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25 May 2020

Back To Basics: Angus Lindsay | Pro Landscaper

idverde’s Angus Lindsay discusses the importance of understanding how to correctly set up, manage, and maintain your equipment to get the best out of it.

Apologies if I am beginning to sound a bit long in the tooth, but many years ago, when I undertook my initial agricultural degree, one of the “go-to” references was the John Deere “Fundamentals of” range of journals. These covered everything from machinery management to power trains, harvesting, and conservation management. During my career both in the UK and abroad I continued to use these publications right up to gaining my Master’s Degree. I still have the original copies and whilst they are now somewhat outdated the basics still apply.

By basics I mean how we get the best from our machinery through matching machines to tasks, maximising efficiency through correctly adjusting equipment, whole life cost management, maintenance management, and evaluating future requirements; all fundamental disciplines which apply not just to agriculture, but horticulture, forestry and construction; in fact anywhere where machinery is a key component of the day-to-day service delivery.

So the world has changed and electronics now play a greater role than the spanner or tape measure, but some things stay constant. The mythical task that is lubrication, be it in the form of grease or oil, is still a basic need when it comes to keeping machinery serviceable. Yet its use seems to be an alien concept to some. Taking time to “set-up” machinery in line with manufacturer’s guidance and weather conditions will maximise its efficiency by reducing premature wear and expensive repairs. Be it a pedestrian rotavator or field scale aerator, following the basic fundamentals of operation should always be the starting point.

Failure to follow the basics can prove costly in the long-term

Now, I am the first to admit that I am out of touch with current curriculums offered by teaching facilities offering courses in land-based technologies, but I’m pretty sure basic machinery maintenance and operation will be in there somewhere. But what about further up the line and those involved in the management of the people and the machines? If they don’t have a basic understanding then the problem becomes exacerbated, especially with the skills shortage our industry is currently experiencing.

It is a source of much frustration and disappointment when I hear people complain that their machines are not powerful enough, when in essence the issues lie with the implement being badly set-up, blunt blades, or worse still the premature failure of equipment through the mismatching of the prime mover or operating in unsuitable conditions. A 160hp tractor pulling a mower designed for a maximum of 90hp will always and in tears!

Whilst I haven’t got an immediate solution to this situation, I would advocate that at all levels we all spend a little more time on the basics to ensure the equipment we operate is done so as efficiently as possible. With the increased use of electric power tools, it is crucial that machines are operated at their optimum, so sharp blades on hedge cutters and the correct length of strimmer cord. The move to Stage 5 diesel engines will see a move to the use of sub-25hp diesel power units and increased use of higher horsepower petrol units. Again, to get the best out of these we will need to better match implements to power units and ensure all are working in harmony, otherwise fuel costs and repairs will overtake what we get paid to do the job.

“Machinery management has increased importance in today’s farming operations because of its direct relation to the success of management in mixing land, labour and capital to return a satisfactory profit” – this quote from 1975’s Fundamentals of Machinery Management journal, whilst referencing agriculture, applies to our industry and how we operate as much today as it did in 1975.


Angus’s blog article is also published in the May 2020 issue of Pro Landscaper magazine.