Zero-turns have made increasing advancements in technology and operation. At Ferris, Dan Roche, director of marketing, says they have noticed trends that lead back to the bottom line of productivity.
“It’s not surprising to us, but we have been monitoring these trends through the voice of our customers,” Roche says. “There is an ongoing desire for productivity. These contractors need these machines to go further in their work.”
Roche also considers operator comfort to be crucial to the productivity of the machine. “We’ve seen operator comfort getting more air play in terms of what contractors want,” he says. “They want to isolate the operator from the terrain.”
Good suspension systems and comfortable seats are increasing in popularity to offer smoother rides for operators, while still maintaining the quality of the cut.
“We’ve heard of operators doing stretching exercises to reduce their fatigue before they hop on their mower,” he says.
Josh Sooy, director of the professional business segment at Cub Cadet, says zero-turns will have to keep up with the demands of professional landscapers.
“As new technology becomes available, professional landscapers will need reliable technology that helps them grow their business and supports their livelihood,” he says.
At Cub Cadet, Sooy says they are offering more automated products evaluating the right types of technology to use in the zero-turn market.
With landscapes that combine both hardscape and green elements, Roche says zero-turns are offering more maneuverability to mow within those mixed elements. The quick on and off aspects of stand-on ZTRs are favored, but mowers that can maneuver around tighter spaces are gaining popularity as well.
“With more obstacles in the yards they are mowing, maneuverability will be an important feature for them,” Roche says. “More crossover of these industries is leading to smaller deck offerings to better fit in tight spaces.”
With zero-turns, contractors can expect to see more digital options for managing and operating their equipment.
“From simple apps on smartphones that help drive contractors to websites and other venues, to technology infrastructure that aids in maintenance history and alerts to aid in landscaper efficiency, technology will permeate the zero-turn market,” says Ron Scheffler, product manager at BOB-CAT.
Roche has also seen an increase in the desire for technology specifically designed for mowing fleets.
“Contractors want a technology to tell them not only where their equipment is, but what it has been doing on the job,” he says.
A lack of available labor in the industry puts more pressure on equipment to run well, which is why Roche says enhancements to zero-turns are so important.
“It’s tougher to get operators now,” he says. “It’s not only about the right people, it’s about the right product.”
Roche says reliable and comfortable equipment will help keep operators happy.
With the bottom line continuing to be productivity, landscapers can expect to see a better approach to maintenance on their zero-turns. “Maintenance means downtime,” Roche says. “We continue to think of the daytime life of these mowers, but when they’re in the shop for maintenance, you have to consider that as well.”
Sooy hears the same thing from Cub Cadet’s customers as well.
“Scheduled maintenance equates to downtime for commercial cutters,” he says. “There has been a move across the industry for maintenance-free spindles.” In response to those needs, Cub Cadet is making several low-maintenance zero-turns.
As prices fluctuate and demand increases, add-on features may start to become standard on zero-turns. “Items such as lights and other electrical adapters, and no-flat tires and other maintenance-free items may become a norm in the market,” Scheffler says.
With the industry changing quickly, manufacturers realize they need to work to keep up with increasing demands.
“The professional category continues to grow and that’s where we are focusing our efforts,” Sooy says.
Sooy believes there is still room for improvements to be made in ergonomics and other areas that will reduce operator fatigue. He anticipates contractors will start to see more efforts made in technology that will improve side hill stability, allowing operators to mow straight lines on steep slopes.
“Contractors are looking for durable products that will last all day and work as hard as they do. They want products they can be confident in and support the busy lifestyle they lead,” Scheffler says.