The days of the pick axes, hand augers and even posthole diggers to get the job done are swiftly receding into the past. Even for some of the smallest jobs, such as simply putting in holes for fence posts, automatic attachments are out there to make our lives a whole lot easier.
By Peter Hildebrandt
Skid-steers, excavators, or any such machinery are nice power sources. With attachments operating hydraulically, life can be made easier for the operator, as the job is now done more quickly and more efficiently. Typically, too, operators don’t even have to leave the cab of the machine.
If a contractor has mini-excavators, skid-steers, or tractors, even the best piece of equipment comes able to use the wide variety of attachment equipment now available.
Skid-steers are a little more versatile in getting from point A to point B, and nearly any attachment available is capable of being placed in front of the machine to do chores around the farm or complete some finer construction work on a job site more quickly and easily.
Renting Versus Owning, Even With Augers
“People purchase attachments to get their job or task done simpler, easier or more efficiently,” explains Glenn Danuser, president of Danuser Machine Co. Inc. “Customers rent instead of purchase equipment because they don’t have the money to buy all the tools that they want to put on that machine; if you buy a skid-steer, it’s unlimited what you can put on the front of that thing. But each attachment is at least a $1,000 or more each. You really have to justify buying an attachment.”
Danuser only recently started manufacturing a brand-new post driver that is virtually changing the way post driving is done—that is, from the old way of pulling the skid-steer up, getting out of the cab, and then working a bunch of levers. The company offers a post driver that allows an operator to pick the post up from the ground, load it onto the machine and drive it away without ever once getting out of the cab.
“You can build a fence all day long by yourself,” adds Danuser. “What does that have to do with rentals? That’s simple. A machine fully loaded is $7,500. Users must look at how much fence they want to put up.”
If an operator is interested in putting up a fence for some horses on a couple of acres, it may not make sense to purchase such a machine. This, for example, is why people rent instead of purchase attachment equipment. “If you don’t see a justification to spend that $7,500 for a task, you rent the tool for a few hundred dollars to complete the task and then return the equipment,” explains Danuser. “Bobcat dealers are well-equipped to either sell a user the attachments that they need or rent them, whether they need something brand new or rent the skid-steer for a short period.
“I have a 200-acre farm. I would really like to find some large equipment that just plows through the wood, anything there except for big trees. I want one of those and have looked at them, but they are $35,000 dollars. Do I really want to spend that to clear 200 acres? I would like to rent one, but that is virtually impossible due to the liability because that is a machine chewing up trees and undergrowth with a lot of cutting equipment involved; there are not a lot of insurance companies out there able to handle insuring such equipment.
“Typically, at the larger yards you can find such equipment to rent, but you must use their skid-steer equipment. They will not turn the machine loose to run with your skid-steer because theirs is outfitted with all the Plexiglas around it for good protection.”
Photo: CE Attachments
A stump-removal bucket can make land clearing a lot more managable.
The post driver is a very popular attachment, according to Danuser. There are a few on the market. But most of them revolve around controls that are outside of the cab of the equipment. The skid-steer needs to be lined up or a second person must be involved.
Danuser’s Hammer is a one-person post driver. With the grapple, the tilt, and everything involved with operating this machine, drivers can grab a post from the ground, raise it up, feed it into the machine, level it, drive it to the desired depth, and then come off the post for the next one. This is the most popular attachment in the company’s lineup at the moment. “Factors driving this trend are that it is hard to find quality workers, and farmers may have children who have grown up and gone away to college, and neighbors are too old to help. It’s too hard to do this work by yourself.”
The firm has made auger systems since 1943. They are the oldest company to make them and the first to mass-produce them in the US; that is the company’s forte. People are purchasing the augers to place them on skid-steers, excavators, and backhoes, and now they are rushing to get this new driver to place them on the skid-steers.
The equipment consists of an auger bit with flighting that basically butts the ground and turns it into loose dirt so that it can be brought up to the surface out of the hole. This dirtless hole can be used to build a fence, install traffic lights, guardrails, pole barns, buildings, marine docks, footings, light poles for parking lots—or anything else anchored in a large hole with a lot of concrete or steel holding it in place for support.
