator Industries, Bellevue, Wash. The popularity of versatile riders has helped spur sales for attachments, manufacturers say.
    
“Just as zero-turning-radius maneuverability transformed the mowing industry, it will do the same for snow removal, aeration, spray applications and other forms of grounds maintenance,” Stuckey says. Add-on tools like aerators, sulkies and dethatchers may improve the appearance of professionalism on a job and may take a mower to a whole new service area, manufacturers say, noting that collectors and vacuum systems are emerging as popular attachments. But aerators are climbing the charts as well, as are blower systems, dethatchers, dozer blades, snow blowers, rotary brooms, sulkies and sprayers.
 
Another reason attachments have grown in popularity is they can boost productivity and limit cost. “The contractor should be thinking, ‘How can I complete this job faster, with better quality, and utilize my mower year-round instead of parking it in the garage or on the trailer?’” Stuckey says.
   
“It’s a return on investment issue,” says Bob Walker president, Walker Manufacturing., Fort Collins, Colo. “If the mower is just going to be sitting there, waiting for the next mowing season, then why not put an attachment on and do something that needs to be done? You’d get better use out of your investment.”
 
Most attachments are available for riding mowers, particularly front-mount machines, Walker says.

THINK ABOUT IT. “Usually the rule of thumb for attachments is if a person is using something for occasional use, an attachment is an excellent idea,” Andonian says. “But, if a person is doing a high quantity of work, dedicated equipment is more appropriate.”
 
Another way contractors can evaluate which mower attachment to incorporate into their business is to weigh how much work they complete by hand or by specialized equipment and then consider  replacing both of those methods with implements that utilize the efficiency of zero-turning radius maneuverability, Stuckey suggests.
 
Walker also says contractors should consider using equipment that has been engineered for the machine and made by the same manufacturer as the mower. Because manufacturers vary their designs, it can be difficult for a universal attachment to have a really good fit, Walker says.
 
Whether or not equipment is easy to attach is also important to keep in mind. A quick change from one configuration to another could make a big difference in the amount of productivity in a day, Walker says. “It’s important to be able to not spend a lot of time assembling – we’re talking about a few minutes to change a machine from one to the other each time,” he says, noting it’s most important during the fall when you can be brooming one day and snow blowing the next.”
   
Price is another issue. Usually, an attachment will be less expensive than a dedicated machine. For infrequent jobs, or if a contractor is just starting out in the business, attachments can save a considerable amount of money, Andonian says, adding that this is a good way for contractors to explore a new service and keep costs down.    Attachment prices vary considerably based on brand and complexity, but generally fall in the $200 to $5,000 range, with sulkies, dethatchers, collectors and dozer blades at the lower end and two-stage snow blowers and chippers/shredders at the higher end, manufacturers say. Cost also can fluctuate in response to product quality.
 
Contractors can expect attachments to last from five to 10 years, depending on how much they use them. “A lot of attachments, because they’re only used on a seasonal basis compared to mowing, might even last longer than the mower blades themselves just because they don’t get the same utilization,” Walker notes.

MAINTAIN YOUR MACHINE. Like any capital equipment, the increase in profit from the use of attachments offsets operating wear, Stuckey says. She insists that operators can receive years of service life from well-maintained, commercial-quality implements.
 
Capturers require very little maintenance – basically you just clean out the holes when necessary. Sulkies and moving transmission parts need greasing or lubrication and tools like aerators and edgers need to have tines replaced as they wear down. Basically, Walker explains, it’s the same kind of maintenance you would expect with a mower.
 
Keeping an eye on mower wear and tear when using attachments is also important. “To ensure an attachment is not stressing the mower, look for designs that place the attachment in a very close-coupled position to the power unit, in place of the mower deck,” Stuckey suggests. If an attachment adds too much stress, the vibration can be too much for the mower.
 
Any  ground-engaging device (one that’s on the ground, subject to resistance) is subject to more of a workload. For example, a dethatcher’s raking stresses the mower more than just someone pushing the mower.
 
Most manufacturers agree that contractors who decide to experiment with mower attachment use may notice a significant difference in the amount of productivity – and profit – they can produce.

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