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Keep on Rockin’: Small equipment for big jobs

August 11, 2021 -  By
Flexibility: Mini skid-steers tend to be slower and have lower load ratings than larger machines, but users say they gain flexibility when going small. (Photo: Ditch Witch)

Flexibility: Mini skid-steers tend to be slower and have lower load ratings than larger machines, but users say they gain flexibility when going small. (Photo: Ditch Witch)

Manpower solutions

Derek Taussig, owner of Taussig Landscape in Manhattan, Kan., says the decision to add mini skid-steers and a mini excavator to his equipment list came down to two things — people and pain.

“We’re struggling in finding good laborers,” Taussig says. “That, and I’ve been a landscaper for 20 years, and my back hurts. Using one mini skid-steer, we can do the work of three men, and I don’t have to be on the site every day.”

About 70 percent of Taussig’s business is residential landscape and hardscape installations, mostly retaining walls and patios. The rest of the company’s business comes from irrigation installation, commercial landscaping and a small amount of maintenance work.

He has several sizes of Ditch Witch mini skid-steers, but the most critical tool, the SK800, is the smallest.

“We do a lot of irrigation systems on existing yards and landscapes, so being able to go into a backyard, through a 36-inch gate and pull pipe, that’s a major savings for me,” Taussig says. He adds that to bring larger machines to a backyard, he’d either have to take down a section of fence and reinstall it, or he’d have to stick with walk-behind tools. Either way, manpower costs rise.

In Michigan, Vugteveen says some of the manpower savings from smaller machines are surprising. About 50 percent of DeHamer’s work is landscaping installation for new construction, with the rest coming from landscape renovations (about 30 percent), lawn maintenance (about 10 percent) and snow removal (about 10 percent). DeHamer began using mini skid-steers at its offices about 10 years ago to prepare for jobs and noticed a radical difference.

“When we were loading plants in the morning, getting on and off over and over again, it felt like I was moving three times faster,” Vugteveen says. When choosing between his company’s stand-on mini skid-steer and its larger loaders, he adds, “You don’t realize how much time you spend climbing into the cab, sitting down and standing up again.”

He adds that it’s easier to train new people to use compact equipment because there are fewer settings and the controls tend to be streamlined compared to controls on full-sized machines. Plus, the lower cost of the machines and lower power levels compared to full-sized equipment mean less risk.

“You can trust a less-experienced person with a smaller piece of equipment,” Vugteveen says. “They’re going to do a lot less damage if they get something wrong.”

Robert Schoenberger

About the Author:

Robert Schoenberger is Landscape Management's former senior editor. He holds a bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Houston. He has worked in magazines and newspapers since the late 1990s. Robert can be reached at rschoenberger@northcoastmedia.net.

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