“Our typical customer is a fence builder, pole barn builder, or a contractor needing lights or signs for fast-food restaurants,” adds Danuser.
“Mounting and dismounting on a skid-steer is very simple, involving a quick-attach plate. The skid-steer quick-attach was standardized in 1996. All of them use the same standard connection, a two-pin system. There are two levers that, when they are pushed down, lock two pins at the bottom to lock the attachment onto the machine. This can be done from the cab of the skid-steer. The power of the attachment is always based on the power source that it is on.”
For a smaller skid-steer, operators can look at what their gallons per minute (gpm) and psi (pounds per square inch) are. Those are the hydraulic requirements. Once the flow and pressure are known, those two numbers are matched up to the attachment.
“I have a huge supply of augers,” Danuser says, “machines that can go to six to 15 gallons, ones that go from 10 to 20 gallons, 15 to 30 gallons—all the way up to 60 gallons.
“If you have a small skid that has 10 gallons, I’ll put you in a small auger handling 10 gallons. If you have an excavator that does 40 gallons, I’ll put you into an auger that can do 40 gallons; the power is based upon the machine source. Once you know what that is, we can match it to the attachment.
“Not everyone is trained on such equipment as skid-steers and excavators; they could hit the wrong lever or go in the wrong direction. Therefore, you have this great big machine coming down hard on your attachments. Those attachments have got to be pretty tough. There are some companies that focus on price.
“I call those companies the big box store attachments. I tell people to watch themselves and that they didn’t buy a $60,000 skid-steer just to put a big box store attachment on the front of it.”
Augers can attach to just about anything, according to Danuser. He has even seen them on forklifts. They can be mounted on tractors, skid-steers, mini-skid-steers, mini-excavators, excavators, backhoes, or nearly any type of moving construction machinery.
Keeping Things Simple by Staying in the Cab
CE Attachments Inc. has a wide range of attachments that fit on skid-steer loaders, track loaders, excavators, and compact tractors. The company makes most of its attachments for the skid-steer and track loader market. With all of its attachments, CE features the universal mounting system so that they will work on all makes and models of skid-steer loaders or track loaders.
“The most popular attachments are buckets, fork, and auger attachments,” explains Ron Peters, product manager for CE Equipment Inc. “People buy attachments for return on investment and to make money. They can use their one machine and hook it up to a number of different attachments to do different types of jobs, and if they’re using them all the time it makes sense to purchase the attachment.
“Something like a pallet fork, a lower-cost attachment, is often purchased because people use them every day. Those attachments not used every day—perhaps once, twice, or a handful of times each year—would be rented. A hydraulic breaker attachment to break up some concrete some something that perhaps doesn’t make any sense to buy—renting is a better option for simply getting a job done over the course of a day, week, or even a month.”
Eighty percent of CE’s equipment is sold to dealers and then in turn sold to the dealer’s customers. For a more popular attachment such as an auger drive unit, it might be bought along with one or two bits. But if a customer has a job requiring a certain size auger bit, the customer can simply rent the auger bit from a dealer or rental place. The auger bit will be returned to the rental company after being used on the drive unit.
The auger sizes range from the smallest, a 4-inch diameter, to the 6-, 9-, 12-, 15-, 18-, 24-, 30-, 36-, 42-, and 48-inch auger, which is the largest. Nine- and 12-inch augers are the company’s most popular sizes by far. “Generally, when you get into larger size auger bits, they’re just used for planting shrubs and trees, not just putting a bigger hole in the ground,” adds Peters.
“Among our newer equipment, we have our end-cab backhoe, where the operator doesn’t have to get out of the skid-steer to operate it like in most backhoes. You can just pull the controls inside the cab of the machine to operate the backhoe; the big advantage is you can move your machine when you’re done digging your hole. If you have to back up just a little bit, you can do it without getting in and out of a different seat all the time. The amount you can dig is a lot faster with a backhoe like this, saving the end user time and money. Time is always money.”
