As a customer focused company, John Deere are now in their 15th year of the Feedback road shows. These events involve invited practicing Green keepers and Groundsmen to look at existing and prototype equipment to provide user feedback.
Most if not all of the new developments being introduced to market are based on previous Feedback events and these ensure that John Deere is able to supply the market with what it wants.
Clearly this type of process works well for the company as the ground care business has doubled inside the last 7 years to £22.2 billion. This year John Deere has invested over £350 million into research and development alone.
To continue this growth John Deere recognise that they can't stand still and in 2008 a full line of irrigation will be available, supported through 1000+ existing distributors.
For many years the two leading irrigation companies have had it all their own way, but now John Deere look likely to provide a fierce and robust challenge to Rain Bird and Toro.
Water management is the buzz phrase these days, where conservation and consumption are the forefront concerns for the golf course industry. In the USA 77% of the course managers surveyed cited water management as the predominant environmental issue impacting the industry.
John Deere has taken a comprehensive approach to water management providing a total solution for the course manager revolving around the Aurora Intelligent Control System. This system includes full control of the decoders, satellites and central software.
There is also a web based central control system that provides remote access from anywhere in the world to turn the system on and off, diagnose faults and see service intervals. This system also allows management through the local dealer to make sure that breakdowns can be checked and resolved quickly and efficiently.
As well as the control system, there will also be a full line of high-grade stainless steel rotors available that will fit into any irrigation companies' heads. These new rotors provide flexibility in flow and radius and are all fully serviceable from the top.
Previously the Feedback event has been held in the USA, but this year it moved to St Leon-Rot Golf Club in Germany, near to the Mannheim John Deere manufacturing plant.
The goal of the annual event in allowing attendees to demonstrate and test drive the new prototype equipment, is to insure that marketing and engineering understand the customers needs and applications.
Apart from the soon to be launched water management products, the 700 attendees from 37 countries, were privy to many planned improvements. The new innovations were on fairway, greens and rough mowers, new aeration and compact tractors as well as utility vehicles and attachments.
Ever wondered whether we would see self-adjusting cylinder mowers? Cylinders that not only self set the cutting height but also reset the cut at the push of a button-well 700 Greenkeepers have just had a taste of the future.
Some of the technology that we witnessed as press on the trip may never reach the marketplace, as the positives have to be very strong to make a new piece of equipment commercially viable to produce.
As is often the case, something that may provide great results for a handful of people, will never get close to becoming a production line piece of assembled machinery due to its limited demand.
That said I hope that John Deere persevere with the self-setting/sharpening cylinders. For the Greenkeeper that currently has to use different machines to cut the fairways, approaches and tees or at least spend a lot of time in and out of the workshop to re-set blades and cutting heights this would be a major time saving product.
New machines that have undoubtedly evolved through the previous feedback events include the TH 6x4 Gator and Pro Gator 2030A utility vehicles, 580 materials collection system, B Series triple greens and utility mowers, C Series walk-behind greens mowers and rear roller walk-behind mowers.
Improved operator comfort and serviceability plus a new traction system are features of the new 2653B professional utility mower, which builds on the durability, performance and quality of cut of its predecessor.
This three-wheel drive triplex machine is particularly suitable for the more difficult areas of grass on golf courses and other amenity turf areas, including slopes and rough terrain. The new 20hp Tier 3 diesel engine is designed to meet the most up to date emissions and noise regulations, while improved grip and stability on wet or hilly terrain are provided by the new traction system.
A number of detail changes have also been made to John Deere's greens triple mowers for 2007, designed to improve operator comfort and safety. Powered by the same engine as the 2653B, the new 2500B diesel and 2500E hybrid diesel/electric greens mowers are now fitted with a standard ROPS frame, seat belt and locking seat pan to meet the latest safety standards.
Both machines incorporate a larger muffler to reduce noise levels, down to as low as 79dBA, while rubber-mounted hydraulic lines provide additional reductions in both noise and vibration. Other features include common hood styling, a new radiator and a new hydraulic tank design, which is also shared with the 2653B.
John Deere has also introduced its first ever range of walk-behind mowers featuring a rear roller. These three new rotary mowers feature a perfectly balanced, heavy-duty roller to provide a professional looking striped finish. Integrated at the rear of the mower deck, the full-width roller supports the weight of the mower, allowing it to follow ground contours for a perfect patterned cut.
Cutting widths on the R43RVE, R47RKB and R54RKB mowers are 43, 47 and 54cm (17, 18.5 and 21in) respectively, and all three models feature John Deere's established TurboStar mowing system. The entry-level R43RVE model offers electric start, while the two larger models incorporate a blade brake safety clutch.