Bland Landscaping Owner Kurt Bland Shares His Thoughts on Equipment Asset Management

ESTABLISHED IN 1976, BLAND LANDSCAPING COMPANY proudly claims the spot as one leading full-service providers for high-end res­idential estates and commercial landscaping. Owner Kurt Bland has enjoyed steady success in the industry, and has gained a great deal of insight into what makes a landscaping business work, and what doesn't. We asked Bland to give us some of that insight, in hopes to help educate landscape contractors of all sizes. Specifically, we asked him to talk about his proven-successful approach to equipment asset manage­ment. His thoughts on the topic are below:

Our Equipment Asset Program is a reflection of our general philoso­phy towards business, which includes a deliberate effort to standardize that which can be standardized, in order to lessen work defects and improve performance overall. Whereas some companies, namely smaller ones, in our industry evaluate their equipment purchasing options annually or even between purchases, our philosophy is to thoroughly examine our options every five years. This way, we can make educated deci­sions about which equipment to operate for specific functions within the company with a longer term view of ownership and the benefits of standardization.

We work deliberately to reduce the variety of makes and models that we own and operate. This strategy lessens the parts inventory we must stock, and it makes training of mechanics and crew members much more streamlined. For example, all of our walk behind and riding mowers are Gravely brand units. Within the over­all fleet, the overwhelming majority of machines are either Pro-Hydro 48-inch walk behinds or 152 XDZ riding mowers. If a crew member gets moved between crews, he is more readily adaptable to the machinery on either crew. If a machine requires repair, chances are that our "service loaner" unit is going to be the same, or very similar model, to the one the crew operates every day. This long term view towards equipment ownership and standardization is a recurring theme that rears its head in other parts of our business, as well.

Historically, we have always owned machinery and vehicle assets ourselves and avoided leasing. This is something we evaluate periodically, and our position may shift, pending the final outcome of changes to tax laws. We view this decision as being strictly a financial and tax planning question. Some companies elect to lease in order to pretty up their balance sheet, while others do it to spread their sources of financed capital to off balance sheet positions. With congress having extended section 179 deductions, and the fact that leased assets will have to be reflected on balance sheets in the future, the once attractive appeal of leasing is diminishing.

That could change, and our position could be influenced by such changes. It really comes down to an assessment of the company and its owners' financial strategy and tax situation. We have grown our busi­ness organically and growth has never been allowed to outpace earnings. Continual re-investment into the company has been required in order to fund the capital assets such as trucks, machinery, and real estate. For some companies, growth outpaces earnings, or they may not have a robust balance sheet that allows for traditional financing or cash purchases. Finally, there is one other feature about leasing that we have con­sidered, which is the ability to return the machines at the end of a lease without having to sell them. So far, this benefit has not been valuable enough for us and we are pleased with the long service life we get from Gravely products. While we retire or salvage most machines after five years, we have some that are older but still reliable enough to stay in the fleet after as many as six or seven years. If these were leased machines, we would have lost big.

Our vehicle and equipment assets represent nearly $6 million in combined value, after accounting for de­preciated value. That number considerably understates what our replacement cost would be, considering that our machines get regular service and attention. The notion that proper preventive maintenance is something to do as an afterthought when you aren't busy doing something else is simply not tolerated. For this reason, we do not let anyone other than trained mechanics work on our machinery and fleet assets. Ten years ago we built a full service equipment and automotive shop. Today, the shop is equipped with multiple machinery lifts, an auto lift, tire changer, and all kinds of specialty tools. Inside the shop we have a two person off road machinery team and one automotive preventative maintenance mechanic who also does light repairs.

Our mechanics see every machine every week. Three weeks per month, a mobile preventative maintenance truck comes to a job site and does maintenance, lube, safety inspection, blade change, and filter clean-out. This happens without interrupting the crew because it is scheduling ahead. Once per month, each truck and its assigned machinery come in for a full on-the-rack inspection, preventative maintenance, tire rotation, and re­pairs. We provide our team with a pool of shared loaner machines to use when we have to pull an asset out of service. This is normally due to a safety violation that requires immediate lock-out, or observation of a potential major part failure ahead. Every winter, we bring all of the machines in for a thorough winter service.

