Editor's Note: Excel Industries was recently profiled in Boss magazine. Here's an excerpt.
Since 1960, Kansas-based Excel Industries, Inc. has manufactured premium commercial and residential turf equipment under their Big Dog Mower and Hustler Turf brands. They debuted the world’s first zero-turn mower in 1964, and haven’t stopped innovating since.
The concept of a zero-turn rider mower emerged from the need to navigate around common landscape obstacles, such as winding walkways, flagpoles, boulders, and fence lines. Inventor John Regier merged parts from lawn mowers and farm machinery to create a rider mower capable of making hairpin turns while clipping turf to perfection.
When tractor cab manufacturer Excel Industries president Roy Mullet saw the invention, he was hooked–and the industry was forever changed. Today, Hustler Turf is a world leader in commercial outdoor power equipment, with nearly 1,700 dealers worldwide. Big Dog Mowers opened in 2009 with a straightforward imperative: to build high quality, handcrafted mowers at their Hesston, Kan. plant.
Turf Tech Loyalty
Over the years, Hustler Turf and Big Dog have garnered legions of loyal users who have inspired more than a few of the company’s advancements. “We’ve put a lot of energy into strengthening our products with updates, and we’re putting out best-in-class work,” Unruh said.
“We spend quite a bit of time talking to dealers and end users as we develop updates and create new products, and we constantly evaluate new products in the field” he stressed. “Making sure that what we think about a product aligns with what customers really want is really important for us.”
While the needs of their commercial customers differ from the residential in terms of capacity, thoughtful designs have engendered great support from fans of the Hustler and Big Dog brands. Of late, Unruh is seeing a new driver in customer desire.
“If an operator is going to be on the machine for 45 minutes to an hour, even if it’s only once or twice a week in a residential setting, they value comfort,” he said. The handmade vehicle seats are designed to make riding a pleasure.
Another key aspect of the value equation is simplicity. “Our products are simple to own and simple to use. We give owners a solid, unbeatable product with the features they want. They know that every time they start one of our products up they’re going to get the job done.”
From a design standpoint, that means eliminating frippery that can get in the way of performance. “We ask, how we can keep a commercial user more productive with day to day operation?’” he added.
Over the past half-decade the company’s growth has powered ahead at full speed, spurred on by engineering advancements and a sharp focus on market presence.
Speaking of the company’s remarkable growth, Brent Edmisten, Excel’s VP of Operations, SCM & Engineering asserted, “We’re competing against a lot of world class companies, and we’ve done very well in the past few years because we bring together our product innovations with careful supply chain management.”
In such a competitive arena, Edmisten added, “competition is no longer company to company. It’s supply chain to supply chain. We’re developing an integrated supply chain that includes operations, engineering, and SCM. That’s pretty dramatic for a company of our size to do this, and we’re seeing monumental improvements in speed to market, reliability, quality, and innovation as a result.”