We live in some really interesting times both industry related and politically related. Even though I’m not a politician [Wink, wink to the self-proclaimed “Anonymous Reader” (a.k.a. “A.R.”) who believes I must be one.], I do get caught up in the political nonsense that we’re currently experiencing. But since I can’t relate well to the politicians, I will continue to write about our industry, hoping I can relate to that.
There are many changes taking place in our beautiful industry. While all the changes are too numerous to mention, I’ll touch on three of them.
The age of service technicians should rank high on the list of issues facing our industry. Maybe more than that, not having replacements for them should rank even higher on that list. The small-engine technician positions are suffering from what I will call LOREAM (Lack of Real Excitement and Money). We are up against high-powered motorcycles, ever-changing ATVs and UTVs, boats and more, not to mention the automotive and airline industries, as well as other higher-paying positions. Mediocre tech schools are closing. Good ones are filling up. One school that A.D. is familiar with, measures how many students go into small engine, marine, diesel and other. Out of 30, only four went into small engines. I asked the facilitator of that program why so few go into small engines, and he said the new grads are going where the money is. The good news for us as an industry is the addition of electronic fuel injection (EFI) engines. It might allow you to charge two labor rates: one for EFI engines and one for good ol’ 2- and 4-stroke engines. If that is the case, you’ll need a bigger hopper to throw away all those 2-cycle trimmers when the customer won’t come back and pick them up. Soon, with the emergence of higher-powered, longer-lasting, lithium products, you may never see another 2-cycle product.
Heck, while I’m on the topic of lithium, I’d like to continue writing about it. In the late ‘70s, WeedEater aired a TV commercial during the Super Bowl. The 30-second ad cost $1 million. The results were unbelievable. The head of that group was George Ballas, and his product would forever change the weed-trimming chore. (His grandson is Mark Ballas on Dancing with the Stars.)
Fast-forward 40 years, and the same excitement appears to be taking place with several of the lithium-powered products. Not that long ago, CORE and WORX led the way. There were others, but those two were the talk of infomercials and trade shows. Today, most major lawn and garden equipment manufacturers offer lithium-powered products, but the product line is slim. EGO seems to have the most products available. Besides the regular trimmer, blower and saw, EGO has a snowblower, a walk-behind and self-propelled lawn mower, a backpack blower, and a hedge trimmer. If there was a reason to find an alternative for 2-cycle gas products, you’ll find several great choices to replace them.
The third area of change is technology creeping into the market. If you search long enough, you can probably find a drink mixer powered by a tractor PTO. (There are blenders powered by a 2-stroke engine.) But since we need to be serious (or I may lose my A.D. job), let’s talk about things that are readily available.
EFI is gaining in popularity. Therefore, training will become much more necessary; refer to problem one: age of techs. When talking about EFI, we have to talk a more advanced need for computer knowledge. Now, once again, refer to age of techs. Younger generations grew up on computers, smartphones, blogs, Facebook and others. Grasping the concept of EFI will be much easier for them.
If you think Bluetooth is something that you get from eating blue popsicles, you may want to talk to your grandchildren. Now, mowers are finding ways to communicate with your smartphone via Bluetooth. Basic diagnostics are available by looking at a smartphone. Everyday advancements are being made to cater to the younger generation.
I could go on for days, but A.D. has a budget of allotted words. Feel free to contact me using Twitter @OPEMAGAD and send me an email at OPEMAGAD@gmail.com. I will respond to you. Until next month, keep your mind and blades sharp!