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An (imaginary) GIE+EXPO to remember

October 21, 2020 -  By , , and

Visits with Giant, Bobcat, Grasshopper and more

By Seth Jones, LM Editor-in-Chief

The GIE+EXPO is a highlight of my year. Meeting in-person with our readers and partners is the lifeblood of this magazine.

Giant 3500 loader (Photo: Giant)

Turn on a dime Giant’s 3500 wheel loader with telescopic boom offers a maneuverability that surprises event. (Photo: Giant)

I kicked off this year with a meeting with Giant. Their compact wheel loaders with telescopic booms have had a longer career in Europe than here in the U.S.; in fact, Giant has only been focused on the North American market since opening an office in Sioux Falls, Iowa, in 2016.

Justin Sinning, North American sales manager, Midwest Region, Tobroco Machinery, gave me the rundown on Giant’s 3500 with telescopic boom. The machine has a traditional steering wheel, gas pedal on the right and clutch/brake on the left, so it feels like a car. But, its maneuverability is nothing like a car.

“It’s very unique and different in that the machine bends in the middle,” Sinning told me. “When you go over some terrain that stresses the frame on the machine … not only does it articulate in the middle, but it also oscillates left to right. It oscillates from the front position of the frame to the rear position of the frame.”

Sinning told me he enjoys seeing the reaction of longtime skid-steer operators when they get behind the wheel of a Giant 3500.

Rip it The GeoRipper is designed for digging in small, defined areas. (Photo: GeoRipper)

Rip it The GeoRipper is designed for digging in small, defined areas. (Photo: MiniTrencher)

“You can visually look at it and conceptualize and say, ‘Yeah, I see that it’s going to turn in the middle, and I can see it’s probably nimble, but how tight is it really going to turn?’” Sinning said. “When they get in that machine and operate it for the first time, it’s really interesting to see those experienced operators light up. They don’t expect it to turn on a dime as much as it does.”

Sinning said what sets Giant apart is the articulation but also the telescopic boom. Eventually, all of Giant’s North American offerings will feature the telescopic boom. He said Giant’s biggest obstacle is overcoming generational buying: What was good enough for Dad is good enough for me.

“You see a lot of users who are apprehensive because it’s different,” Sinning said. “But, once they see it’s more nimble, it leaves less of a footprint, it articulates and it doesn’t have that rigid frame pressure to the ground that a tank-driven-style skid-steer has … It’s a European design but it’s catching on.”

Mower mania

Grasshopper mower (Photo: Grasshopper)

Try it out Grasshopper said potential customers testing out mowers makes them more likely to buy. (Photo: Grasshopper)

From the European design, I then saw something created much closer to home — at Grasshopper, based only 160 miles from me in Moundridge, Kan. I talked with Brian Schoenthaler, now semiretired, who has been attending GIE+EXPO on behalf of the company since the mid-1990s. He showed me the 900 Series mower, a mower he described as having “super power.”

“It’s an electronic fuel injection, 37-horse Grasshopper — it’s a big block, Briggs & Stratton engine,” Schoenthaler said. “It’s got 61- and 72-inch deck options out front, so you have the capabilities of mowing under low-hanging obstacles. And, the deck will actually raise up with our power fold feature that allows you to rotate that deck up and clean underneath it without having to remove the deck. The deck can also be removed easily and replaced with a number of turf implements to make it a year-round machine.”

Over at the Case Construction demo area, we saw the new B Series — five compact track loaders and eight skid-steers featuring a completely redesigned operator interface, including new left- and right-hand posts with simple ignition, push button operation, easy throttle control and intuitive switches for all core machine functions.

Case B Series machine (Photo: Case Construction Equipment)

A new look
Case Construction’s B Series offers new compact track loaders and skid-steers with radial and vertical lift. (Photo: Case Construction Equipment)

To add to that Cadillac feel is an 8-inch LCD multifunction display that serves as the command center of the machine and a split screen to a backup camera. The camera is operational in both reverse and forward and increases the operator’s visibility of the job.

From Case, I meandered over to the big event Bobcat had planned. What a crowd! That’s where we had this year’s biggest celebrity encounter of GIE+EXPO 2020, when we intercepted (sorry, Eagles fans) Philadelphia Eagles Quarterback Carson Wentz, who was serving as spokesperson for Bobcat’s entrance into the zero-turn mower market.

“I’ve had this thing for a couple weeks,” Wentz said, speaking of the ZT7000. “It’s tough, it cuts through the tall stuff, the thick stuff, the short stuff — it does it all. My favorite thing is, just like Ricky Bobby, I like to go fast. This thing does that. For a mower, this can cover some ground, and it allows me to get back to everything I enjoy doing with my family and other projects.”

Mike Ballweber, president of Doosan Bobcat North America, explained why Bobcat decided to move into the zero-turn segment.

Bobcat mower (Photo: Bobcat)

All-out offering
Bobcat added zero-turns to its lineup to give customers a full suite of products. (Photo: Bobcat)

“We are always advancing innovations. Expanding into zero-turn mowers is the perfect next step for us and our customers,” Ballweber said. “You may be asking why mowers, why now? At Bobcat, we’re always looking toward what’s next. What do our customers want, and how do we deliver the right products, services and solutions? Our goal is to offer a full suite of products. That’s why adding zero-turn mowers made sense.”

Ron Scheffler, senior product manager, showed off the ZT7000 with deep-deck air effect that allows the grass to pop up sooner for a clean cut.

“The deep deck design gives you a full vacuum to lift straight up for a great cut,” he said. “The sharp blades allow for a nice crisp cut, instead of tearing. And, the air gap baffles are bolt on so they’re easily replaceable. The gaps allow for a greater air flow, which gives a great dispersion outside of the deck and a cleaner deck at the end of the day.”

Heading back to the airport

Vermeer ATX850 (Photo: Vermeer)

Versatile Vermeer’s ATX850 can be used for landscape work, tree removal and snow services. (Photo: Vermeer)

I don’t have the space to give everything I saw a mention, but a few others that stood out include:

  • Vermeer gave attendees a look at its compact articulated loaders (ATX), featuring telescopic boom. With a
    multitool attachment plate, the ATX can complete various tasks, including landscaping, snow removal and tree care work. The ATX850 is equipped with a 57-hp Kohler KDI903 engine and has an extended boom reach of 29 inches for loading material to a dump height of 117 inches.
  • MiniTrencher unveiled the battery-powered GeoRipper,
    ideal for digging irrigation, landscaping edging or other jobs where ripping up the soil in a small defined area is needed. The company has a demonstration on YouTube that shows the power this new battery-powered tool packs.
  • Siboredrill showed off its SB2-16HD, SB2-15 Micro Bore and the SB2-18 Makita Electric Motor Kit. The SB2-18 is an electric drill that will bore up to a 4-inch hole, 8 feet in length. The company is offering free shipping until the end of the month.
Seth Jones

About the Author:

Seth Jones, a graduate of Kansas University’s William Allen White School of Journalism and Mass Communications, was voted best columnist in the industry in 2014 and 2018 by the Turf & Ornamental Communicators Association. Seth has more than 19 years of experience in the golf and turf industries and has traveled the world seeking great stories. He is editor-in-chief of Landscape Management, Golfdom and Athletic Turf magazines. Jones can be reached at sjones@northcoastmedia.net.

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