Photo by Jimmy Miller

WAIBLINGEN, Germany – Among a medley of company announcements and happenings, STIHL introduced over a dozen new products at a recent media event.

Roughly 90 members of the media – Lawn & Landscape was one of two U.S.- based media outlets invited – joined STIHL during its annual press event in September.

Most of the products are coming soon to U.S. dealers, and between the blowers, chainsaws and a robotic mowing system, STIHL had plenty to show off at the event.

CHAINSAWS. The MSA 220 battery-powered chainsaw and MS 261 gasoline chainsaw are both coming to the U.S. in 2019, though a production change on the latter saw will push back its availability a bit longer than the MSA 220, which arrives this winter. The MSA 220 is STIHL’s most powerful chainsaw in that range and comes standard with a 3/8-inch Picco Super 3 full chisel saw chain and a guide bar 35 centimeters in length. The company reports that the chainsaw produces 30 percent more cuts per battery charge over comparable saws on the market.

Meanwhile, the MS 261 features a new guide bar and .325-inch chain that other gasoline-powered STIHL models haven’t featured. It’s a third-generation tool of its kind, and its cutting performance has been improved by roughly 20 percent over previous models. The MS 261 also features STIHL’s M-Tronic engine management system that accounts for external factors like temperature and altitude in its ignition timing and fuel metering. The chainsaw weighs just under 13 pounds.

BLOWERS AND MOWERS. The company also revealed its BGA 86 battery-powered blower, as well as the BR 800 blower that’s already on the American market but is new overseas. The BGA 86 aims to reduce noise while also offering a blowing force of 15 Newtons, 40 percent stronger than the BGA 85 model. The speed of the blower can be adjusted directly on the handle, and at maximum strength, it produces 91 decibels of sound. The blow pipe length is easily adjustable and a flat blow pipe is available as an accessory.

Additionally, the company showcased its revised iMow Robotic Mowers, which have some features that won’t translate to the U.S. market because the country doesn’t have the same Innogy SmartHome technology available in Europe. However, the Connected iMow technology will be available to U.S. buyers in early 2020. This means users can control robotic mowers from an app on their mobile phones. Users may also be able to control iMow services by voice control on Amazon Alexa.

STIHL’s RMA 756 V lawn mower will not be distributed in the U.S., but it was on display as it is coming to the German market. 

OTHER TOOLS. STIHL also introduced a new pruner (GTA 26) and shrub shear (HSA 26) that will enter the American market in the spring and fall of 2020. These lightweight tools are part of STIHL’s newest cordless products and feature interchangeable batteries that can be purchased separately or together with a battery and charger.

STIHL’s new RG-KM cutting attachment (weed remover) hits the U.S. market this winter, which features a pair of spin-resistant, counter-rotating oscillating blades that can be used on various surfaces and limit damage via thrown stones or chippings. The new Advance X-Vent BT Helmet System is planned for U.S. distribution in 2020 but specific target dates are undetermined.

The MS 360 Chaps – which offer protection on the front, sides and back of an operator’s legs – won’t come to the U.S. due to high costs on importing fabric.

ODDS AND ENDS. Translators were on site during the company’s press conference, which had STIHL executives break down the team’s financial picture in Germany and abroad. The company reported slightly higher worldwide sales than last year, and the North American market was no different. Bertram Kandziora, STIHL executive board chairman, cited cordless products as a growing market, though gasoline-powered products remain the company’s bread-and-butter.

“We are firmly committed to continuing the development of gasoline power tools and simultaneously accelerating that of cordless products,” Kandziora said. “In order to meet the many-faceted needs of our customers as best we can, we will continue to concentrate on a product mix of gasoline and battery-powered tools.”

Kandziora also said that many retailers still had excess product stock last season worldwide because of unfavorable weather conditions in critical sales regions. Throw in increasing trade restrictions and uncertainty shrouding Brexit, and there’s a lot to manage internationally that affected sales numbers.

“All in all, we have only achieved a slight increase in unit sales in the first half of the year due to the challenging peripheral conditions,” Kandziora said. “There are, however, certain differences in the individual markets.”

In addition to debuting new products, STIHL also announced expansions to its brand shop and the location of its STIHL TIMBERSPORTS 2019 world championships. The event will be held at the Industrial Palace in Prague this November.