On a normal backhoe for a skid-steer loader, there is usually an outside seat and the controls are all outside of the cab of the machine. An operator would typically have to get out of the skid-steer loader, sit on the seat, dig the hole, and then get out of that seat to go back into the skid-steer to move it. In the CE Equipment model, everything is done in the same seat, so the backhoe can be operated as well as the skid-steer.
This backhoe can be side-shifted left or right so that digging can be done up against a building or a fence line. Operators can get into far tighter areas. The In-Cab Backhoe was first offered in 2012.
“We try to always have the attachment available so that we can ship them the same day or the following day, with the most popular attachments on hand all the time,” adds Peters. “We have short delivery time, very good quality attachments, and a whole dealer network available worldwide. Those interested can watch videos of how each of the more popular attachment works on our website if they’ve never seen how one of them works.
“Our stump removal bucket is versatile. It can be used for digging stumps out, digging larger rocks out, and it can be used for a number of different tasks; it is a neat, lower-cost attachment. Especially in this downturn market, people are looking to do jobs while at the same time saving money on attachments.”
Service, Replacement Indicate Growing Rental Trends
Rentals have become a viable option due to the downturn in the economy, as a lot of customers and end users look at renting rather than purchasing products and equipment, according to Steven Kingsley, market manager for light construction products with Paladin Brands. This is especially the case for construction contractors. “We expect that the market will continue to tell us that this trend will carry on, although rental fleets are replacing equipment at a higher rate just because all the rental equipment that’s been used is requiring replacements or upgrades,” he says. “Research we’ve done confirms that; we’re operating under that assumption for the market.”
Photo: CE Attachments
A skid-steer and a planetary auger are a match made in heaven.
Kingsley feels that the rental part of the market will remain a strong influence on things going ahead for those reasons. Contractors that may have previously subbed out a job with a particular attachment might now be saving even more money by doing the work themselves because they didn’t have the money at hand to purchase the equipment.
“It would be nice if, when the contractor is ready, they could go ahead and purchase that attachment because they found that business to be lucrative or profitable for them, but we don’t really know if that’s going to be a trend or not,” adds Kingsley. “It might go back to using a contractor that does that. We don’t have a lot of statistics relevant to any of this but are really going on experience and what the market is telling us, what our customers are telling us through our dealers and rental houses.”
The company recognizes this as a driver in the market and will respond to it with consideration to its influence of the end users and their buying patterns. Paladin products are also designed for heavy use by professionals under extreme conditions. “We don’t sell utility products,” explains Kingsley. “We sell products that are going to undergo heavy use by contractors of all types, people in the agriculture business, people in vegetation management and landscaping, and when they purchase one of our products they’re going to get something that’s going to last a long time and it’s going to get the job done. That is ideal in a rental situation because a variety of people are going to rent that product over a long period of time.
“Although someone may have to pay more for our equipment, if they purchased it they’re going to get a lot out of it over that period of time. That investment is going to pay back many fold because the product will be able to endure the abuse it’s going to take through all those different hands in a rental or an owner type of situation.”
The usage base for the company’s product expands through rental businesses and contractors to OEMs. Paladin Brands is one of the largest companies of its kind and a leader in this area, according to Kingsley. It manufactures attachments for heavy to light construction and for all of the applications that fall under that umbrella of those kinds of products. The company spans multiple market segments and it has a number of brands beneath the Paladin brand itself.
One of the products released recently on the light side has been the Ground Shark Extreme Brush Cutter, one of the company’s most successful launches. The company’s manufacturing facilities are spread all around the country in various locations north, south, east, and west. As a result of all the different brands, manufacturing is done at different places around the country.
“A lot of buckets and scrap grapples were shifted to the South in anticipation of Hurricane Isaac in 2012. I’m sure that’s true of all the manufacturers this year.”
Author's Bio: Contributing author Peter Hildebrandt writes on construction and technology.