As with any piece of equipment, your customers want a productive, dependable unit that?s going to get the job done. If a machine can?t stand up to the daily rigors of the jobsite, it will soon be back in your rental yard, and your customer will be going somewhere else to get another machine.
With skid-steer loaders, rental businesses and contractors look for different things when purchasing a unit. For example, rental businesses look for features that ease maintenance and increase resale value. ?Rental stores appreciate features ... that reduce downtime,? says Greg Rostberg, marketing manager at Bobcat Co. ?[This ensures] the machines are out earning revenue versus in the shop for routine maintenance.?
But when contractors look at a skid steer, they?re worried about keeping their operators productive during the long work day. Therefore, comfort is at the top of the request list for skid steers. This means giving the operator more space and better visibility, multiple control options, enclosed cabs with heat and air conditioning, suspension seats and easy-to-read-displays.
Manufacturers of skid steers take customer feedback - including rental businesses, contractors and dealers - very seriously.
?We build machines around our customers, and they have always been the driving force in our product enhancements,? says Dave December, brand marketing manager for New Holland Construction.
This sentiment is shared by the other manufacturers sourced for this article. And over the past decade, these manufacturers have tried to style their skid steers to meet their customers? needs. So, what have been the driving trends for skid-steer development over the past 10 years?
Comfort = productivity
The biggest trend in skid steers over the last 10 years can be summed up in two words: operator comfort. With increased comfort, comes more productivity. So contractors are eager to make their operators as comfortable as possible.
?Most skid steer owners have realized that they will have more productive workers with a more comfortable cab,? says December.
Manufacturers offer many options to increase cab comfort. These include a range of choices, such as enclosed cabs, heat and air conditioning, suspension seats, sound-reduction packages or deluxe instrumentation.
?Technology has helped provide enhancements such as deluxe instrument panels that display in multiple languages and keyless start systems for increased security,? says Rostberg. ?Options like the keyless start allow rental store owners to lower their insurance premiums. With the growing number of Hispanic operators, rental customers can also appreciate features such as the Bobcat deluxe instrument panel that communicates vital functions and warnings in Spanish, as well as six other languages.?
When it comes to comfort, some manufacturers have recently introduced deluxe cab options for their skid steers. For example, New Holland now offers a deluxe cab design for its Super Boom units.
?There seems to be a pattern in the market for including more creature comforts in the cab design,? says December. ?Our deluxe cab interior features full-covering, noise-absorbing trim for a more comfortable, quieter place to work. Available as an option, an additional sound-suppression package reduces noise levels by up to three decibels from the operator?s station for an even quieter cab environment. A standard suspension seat and contoured arm rests offer more elbow and forearm support during long hours on the jobsite.?
Another significant advancement for skid steers in the last 10 years is the many choices available to control the machine. ?We?re seeing more hand control and less of the hand/foot variety,? says Kelly Moore with Gehl Co. ?Joystick and pilot controls are becoming more popular, perhaps because a joystick is more natural for younger workers.?