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Keep on Rockin’: Small equipment for big jobs

August 11, 2021 -  By

Other voices

In addition to contractors and representatives from John Deere and Vermeer, Landscape Management spoke with Blane Burroughs, Kubota CE product specialist; Keith Kramlich, Takeuchi national sales and training manager; and Kevin Coleman, skid-steer loader/compact track loader (CTL) product marketing at Caterpillar.

Landscape Management: Have you seen a shift in sales from larger skid-steers or track loaders to mini units, wheel loaders and track loaders?

Blane Burroughs, Kubota CE

Blane Burroughs, Kubota CE

Burroughs: Smaller equipment does not seem to be stealing sales from other product classes but creating its own pure market and customer demand.

Kramlich: The skid-steer market continues to decline as customers see the advantages that a CTL offers and make the switch.

LM: Do you have any products on the horizon designed for tighter working spaces?

Kramlich: We have short-tail compact excavator models available now, and new short-tail models are coming soon. Also, we’re planning to launch a Takeuchi tiltrotator (attachment) line later this fall.

LM: What tradeoffs do companies face in using smaller machines?

Kevin Coleman, Caterpillar

Kevin Coleman, Caterpillar

Coleman: As machines increase in size, so do the rated operating capacities and auxiliary hydraulic flow rates that power hydromechanical attachments. Smaller machines will likely have lower lift heights that may not reach the top of larger trucks (during loading) or require a small ramp.

Kramlich: A larger machine will come with a higher price tag, but it will be more productive, so the customer will typically save in the long run.

LM: When does it make more sense to take down a fence, bring in bigger equipment and reset the fence at the end of the project? Or, is it almost always better to opt for smaller equipment?

Burroughs: This type of calculation should be made on a case-by-case basis weighing the cost of tear down and construction, damage caused by ground disturbance and the productivity gained by bringing in a larger machine.

Keith Kramlich, Takeuchi

Keith Kramlich, Takeuchi

Kramlich: Let’s say (the company has) $3 million and just three months to get a job done. It may want to move the fence and bring in the bigger equipment. If it has $1 million and nine months, it may need to opt for less site impact and go with smaller equipment.

LM: What advice do you have for contractors deciding to go small?

Coleman: Rearview cameras provide a wide-angle picture of hard-to-see areas behind the machine, which can be especially helpful in smaller, tighter job sites.

Think about the track tread pattern — bar-tread rubber track minimizes ground disturbance.

Kramlich: Watch your surroundings. Working in a large, open area with a large piece of equipment is much different than working next to a house, pipeline or power lines. Be cautious booming up, as there may be a power line right above you, and be careful swinging next to structures as the machine’s counterweight can swing wider than the tracks.

LM: What are some hidden benefits of going small?

Burroughs: The cost barrier to entry is significantly reduced with these smaller machines.

Coleman: The opportunity exists to potentially carry more attachments, which would provide even greater machine utilization and versatility.

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

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