Mowing season is on the way, meaning industry professionals are starting to prepare their equipment. With demanding workloads and busy schedules testing the durability of equipment, it is critical to arm operators with the information they need to keep machines up and running. As many professionals know, the key to a quality cut is the performance of the machine and, specifically, the mower blades. Knowing that the busiest time of the year will quickly be upon us, there are simple things professionals can do to ensure their machines are primed for work and each day is maximized.
Mind Your maintenance
No matter how good the crew may be, it does not matter if the equipment is not 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 walk-around, checking everything from nuts and bolts to belts, keeping an eye out for any loose or worn parts, and always being sure to tighten nuts and bolts, replace filters, and check and replace belts as needed. It is extremely crucial to identify missing parts and replace them as quickly as possible, especially before operation, as 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 the cut quality. A sharp blade is the key to creating a clean, crisp cut when mowing. Check blades for dullness and corrosion and, 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 that may be missing.
Routine maintenance is another thing to keep in mind. 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 mowing season. Proper service is key when it comes to keeping machines running smoothly and many professionals do not realize how quickly they forget what service was completed even weeks before. Track maintenance in a logbook, 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 that machines are debris-free before closing the 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 your parts department will improve overall productivity. 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, you can identify repair costs for each particular model and help determine whether a machine should be repaired or replaced.
It is also important to have resources lined up to help limit downtime. The equipment dealer is one of the best resources available as they know everything about the equipment and are prepared to support professional operators. When speaking with your equipment dealer, discuss beneficial support offerings they provide, such as loaner programs that provide a loaner mower to use when a machine experiences downtime. This ensures that your operation never skips a beat, even when something unexpected happens.
The dealer also plays a key role in parts delivery and can work to ensure you have the parts you need before you need them. Many dealers can set up a recurring delivery that works in tandem with your parts manager 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 you determine the right equipment for your needs, but most dealers can help simplify the financing process.
Schedule a mid-season crew refresh
As a best practice, it’s a great idea to schedule a crew refresh mid-season, as protocols and processes often fall to the wayside as crews get deeper into the mowing season. Sit crews down to discuss important things, including maintenance schedules, organization 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 the area being mowed is 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.
As a professional, it is critical to prioritize mower care, as working machines are vital to keeping the operation running all season long. Additionally, make sure the crew is ready to go by maintaining processes that streamline things and increase productivity. Finally, do not 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 manager at John Deere Commercial Mowing.
[Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared in SportsField Management, sister publication to Landscape Business.]