In this short article, Tom Stidder, Demonstration and CPO Workshop Manager at Ransomes Jacobsen, looks at the company's recently launched Certified Pre-Owned (CPO) scheme, where quality used equipment is factory refurbished and marketed to end-users
The rationale for the introduction of the Certified Pre-Owned scheme has been directly driven by the recession of the last four or five years. This period of austerity has severely impacted our customers in the core areas of our business - golf clubs, landscape contractors and local authorities.
It is no secret that rounds of golf played over the past five years has shrunk as demands on household incomes have increased and disposable income has fallen. The result has been a significant decrease in golf club revenues, which directly affects their purchasing power. Also, central government finance restrictions to local authorities has resulted in severe cutbacks, many of them impacting on the groundcare teams at local council level.
We fully appreciate that, although customers want to purchase our equipment, it's not always possible for them to do so due to lack of funds. That's the main reason why we have introduced this Certified Pre-Owned initiative.
Customers will be, and are, surprised when they see the machines; we took some early models to Windsor in September2013 to gauge interest and most people thought they were new machines!
Second generation, not second-hand
One thing I want to make abundantly clear is that these are not second-hand machines; we look at them as second generation. That might sound like semantics but, in my view, a second-hand machine is one that has been traded in or put on the used market, given a cursory inspection to make sure its main features function and is sold, as is, without any meaningful warranty.
Our CPO machines are entirely different from this. Looking at one of our walking greens mower, for example; we put it through a 90-point quality control check during refurbishment. And in the case of a larger machine, say a riding greens mower, this will have in excess of 300 quality checks. Once the refurbishment is completed, the machine is uploaded to our dedicated website, www.ransomestrader.com, where it is sold on a first-come, first served basis - the price advertised on the website is the price the customer pays - there are no hidden costs.
The refurbishment process
We have an experienced team of technicians devoted to the CPO process who work in a dedicated production area within our manufacturing facility. Every machine is given a thorough inspection to identify what needs doing, before being stripped down; any worn or irreparably damaged parts are replaced, repainted in our paint plant if necessary and, throughout the process, it undergoes rigorous quality control checks.
During a mower's life, there will be many updates to its functionality. For example, new wheel motors may have been introduced, or maybe updates to the command and control systems or a new design of a specific hydraulic pump. Our CPO machines will have all these updates incorporated into the refurbishment and all the safety decals will be renewed as a matter of course. We will regrind cutting units, replace bearings and seals, check and adjust controls; in fact, we do everything that is identified in the initial check. If new cutting units or decks are required, these will be fitted as well. And, of course, they will be genuine replacements, straight from our after sales department.
This is not as easy as it may seem! We source our CPO machines through an industry network of contacts - our own dealer network and the many second-hand dealers that populate the industry. The most important factor is the condition of the machine we take in. It obviously has to be in a state that makes it viable to put through the process. It goes through a rigorous inspection to ascertain what needs to be done; we'll look at all aspects of the machine - engine, chassis, steering, brakes, fuel and cooling systems, hydraulics, electrics, cutting units, control systems, transmission and wheel and tyres.
No machine will be over five years old, or it will have done less than the equivalent in hours worked. For example, a seven-year old fairway mower may have been used sparingly in its lifetime so, depending on its hours and condition, we might consider it as a candidate for CPO.
Not just the UK
The CPO scheme is not just confined to the UK; in fact, quite a few of our machines have gone to Europe. The scheme is also operated by our sister company, Jacobsen in the USA, and I have, on occasion, purchased specific machines from the USA and shipped them over in one of the many containers that move across the Atlantic between the two plants. As a global company, this equipment is, or will be, available in most of our trading territories.
Class leading warranty
In many ways, our warranty is similar to that of Toro's Prema scheme; we both take selected pre-owned equipment, inspect it, refurbish it and extensively test the finished product. We use only OEM parts, the major items, such as cutting units, lift arms and chassis, are manufactured here in Ipswich and every item we use in the refurbishment is the same as we use in the manufacturing of our new build products.
We offer a twelve month warranty, the first six months are covered by Ransomes Jacobsen's full manufacturer warranty, with the remaining six months on a parts-only basis. We feel that if it's got our name on it, we should stand behind it.
The most obvious is the opportunity to purchase quality pre-owned equipment, technically reworked with OEM parts and almost as good as a new machine, at very affordable prices.
Here are a couple of examples that, at the time of writing, were posted on the website:
A 2010 Jacobsen Eclipse 322 two-wheel diesel-electric hybrid greens mower with a choice of 7, 9, 11 or 15 blade cutting units and with all the latest electronic upgrades at £16,800; look at that against the cost of a new mower of the same specification which, at our current recommended retail price, would be over £32,500; that's a lot of technology for virtually half the current cost!
A 2007 Jacobsen LF3400 four-wheel drive fairway mower with only 718 hours and fitted with ROPS, brand new TrueSet, 7-blade cutting units. The front rollers on all five units have been fitted with new bearings. The advertised price is £16,800 ex works and it will require a PDI before delivery. The equivalent machine from today's price list would be in the region of £49,000.
Then there's the added peace of mind of a twelve month warranty supported by a national dealer network.
There are also benefits to us as a business. We have the opportunity to increase the number of machines out there in the marketplace and that increases our market share. It also provides an additional revenue stream for the business and will probably impact favourably on our parts business. It will also mean that we touch new customers; end-users who have not bought from us previously, providing further opportunities as we establish relationships with them.
We have a dedicated website where all our CPO machines are listed with their relevant purchase price. They are available on a first-come, first-served basis and the price advertised is the price the customer pays - there are no hidden costs. They are delivered to the customer through our dealer network and come with our class-leading warranty.
Case Study - Ramside Hall Hotel and Golf Club
Ramside Hall Hotel and Golf Club, one of the top courses in the north east of England, are partway through an £18 million scheme to add 48 more bedrooms to the hotel in a new facility that also includes a spa, a 25-metre swimming pool and conference suite, all due to open in May 2015. The new Cathedral course, which opened fully in September, also has planning permission for 21 executive homes, with phase one currently under construction.
Earlier this year, they purchase five Jacobsen Eclipse 322 hybrid triplex mowers using the Certified Pre-Owned scheme. Delivered by local dealer, Rickerby Ltd, the mowers are being used to maintain the tees and greens on the established Prince Bishops course and the recently opened new Cathedral course.
Roger Shaw has been course manager at Ramside since it was built in 1993. Commenting on the new mowers he said; "I've been using Jacobsen greens mowers for over 20 years; in fact, we have a Greens King IV that is 20 years old and we are still using it! The quality of cut
from the Jacobsen cutting units is second to none and we've now upgraded to the latest technology in a very cost-effective manner."
"Jacobsen's CPO scheme is an excellent initiative and has certainly allowed us to take advantage of this latest hybrid technology at a cost that is very favourable for the club. The consistency of cut we are getting across our greens and tees is remarkable; we just dial in the frequency of cut and it's locked in. No matter who is driving any of the mowers, they all cut exactly the same."
Nick Scott is the club's head mechanic and has earned a high reputation for the manner in which he maintains the mixed fleet at Ramside Hall.
"Working on these Eclipse mowers is really easy; the swing-out centre unit is an excellent feature and access to the engine and other major components is really good. All the systems on the Eclipse are electric, using a small diesel engine to run a generator. Because of this, we are seeing significant fuel savings as a result."