All of this costs money, but more importantly it saves money and prevents downtime. From our point of view, the best way to save money on machinery is to prevent downtime, and we invest substantially in doing so.

Miron Construction purchases Ariens and Gravely products for use on construction sites

Miron Construction, an industrial construction company headquartered in Neenah, Wis., was recently introduced to Gravely's line of professional equipment. Ariens Company has previously had a relationship with Miron, as they were contracted by the company for prior construction projects.

While the two companies have enjoyed a longstanding relationship, Miron has only recently purchased products from Ariens Company. In early December, our sales team delivered a fleet of Gravely Atlas Job Site Vehicles, Ariens Path Pro's, Ariens Power Brushes and Ariens generators to the Miron offices in Neenah. We recently sat down with Pete Klosterman, vice president of field services for Miron Construction, to talk about his first few weeks with the products.

Ariens Company: You've had a relationship with the Ariens Company for years. Why did you decide to purchase Ariens/Gravely equipment now?

Klosterman: Honestly, we thought of Ariens Company as more of a manufacturer of residential-type products until we were introduced to the Gravely line. After the introduction, it became apparent that Ariens Company produces industrial-type products that will serve our needs in the construction industry. We have had a previous relationship with Ariens Company and have enjoyed opportunities to build for them. To date, they have been great to work for and we are looking to continue our partnership by doing what we can to promote Ariens and Gravely products.

Ariens Company: Since you were just introduced to the Gravely lineup of professional products, you were probably using a competitor's products before this. Specifically focusing on the Atlas JSV, how does your experience with it so far stack up to the competition?

Klosterman: Our utilization is in it's infancy to date, although it is already apparent that the target of creating a machine that is quick to use and maneuverable, yet retains ability haul a healthy payload and be durable, has been accomplished. Other brands we have utilized have proven to be too recreational and not durable, or too slow, to be efficient for our needs. 

Ariens Company: It sounds like the Atlas JSV will be a perfect fit for the environment that your staff works in every day. How do you foresee your team using the job site vehicles on a day-to-day basis?

Klosterman: They will be used in very versatile environments, from hauling concrete-form hardware and masonry materials around a site, to moving tradespeople and their tools to work locations on large industrial project sites, to touring clients, owners and architects around a project site, enabling them to see the evolution of their dreams.

Ariens Company: Thanks so much for your time today. We're happy for the opportunity to continue our working relationship, and we hope that our products serve you well.

Klosterman: Not a problem. We're excited about the new vehicles. Beyond the quality manufacturing, the support network behind your products makes using the Ariens/Gravely brand very inviting.

2014 Ariens and Gravely Dealer Summit – Phoenix, Arizona

The 2014 Ariens and Gravely Dealer Summit was a huge success with over 250 dealerships in attendance from the United States and Canada.  There were many activities planned including the introduction of the new Gravely Atlas.  The Atlas is not an ordinary UTV, it is a JSV (Job Site Vehicle) designed to help the end-user get their jobs done more efficiently.  The dealers were able to gain performance knowledge through the six demonstration areas set up featuring the benefits of the Atlas.

There were other product updates announced, and the dealers had an opportunity to demo the mowers and equipment for both Gravely and Ariens.  Visit our Facebook page to view the pictures from the event. 

Our guest speaker was Tim Larson, Vice President of Customer Experience of Polaris Industries, Inc.  Tim's message provided insight into their company's dealer initiatives and was very informative as we mark the launch of the Gravely Atlas JSV.

Many Gravely dealers were recognized for their achievements for the past year.  Here is a list of the top performer in each category:

