Maintain your mowers to get through summer
By Nick Minas
To increase uptime, mowers need to be regularly maintained during the summer season
By Nick Minas
Summer has arrived, meaning professional landscape contractors are in the thick of the mowing season. With customer demands high and busy schedules testing the durability of equipment, it is it critical to arm all operators with the information they need to keep machines up and running, regardless of demands they face each day.
As many professional landscape contractors know, the key to a quality cut is the performance of the machine and, specifically, the mower blades.
With the peak mowing season underway, it’s important that landscape contractors keep their machine well maintained and ready to go, especially as business picks up over the next few months. In the midst of the busiest time of the year, easily avoidable downtime simply isn’t an option, and there are simple things professional landscape contractors can do to ensure their machines are primed for work and their businesses have the right policies in place to maximize each day.
Mind your maintenance
No matter how good the crew may be, it doesn’t matter if the equipment isn’t up and running. To increase uptime, it is important to properly maintain machines per the directions in the operator’s manual.
Each day operators should start with a daily walk-around, checking everything from nuts and bolts to belts. They should keep an eye out for any loose or worn parts, and always be sure to tighten nuts and bolts, replace filters, and check and replace belts as needed. It’s extremely crucial to identify missing parts and replace them as quickly as possible, especially before operations. Failure to do so may result in a machine going down mid-job, causing delays. Also, give tires a once over, checking the tire pressure and examining treads for wear and tear.
Pay extra attention to the mower deck and blade, which is the most critical part of the machine in regard to cut quality. A sharp blade is the key to creating a clean, crisp cut when mowing. Check blades for dullness and corrosion. If the blade is dull, sharpen it to ensure a high-quality cut. Additionally, replace any exhausted blades that are no longer effective. It is also important to check blade balance for an even cut.
In addition, there are several other areas of the mower deck that should be regularly monitored for wear and tear. The mower belt should be taut and in good condition. If there is any fraying or wear that changes the belt’s profile, be sure to replace it. Also, look for any loose cords or chunks of the belt missing.
Routine maintenance is another thing to keep in mind, especially during summer when mowers are being put to work. Following the outlined maintenance schedule in the operator’s manual, make sure to perform the necessary work as specified by the manufacturer. Also ensure that the right fluids are being used, as recommended by the manufacturer. While switching fluids might not seem like a big deal, using the wrong fluid can lead to major damage down the road.
Be sure to keep tabs of all of the maintenance that is done throughout the summer season. Proper service is key when it comes to keeping machines running smoothly, and many professional landscape contractors do not realize how quickly they forget what service was completed even weeks before. Track maintenance in a log book, which will provide something to refer to during the upcoming months.
Keep things clean
While this may seem obvious, the first step to ensure a quality cut is to keep machines clean. Each day once work is complete, the crew should ensure machines are debris-free before closing shop for the day. Not only do clean machines look nice, but this important step can also help increase machine uptime.
During mowing, equipment accumulates a fair amount of crud and debris, particularly when mowing in areas that frequently deal with rainy weather. This debris can lead to damage if left untouched, making it extremely important to thoroughly remove before putting away machines. Additionally, when performing daily walk-arounds and machine checks, extra dirt and crud can make it difficult to see if parts are missing or need to be replaced.
Develop a parts management program
Parts management serves as one of the most vital elements to combat machine downtime. Taking the time to properly revamp the company’s parts department will improve its overall profitability. First, assign inventory ownership, limiting the number of employees with access to parts storage. With one person overseeing the parts department, it ensures efficient management of the inventory.
Properly organize and label bin locations, creating a designated part storage location so that crew leaders are aware of where things are and what needs restocking. Include a minimum stocking level on the label so managers know when parts need to be replenished. Also, consider incorporating a system that allows you to track parts usage by machine. By tracking what parts were used for each machine and the cost per part, landscapers can identify repair costs for each particular model and help determine whether a machine should be repaired or replaced.
When the mowing season picks up in the summer, it is important to have resources lined up to help manage downtime. The equipment dealer is one of the best resources available, as not only do they know everything about the equipment, many dealers are prepared to support professional landscape contractors with the downtime they will face.
Professional landscape contractors should consider their dealer as an extension of their business, as they are just as invested in the business as the owner is. When speaking with their dealer, landscapers should discuss beneficial support offerings they provide. For example, John Deere dealers offer a mower loaner program, which provides customers with a loaner mower to use when a machine experiences downtime. This ensures that the business never skips a beat, even when something unexpected happens.
The dealer also plays a key role in parts delivery, and can work with the customer to ensure they have the parts they need before they need them. Many dealers can set up a recurring delivery, which works in tandem with the parts management department to restock common parts once a minimum inventory has been reached.
Additionally, if a new equipment purchase is needed, the dealer is there to help streamline the process. Not only will the dealer help the customer determine the right equipment for their business, most dealers can help simplify the financing process, especially if the manufacturer offers financial support, like John Deere Financial does.
Schedule a mid-summer crew refresh
Summer is a great time to schedule a crew refresh, as protocols and processes often fall by the wayside as crews get deeper into the mowing season. Sit crews down to discuss important things, including maintenance schedules, company rules and mowing best practices. It is important to remind them of a few basic, but essential, mowing dos and don’ts. For example, they should always make sure that lawns are clear of debris or hazardous materials before each cut. While this may take a few extra minutes, staying true to this best practice helps protect and maintain equipment, and allows for mower blades to remain sharper longer.
Warmer months are when professional landscape contractors are most profitable, making it important to have crews and equipment ready to go. As a landscaper, it is critical to prioritize mower care, as working machines are vital to keeping the business running all season long. Additionally, make sure the business and crew are ready to go by maintaining processes that streamline things and increase productivity. Finally, don’t forget that the equipment dealer is always there to support the business and help keep things moving. Dealers are extremely invested in their customers, and most dealers offer a range of services to help increase uptime.
Nick Minas is product mgr. for John Deere Commercial Mowing.