If an industry-wide labor shortage wasn’t enough of a problem, add on the cost and difficulty of recruiting seasonal employees. These are the primary reasons why many landscapers are turning to equipment solutions to get the job done. That said, we wanted to take the opportunity to lay out some important considerations to make when purchasing or renting equipment for your business in this month’s On The Level blog.
User-Friendly Equipment is Key
As you probably already know, recruiting employees 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 for upcoming projects. So, what constitutes a “user-friendly” machine? Here are a few checklist items to evaluate:
Machine safety – Above everything, the safety of you and your crew is critical. Some of today’s advanced machines 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 display systems, so even the most novice operators will be able to quickly learn the controls within the cab. Look for a machine with a graphic display system that allows operators to customize their preferred operation and language settings.
Ease of maintenance – Daily maintenance checks are essential to maintaining the health and performance of your equipment. Therefore, the easier it is for your operators to complete these checks, the better. Look for a machine that allows operators ground-level access to all 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 when machine ergonomics and comfort comes into play. A machine with a fully-pressurized, air-conditioned cab, as well as adjustable armrests and joystick controls, will enhance operator comfort. This work environment will also help reduce their fatigue at the end of a long work day.
Supplementing Manual Labor with the Right Attachments & Technology
Advanced machine technology and attachments are not only replacing the need for added manpower, they are also helping landscapers tackle tasks in half the time. Some of the advancements that are proving to be especially useful in landscaping applications include:
Some advanced mini excavator models combine the 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, you can pick up items, place them into a material-handling bucket and carry them off site to be dumped—all in one pass, with a single machine.
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 operators to change out attachments using controls from within the cab and in a shorter amount of time than with manual couplers. Hydraulic couplers are an ideal option for companies that must change out attachments several times throughout the day in order to complete the work. For example, if an operator is changing out attachments three times a day, a hydraulic coupler can reduce the amount of time spent on this process by close to a half hour when compared to machines with manual couplers.
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. To learn more about equipment solutions for landscaping applications, contact your local Cat® dealer or visit the Cat Resource Center.
We’d like to hear about the challenges you face as a landscaper and how equipment has served as a solution to some of these issues.
Do you currently struggle with labor shortages in your area? If so, how long has this been an issue for your business?
Are you currently using machines/equipment to carry out tasks that were once performed manually? If so, which type of tasks and equipment?
Have you purchased or rented machine attachment(s) that have helped you reduce the need for manual labor? If so, which one(s)?
Are you using any equipment technology that has helped you speed up landscaping jobs? If so, which type(s)?
Aside from labor shortages, are there other issues you regularly face as a landscaper?
Are there certain equipment or machine advancements that you wish were available on the market today to help solve these issues?
I’m an Attachments Product Application & Sales Support Specialist for Caterpillar in North America. I have been with Caterpillar for five years including roles in the field as a dealer sales support representative and marketing support in the skid steer and small wheel loader product groups. I graduated from Iowa State University with degrees in Agricultural Business and Economics. Our goal is to provide a full portfolio of attachments for our customers to be more productive and versatile with their machines.
I am an Industry and Application Rep for Caterpillar. I graduated from NC State with a dual degree in Agriculture Business Management and Agriculture Science, concentrating in Leadership and Environmental Technologies. I focus primarily on the relationships between customers, dealers, and the product specialists for the Building Construction Products division. Growing up on a tobacco and beef cattle farm, I have several years of machine operation experience and agricultural knowledge. Thomas Jefferson said it best in that, "Agriculture is our wisest pursuit, because it will in the end contribute most to real wealth, good morals, and happiness."
My passion is in storytelling and thought leadership, helping people connect with the brands they love and helping brands connect with their audiences. At Caterpillar, I get to work with a variety of industries and customer solutions, supporting our customers who are making huge impacts in our world every day. It's not just about the yellow iron - it's about understanding the problems our customers face, and being a part of the total solution.
I’m a Compact Wheel Loader Product Application Specialist for Caterpillar in North America. I have 11 years of experience, including roles in the field as a dealer technical support representative, and as a distributor business model consultant. I graduated from North Carolina State University with a Mechanical Engineering Degree, and wanted a job where I didn't have to sit in front of a computer all day. This job allows me to get out and get my hands dirty, with the goal of providing solutions to customers’ machine needs.
I am a Marketing Communications Specialist for Caterpillar with over twelve years of experience marketing the Cat brand to customers in Latin and North America. My goal is to arm customers with the information needed to make well informed purchase decisions; to maximize the value of Cat machines by using an array of Cat Work Tool attachments; and to minimize the total cost of ownership by using Cat parts and Cat Dealer service.
