Progressive Turf Equipment
Progressive Turf Equipment grew out of tradesman Luke Janmaat’s philosophy that to succeed in the manufacturing business, equipment had to evolve constantly in a market that demanded efficiency and usability.
Thirty years ago, his business started as a one-man machine shop that repaired and altered equipment with the goal of making it more productive and user-friendly. The business shifted to mowers in 1989 when he received a challenge to design a wide cut, multi-deck rotary mower to meet the demands of turf grass producers.
Janmaat met the challenge. At the same time, he changed the industry’s technology by designing the first pull-behind rotary finishing mower that was easy to service and transport between fields. Powered by a standard tractor’s PTO, the new mower allowed turf grass producers to cut a 22-foot wide swath with each pass.
Today, Progressive Turf Equipment is a North American leader in rotary finishing mowers, and remains a privately held Canadian corporation in Seaforth. It focuses on the design and manufacturing of specialty short-line products for niche applications in turf grass production and maintenance.
The Canadian Business Journal spoke with Progressive Turf Equipment General Manager Bruce Godkin, Research and Development Manager Mark MacDonald, Director of Sales and Marketing manager Brian Lowe, and company owner Luke Janmaat about the company’s beginnings, its unique business niche and its manufacturing outlook for the future.
A key factor in the company’s success, according to Lowe, is it pays close attention to the customer’s needs. “We try to be as close to our customer base as we can,” he says. This process involves personal contact with customers, “whether it’s picking up the phone, visiting a worksite, or local shows,” Lowe says, and adds that the company is on a first-name basis with many customers.
“Being so close to the customer, we can basically suit what we’re hearing from them,” adds Godkin. “But at the same time, we have a pretty good ability to push innovative features into the market at the right time to meet the customer’s needs.”
In its product development process, the company develops and tests all the equipment in the “user’s hand,” which is the final “validation in our development process,” Godkin says. Because the mowers are used commercially, the equipment must run on a daily basis and be as efficient as possible. “The uptime and usability of the mowers is critical,” Godkin says.
The company sells a variety of different mowers for different functions. These include grass cutting for golf courses, sod production, municipal ground care, sports turf, maintenance and professional landscaping.
There are two models of the Proflex contour mowers available, wheeled or with rollers, from Progressive Turf Equipment. Both contour mowers feature a 10-foot cutting width and are designed to meet the challenging terrains often found on champion golf courses and local municipal parks.
In addition, the company produces four conventional, wheeled, tri-deck mowers with cutting widths of 12 feet to 36 feet and are professional grade wide area finishing mowers. The machines are field proven designs with interchangeable components with older models for low operating and maintenance costs. The line of conventional rotary finishing mowers has floating decks supported by a set of caster wheels that track the ground and establish the cut height.
Progressive Turf Equipment has a line of five roller mowers that consist of three tri-deck models with cuts from 12 feet to 22 feet and two single decks models with 65 and 90 inch cut widths. These are heavy duty, dependable mowers that offer high productivity and low operating costs. They also produce a pleasing striped visual appearance of the turf.
The Slope-Pro, a fully remote-controlled, self propelled, tracked mower, is designed to tackle hazardous, demanding and labor intensive areas. The product allows the operator to maintain areas that are challenging to mow with regular mower technologies.
With a 52-inch wide rotary cut, the Slope-Pro operates on side slopes up to 50 degrees with a working range of up to 300 feet from the remote control.
Currently, the company is adapting its equipment and processes to minimize its environmental footprint. The company aims to make both its manufacturing process and the mower as energy efficient as possible.
On the manufacturing process side, “We’ve recently commissioned a new, high-end, high-definition plasma profiling machine into the front end of our process.
It improves our productivity, it reduces our cycle time, and it reduces our environmental footprint by reducing shipping distances,” Godkin says.
The equipment environmental considerations include adjustments to the equipment’s moving joints. Sliding joints, pivot joints, and spindle bearing are moving away from the traditional manually greased, or externally lubricated, to an internally lubricated component design.
Godkin says the environmental initiative is causing the company to introduce new design.
“(It’s) causing us to introduce new extended service drive lines, new spindle bearings,” he says. “We tend to stay away from hydraulic driven components as much as possible, again, because of the possible impact on the environment should a leak occur.”
Aside from environmental precautions, Progressive Turf Equipment focuses on maintaining its status as a North American producer for the North American market.
“We are a strong believer in utilizing local resources as part of our process, so when we look at developing our supply chain, we partner with local businesses first. Then we can basically expand that circle until we get either the product or the process that we need,” Godkin says.
To further support local communities, the company also gives tours of the company to Grade 10 and 11 students, educating the youth about existing types of local employment opportunities in manufacturing and helping them to determine what skill sets they need to gain employment in the manufacturing sector.
Aside from those changes, Janmaat says the company keeps to its original mandate. This includes looking to the market for new and innovative product ideas that will keep the company growing and competitive in the future.