July 15 2015 02:22 PM
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Working Smarter ... Not Harder

It’s been said that the ability to use and create tools is what sets the human species apart more so than anything else. Still, progress has been relatively slow. We didn’t advance from the Stone Age to smelting copper and tin until about 5,500 years ago. This seems odd to us, here in the 21st century, where rapid technological change is the norm. Just a few years ago, a cellular phone was a luxury item. Now, virtually everyone has a smartphone, even small children.

The same thing is true of our landscape tools. The technological revolution has turned manual rakes and reel mowers into quaint, archaic antiques.

Today, we rely on tools with horsepower to make short work of everyday jobs and increase our productivity. The power tools we use now have improved tremendously from those of just 20 to 30 years ago, and the next generation will be even more advanced.

They’ll be more durable, more fuel-efficient, less noisy, and emit lower, if any, emissions. A power tool of the future will not only have a motor, but a microchip—a tiny brain that will continuously monitor the engine, keep it in tune, and even diagnose any problem as it occurs, before any real damage can be done.

Buy right

All this speculation about power tools of the future is interesting, but let’s not forget their purpose: making money. “Let’s face it, professional landscapers are in the business of business,” said Roger Phelps, communications manager at STIHL Inc., Virginia Beach, Virginia. “They’re trying to build capital. So anything that assists them in making money, or saving money, is going to be beneficial.”

How do they make you money? By making your crews more productive. The right power tools let them perform more work in less time, with less of a human toll in fatigue. The right equipment choices can even reduce the amount of people-power needed to complete tasks.

Manufacturers of power tools are always working on ways to make them more comfortable and less fatiguing to use. This isn’t just a matter of comfort; the longer someone can use a tool without undue strain, the more productive he’ll be. Take ergonomic features into account when making your buying decisions.

So buying the right equipment is essential. And that process starts with finding a good dealer, insists Bethany Hannah, independent chainsaw instructor. “Finding a dealer in your local area that you can go to with questions is so important. These machines are required to keep working for long periods of time. There’s always something that can go wrong, so being able to tap into a dealer’s expertise and experience is essential.”

According to Gent Simmons, handheld product manager at Charlotte, North Carolina-based Husqvarna USA, “The number-one thing to look for when selecting a power tool is durability. When you’re considering a purchase, you need a quality engine, one that will hold up eight hours a day, five days a week.”

A good local dealer should also show you how to properly use the tool, demonstrate all of its different features, and explain what’s required to maintain it.

Look for a dealer who wants to build a long-term trust relationship with you, one who isn’t just out to make a quick buck. You need a reliable dealer who can advise you well and ensure that you’re selecting the best tools for your business.

Your part of this relationship is making sure you let your dealer know exactly how you’ll be using the tool and under what conditions. For instance, say you’re in the market for a leaf blower. José Cantu, co-founder of Saw House in Houston, Texas, points out that one contractor might just need a step-up from a broom for quick cleanups; a cheaper, less cumbersome handheld unit might work just fine for him. A landscape maintenance contractor, however, who needs to blow a lot of leaves off a lot of driveways, needs the greater power and efficiency of a backpack blower.

Don’t overlook safety features. Chainsaws, while perfectly safe when used properly, have the potential to cause injuries from kickback.

As Hannah explains, “Kickback is an uncontrollable force that happens when a certain part of the tip of the cutting bar is impacted. Even the strongest guy out there cannot stop the forces of kick back.” Any new chainsaw should come with safety features, such as chain-breaks, that will stop the chain from moving should it hit someone’s wrist during a kickback scenario.

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