It's been useful being back at my desk this week, after a few weeks out and about attending various shows and events.
Reflecting on what I've seen just lately and it's undeniable that what's being pushed hard by pretty much all the manufacturers is of course, battery and robotics - in a big, big way.
I mentioned last week how SALTEX was clearly awash with the technology. What one can read from this I guess is that suppliers have the utmost confidence in the machines and the commercial users are beginning to fully embrace them.
As several stand holders remarked last week, it's not now a question of if a local authority or a sports facility will choose to invest in some electric machinery - moreover it's which brand will they opt to put their money behind. Perhaps some have been biding their time these past couple of years, monitoring the market to make sure the trend wasn't a flash in the pan or that manufacturers weren't going to change up the battery that their family of products utilise (which is always a fear for early adopters, that they will commit too early and back the wrong horse).
This year though, might be seen as the tipping point for battery - and indeed robotics - where commercial users feel they simply must be involved.
As I implied in my previous blog, what we saw last week at the NEC could well be looked back upon in years to come as a watershed moment - the year when a major supplier of both petrol and battery machinery, Husqvarna, decided to only display electric equipment at a professional end-user show. Not one single piece of petrol powered machinery graced their stand this year. That shouldn't be underestimated.
There was talk across the show-floor last week, of how the professional customers are showing such great interest in these alternatively powered machines. For example Lewis Anderson from Rochfords told us about the lithium-ion, rear collect garden tractor they had on their stand. He said this was actually the first rear collect rider of its kind in the UK market - a product which has been designed by Stewart Anderson of Rochfords and Weibang specifically for the home territory. Lewis said they had dealers come on to their very busy stand who hadn't made it to their dealer events recently, but had heard about the model and placed orders for it. He said they also gained many solid, end user leads which they are passing on to their dealer network.
This interest from the commercial users, I had seen echoed a couple of weeks previously at the GIE+EXPO show in the States. I spoke to the OPEI's president, Kris Kiser there about the trend, who talked about the U.S market having seen some radical shifts into the technology this past year.
Kris told me, "We’ve seen 26% jumps in certain product categories - particularly in handheld and walk-behind lawnmowers. It has just exploded."
Talking to Kris, he did also touch on the debate which we've been having here these past few years, regarding the concern which dealers have over the reduced service work off the back of battery sales. He said how it's an issue there too amongst the independent retailers but it's a reality which is going to have to be dealt with. He talked about how new avenues of business like recycling, recovery, disposal of batteries will all be a big deal - but how it shouldn't be forgotten that battery machinery won’t be the panacea for all end users. "Run times, temperature change, areas of usages – all these things affect performance," he said, "therefore some customers will want to stick with gas."
He summed up the current marketplace saying, "One thing’s for sure though, it’s a very interesting time to be in the business."
It seems like we've been having this conversion for a few years now and I wonder if our readers views on the subject are any different today to when the discussion first started? Have your opinions on battery machinery changed? Are you now a convert to the technology after initial skepticism?
Or have your thoughts remained constant? Do you hold to the theory which I've heard posited by some dealers, that battery machinery is the death knell of the servicing dealer industry?
Or did you embrace it from the outset and feel your decision has been justified?
Please let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.