Briggs & Stratton opens new manufacturing facility

The Sherrill, New York, facility offers new growth opportunities and more production flexibility. | By Lauren Rathmell

© Photo by Lauren Rathmell

SHERRILL, NY – Local media, employees and government representatives joined Briggs & Stratton executives who opened a new manufacturing facility in Sherrill, New York earlier this fall. The move is a welcome change, as the previous facility was at max capacity with virtually every inch being used in some way.

The old plant, operating out of an old schoolhouse in Munsville, New York, had between 500 to 550 employees working out of it. The old gymnasium was even used as an auditorium for holding big meetings. In 2004, the company acquired Ferris, which teed up the company for a large amount of growth. After 20 years of operation, four additions onto the schoolhouse and the Ferris acquisition, the company needed to expand.

Now, the new facility offers double the capacity for operations. It took about 10 days to move people and product to the 552,000 square foot facility. It also features 28 loading docks.

With the capability to manufacture three different lines, plus the blower line soon, Todd Teske, chairman, president and CEO of Briggs & Stratton, says the team is adapting to the change, and that team is a core reason for the move.

“I could tell these people cared,” Teske said. “That’s why we moved down the road.”

As far as production, the Munsville plant is still producing blowers but Teske says that will eventually stop. The new facility houses more sophisticated machinery and administrative space for training. For instance, during the finishing process, a new paint machine allows color changes to be made in about 15 minutes versus an hour at the old facility.

The new Sherrill facility manufactures commercial lawn care products from Briggs & Stratton’s Ferris, Simplicity, Snapper, Snapper Pro and Billy Goat brands.

The new facility was once used for Oneida silverware production, and the Briggs team found it in disarray. Teske admits it was a sad sight but felt the company could turn it around for the community.

“I thought, we can make this place into something,” he said. The process from inception to operation took about three years, and construction took about 18 months. The Briggs workforce was maintained through the transition, and there’s room for more, too. Lauren Vagnini, corporate communications manager for the company, says they’ve created 50 new positions and are looking to hire about 60 more people.

IA announces details on 2019 Irrigation Show

The keynote speaker is Jim Abbott, a former Major League Baseball player who notably played with only one hand.

LAS VEGAS – The Irrigation Association has announced keynote speakers and an event schedule for its 2019 Irrigation Show and Education Week this winter.

From Monday, Dec. 2 to Friday, Dec. 6, attendees can view exhibits, participate in the new product contest, go to the IA General Session and even catch the keynote speech, which features Jim Abbott, a former Major League Baseball player. Despite being born with one hand, he ended up representing Team USA in the 1988 Olympics and threw a no-hitter for the New York Yankees in 1993. He played 10 seasons for four different teams, and he later wrote the book “Imperfect,” which includes some of the similar messages he’ll share with the audience at the IA show.

Abbott played 10 seasons and wrote the book “Imperfect.”

Other educational sessions during the show will focus on topics like landscape irrigation design, CAD basics, and more, including a special series called Industry Insights. A full schedule can be viewed on bit.ly/ia2019lawn. The exhibit hall opens Wednesday, Dec. 4, at 10 a.m. IA Certification Exams are also available during the show.

Turfco founder passes away

John Kinkead passed away Oct. 1 at the age of 89.

MINNEAPOLIS – John Kinkead, Sr., the longtime head of Minneapolis-based Turfco Manufacturing, died on Tuesday, Oct. 1. He was 89 years old.

The company issued the following statement, edited for space:

John Kinkead will be remembered by those in the industries he loved – notably golf and turf management – as an innovator and as a person whose perseverance set a tone for how Turfco continues to collaborate with its customers in products and services today.

John Kinkead
© Photo courtesy of Turfco

It was in that innovative spirit that John, working closely with local golf superintendents in the Twin Cities, invented the first mechanized top dresser, bringing top dressing into the 20th century. While still working at National Mower, the company founded by his father Robert Kinkead, in 1919, John spearheaded the introduction of this as well as other turf innovations at Turfco. He launched a company called Kinco as well.

John lived to celebrate the 100th year anniversary of the family’s continuous contribution and joy in working in the golf industry. Two of John’s sons, George and Scott Kinkead, jointly operate Turfco, and fondly remember the early years of their father’s leadership.

John was a longtime member of the GCSAA-Golf Course Superintendents Association; Classic Car Club of America and Rolls Royce Owners Club, the GYRO, an investment club, and the Informal Club. He served as a board member for the Carpenter Nature Center. He was a graduate of Saint Paul Academy and Washington and Lee Universities.

Along with George and Scott, John’s grandson John Kinkead, Jr. also works at with Turfco. John is survived by his wife Judy, four children, eight grandchildren and one great-grandchild.