Excel Industries levels the playing field with products for a new generation of turf tamers.
Let’s face it: mowing ignites passion. “Nothing frustrates people more than having to deal with a mower that has a problem every time they go to use it. And unless you make a rider mower that’s comfortable and easy to ride, you’ve taken a task that lots of folks don’t really like to begin with, and made it that much worse for them.”
Brad Unruh, who directs the product lines for Big Dog Mower Company and Hustler Turf Products, knows whereof he speaks. “Mowing is still a chore for most people, but I want to make them as happy as I can while they’re doing that chore.”
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, Kansas 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.
“‘What can we do to help that worker get through their day faster so they can either add more jobs into their eight to ten hour days, or, make mowing faster so there’s more time in the day to get other aspects of their work?” Hustler gives them the product that helps them be more productive in their day. That’s why clean, simple design, ease of maintenance and, should anything go wrong, ease of repair makes such a difference.”
Success on the Level
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.”
Hustler products feature a host of patented engineering advancements, including the SmoothTrak™ precision steering system, and unique QuickFlip™ technology that allows users to flip the deck vertically to clean and change blades with ease.
With the current market for utility task vehicles (UTVs) growing at a record pace, Excel is bringing powerful and imaginative new products into a highly competitive space. One such effort is their patented LeveLift™ technology, featured on Hustler’s newest UTV, a rugged and versatile vehicle that has the ability to lift, lower, and dump its cargo at any point along its arc of motion.
“For customers using a UTV as a tool all day long, the ability to get 750 pounds off the ground, level it and dump it into position is a tremendous value,” noted Adam Mullet, VP of North American sales for Excel. “It takes a two-person job down to one a single person can do. It also reduces the number of back injuries.”
Providing products that improve people’s lives is Excel’s passion. “As a family company, we take great pride in that,” Mullet concluded. “Whether in the commercial or residential realm, helping people to get the job done faster so they can spend more time with their families truly is the driving force behind our company.”
In 1964, Excel Industries introduced The Hustler as the first zero-turn mower. That spirit of innovation continues today as Excel Industries sets the standard in crafting and creating innovative outdoor power equipment products for the Hustler Turf Equipment and BigDog Mower Co. product lines in Hesston, Kansas.
Excel Industries HQ
200 South Ridge Road
Hesston, Kansas 67062