Principle Awards for:
​PeopleBill’s Power CenterBrookfield, WI
​ProcessJordan Garden CenterMidvale, UT
​CultureTarwater Farm & Home​Topeka, KS
President’s AwardBoston Lawnmower Company​Westborough, MA
Chairman’s AwardSouthland Engine CompanyLafayette, LA
New Dealer AwardFutch’s Tractor Depot, Inc.Hastings, FL
Sophomore Dealer Award4-H Equipment Denham Springs, LA
Fleet AwardChoo Choo Lawn Equipment, Inc.​Plant City, FL
Governmental AwardSouthland Engine CompanyLafayette, LA
Regional Awards:
Southeastern Region     Main Street MowerWinter Garden, FL
Southwestern RegionTriple C Sales & Service​Conway, AR
Northeastern RegionYC Power & Associates​Salem, NH
North Central RegionL & M SupplyGrand Rapids, MN
West Region Aurora Outdoor PowerWilsonville, OR
CanadianAccurate Lawn & Garden EquipWinnipeg, MB
Category Awards:
Commercial Ride-On      Southland Engine CompanyLafayette, LA
Consumer Ride-OnNeil’s Small Engine, Inc. ​Larose, LA
Chore ProductsArn’s Equipment Calgary, AB
Snow VolumeBoston Lawnmower Company​Westborough, MA
Lawn & Garden VolumeSouthland Engine CompanyLafayette, LA
Service Parts VolumeJacks Small Engine & Generator​Jarrettsville, MD
Attachments/AccessoriesBoston Lawnmower CompanyWestborough, MA

We are proud of all of our Ariens and Gravely dealers and appreciate all they do for the success of our company.

Congratulations to Mike Ariens on 55 Years of Service

The best way to invest in the future is by building on the values of the past.

Mike Ariens, Chairman Emeritus and 3rd generation of the Ariens family, celebrated his 55th work anniversary with Ariens Company on November 1, 2014. The company held a nationwide celebration today in honor of this big event.  A special video was shown to document the employees' appreciation for Mike, and cake was served at different locations as well.

As part of his outstanding contribution and dedication to the company, we will begin to share a series of stories including Mike's reflection on the path Ariens has taken and his thoughts on what we might learn from this history. Mike Ariens has lead by example throughout the years, and his passion for the family company is clearly recognized in this series of video clips.

In 2013, Chairman and CEO, Dan Ariens, interviewed his father, Mike Ariens, during the company's 80th anniversary celebration to get his perspective on milestone events in the company's history. Growing up in the family business and having 55-years as an employee under his belt, Mike provided honest insight into what makes Ariens Company so unique.

We encourage you to follow along throughout our series and get a rare glimpse into the in's and out's of a family business over 80 years. Watch and learn a little about our history and celebrate generations of American craftsmanship.

This video is the first in our upcoming series to honor Mike Ariens


Hydro-Gear® Extended Life Transmission Program

Ariens Company has partnered with Hydro-Gear to provide a third year of warranty coverage on Hydro-Gear ZT-5400 and ZT-3400 transmissions featured on Pro-Turn 400, Pro-Turn 200, Pro-Turn 100, as well as the Pro-Stance 48, 52, and 60. Ariens Company and Hydro-Gear believe that by obtaining proper transmission maintenance (oil and filter changes), these proven integrated transmissions will provide thousands of hours of performance.

HydroGear ZT5400.JPGCustomers who purchase one of these units on or after October 1, 2014 are eligible to extend the transmission warranty by following a simple preventative maintenance program as described in the owner's manual. This optional program does not carry any upfront costs, but customers may "opt-in" by simply getting transmissions serviced by a local Gravely dealer.

In order to qualify for the third year of the Hydro-Gear transmission warranty, customers must have their transmission oil and filters changed by a local Gravely dealer within a 50 hour window of the maintenance intervals required in the manual starting at 75 hours and repeated every 400 hours thereafter.

Ariens Company and Hydro-Gear are certain that with appropriate preventative maintenance, these transmissions will provide years of exceptional performance.

Program Details:

  • Equipment must be purchased and registered on or after October 1, 2014.
  • The warranty is only eligible on products containing Hydro-Gear ZT-5400 and ZT-3400 integrated transmissions.
  • The first transmission oil and filter change must be completed within the first 75 hours of use.
  • Service kits must be ordered by the dealer to complete the transmission service, these part numbers will be used to add the service record to the product's warranty records.
    • ZT5400 service kit part # 592228
    • ZT3400 service kit part # 594027
  • Dealer must complete transmission service and log it to the Ariens Company warranty system at the time of the service.
  • The extended warranty program begins when the first service is logged on the model and serial number of the affected unit within the first 75 hours of usage.
  • All services must be completed within 50 hours of the designated intervals listed in Gravely equipment manuals (75, 475, 875, 1275, 1675, 2075, 2475, 2875).
  • Warranty is non-transferable.
  • Third year of coverage is for parts only.

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