I am an expert Operator and Application Specialist for Caterpillar concentrating on products used in the construction trades industry. I operate, evaluate and train on Cat machines and Work Tool Attachments worldwide. I have a Degree in Agricultural Engineering, Craftsman Certified and was named Apprentice of the Year 1981 at the University of East Anglia, UK.
I am the National Association Manager for Caterpillar and have responsibility for customer associations and partnerships in multiple industries for Caterpillar. I have 12 years of experience at Caterpillar, and have spent most of those years in the field with dealers and customers around North America. I have always had a passion for equipment and find myself fortunate to be able to work with dealers and customers almost every day.
I am a Product Application Specialist with 16 years of experience in the industry. As a Building Construction Products Global Trainer, I focus on training dealers and customers on machines, attachments and applications as it relates to the construction, agriculture and landscaping segments.
I have been with Caterpillar for more than eight years, working in various roles including a materials engineer, a filters product manager and my current position as a parts consultant. My job allows me the opportunity to work with Cat dealers and customers providing insight on how the use of quality filters and fluids results in better equipment performance and lower owning and operating costs.
I am a marketing and sales support professional for Caterpillar. In this role, I work with our marketing and customer service teams to support or dealers and customers, concentrating on our Small Wheel Loader, Skid Steer Loader, Mini Excavator and Dozer product groups. The exchange of ideas, information and opinions about equipment and how it’s used in various industries on forums such as this blog helps me fulfill my role at Caterpillar to the best of my ability.
I am the commercial/market consulting expert for all Caterpillar tires and rims with 14 years of experience. I provide guidance in the harsher work environments of mining and industrial/waste applications. Our goal is to turn our dealers and customers into knowledgeable and trusted resources with respect to tires and rims. Our group offers training, technical support and resources to develop a level of expertise within the Caterpillar value stream that is ordinarily reserved for tire companies and local tire service providers. Ultimately, we want to provide our customers with a total Cat solution from the ground up.
I am a Sales Support Manager for Cat Financial and have responsibility for ensuring that the right financial products are available to Cat customers who purchase, lease or rent to own. 8 of my 10 years with Caterpillar Financial have allowed customer and/or dealer interaction as part of my daily responsibilities including over 3.5 years as a Territory Manager. I take personal satisfaction in finding financial solutions that work for our customers and CAT dealers.
I’m a Telehandler Product Application Specialist for Caterpillar in North and South America. I have 13 years of experience, including roles in the field as a dealer service operations and technical support representative, and as a distributor business model consultant. My telehandler passion and focus is working with dealers and customers to maximize the versatility of the product through machine and operator training.
I am a Product and Application Specialist with over 35 years experience at Caterpillar. I focus on helping you to determine the best Cat machines, work tool attachments, and services for you to use in the building and general construction, landscaping, specialty trades, and agricultural industries.
I am a Senior Regional Insurance Marketing Manager with 16 years’ experience at Caterpillar Financial Insurance Services. I have the opportunity to work with 18 North American dealers providing risk management products and services that helps the Caterpillar Enterprise ( Caterpillar, Dealers and Customers) manage their business risk. Caterpillar Financial Insurance Services offers Extended Protection Plans for machines and engines, Physical Damage Insurance, Inventory Protection Plans, Dealer Property and Casualty, Risk Management, Marine Transit Insurance and Dealer Bonds.
Jeff Brown is a marketing professional for Caterpillar Skid Steer, Multi Terrain and Compact Track Loaders. Over Jeff's 12 years in the industry, he has visited with and studied the needs of customers across landscaping, construction, and agriculture segments. Delivering innovative solutions that solve customer's problems is Jeff's main focus.
I am a North American Product and Application Specialist for Caterpillar. In this role, I have had the opportunity to represent Caterpillar at various trade shows and train customers on new Small Wheel Loader content. I graduated from Purdue University in 2001 with a Mechanical Engineering degree and have spent the past 15 years with Caterpillar in various engineering roles. Growing up in the Mid-West, I have always loved the cold and the unique activities winter enables. Unfortunately, I had to give those up when I moved to North Carolina. I don't care what people say, you never get used to a hot climate.
I am a Filter and Fluid Marketing Consultant with over 14 years experience working at Caterpillar. My focus is to ensure customers understand the importance of using superior filtration and lubrication products in their equipment.
I am a Sales Support Manager with over nine years of experience in a variety of roles with Caterpillar Financial Services Corporation. Throughout my career, I have had the opportunity to gain experience in matching financial products and tailoring funding strategies to the specific needs of customers. This includes more than three years as a Territory Manager in Seattle partnered with N C Machinery, an authorized Cat dealer covering the states of Washington and Alaska.
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