Steve Powis, school grounds maintenance officer at Shropshire Council and one of the first to own the new Ariens ZENITH when it launched in April, tells us how it’s already transformed the grounds maintenance business venture 3-months in.
Having recently started a new enterprise alongside Shropshire Council, offering schools and other commercial settings, a complete grounds maintenance package; I needed to specify a cutting solution that would suit the operational, financial and logistical needs of the venture.
Operating horticultural machinery for 15-years
I’ve been operating horticultural machinery for over 15-years in a variety of applications including grounds maintenance, formal grounds, open spaces, sports and recreational areas. Having used a variety of different machines to maintain the above including zero-turns, I decided to research what machines were available on the market that would tick all the boxes I was looking for. After getting numerous machine packages and quotes, Paul Butter, Contracts Manager at Shropshire Council and I, consulted with Gary Edwards at Wyvern Garden Machinery, explaining that we wanted a mowing solution that would deliver a great cut and look the part. We decided to go-ahead with Gary and use him because of his excellent technical knowledge and demonstrating to us that the machine he recommended, an Ariens zero-turn, would do what he said it would.
Before long we were demo-ing an Ariens Apex 52 zero-turn at one of the schools I manage, not only were Paul and I impressed with what it could do, the school was too. The long grass was 6-12 inches tall, thicker at the bottom where it hadn’t been cut since September. The Apex made light work of the grass, leaving a great finish. I knew then that this machine was exactly what the business venture needed. Paul who’s also very familiar with mowing machinery available in today’s market, commented that he hadn’t seen a machine that could cut and leave the finish it produced in one pass.
Confirming with Gary that this Ariens zero-turn was exactly what we needed, he advised that a larger zero-turn with a 60-inch deck would be available imminently. I pre-ordered it straightaway, without even seeing it. If I could have a machine that could achieve the cut and finish I wanted, took half the time of other, more traditional mowers, available in a larger size, I was sold.
I’ve had the Zenith now since April and have used it every day. What a machine! I maintain several schools and numerous other sites through Shropshire. Everyone has commented on how nice the finish is.
There are so many benefits to the Zenith. As the operator, I need machinery I can rely on. Downtime is a big no-no as I’m not working and subsequently not earning. I purposely avoided cylinder mowers as they’re often out of action if the blades hit concealed debris or extreme temperatures distort the blades. I haven’t got time to get my tool kit out and bring it back on-cut. I’ve used the Zenith in a variety of differing weather conditions, it doesn’t have a problem in the wet. You do have to take it slower but you’re still cutting and keeping your commitments. The Zenith is actually quite light given its size. Lightweight and the large tyres help it to cope well in wet weather, without leaving the grounds in a mess.
Ariens seems to have got it right with how much of the power the engine produces, its directed to where it needs to be i.e. at the business end. The power is directed straight down to the drive and also the independent drives on the motors to the wheels. It is a nuts and bolts product, the deck height is adjusted with the foot pedal, there are no unnecessary sensors and electronics that could go wrong. It’s a simple product that just works.
The Zenith is versatile. It can get into small and defined areas which saves me time as I’m not having to strim around trees and bushes as an additional process. Fuel consumption is very attractive. Despite it being a petrol engine, it’s very efficient. I can get 3.5 solid hours of mowing with its 20-litre tank. This is increased when the grass is shorter and cut fortnightly. I am can easily cut two schools’ grounds in a day. Before it would take me a lot longer.
Appearance is everything! The Zenith looks the business. Schools are very competitive and want to be seen to be doing well, the Zenith fits right in. I like to take pride in what I do and not only does this machine deliver the nice finish but the machine looks good when its mowing. I was asked what my favourite thing about the Zenith was and if I had to pick one thing, it would be the seat. It’s very comfortable. As a sufferer of sciatica coupled with the fact that I am mowing for the majority of the working week, I need a seat that offers continuous comfort and support.
As the business venture grows, I can see the possibility of specifying further Ariens products in the future. It’s not often you purchase a product that continues to delight. It looks great, delivers a great cut in less time without compromising on quality. It’s efficient and is making money by enabling me to visit more sites per week than I ever have before.
Simple machine—excellent results, I would highly recommend the Ariens Zenith; in fact, Ariens zero-turns in general.