The Landscaper Magazine has a Q & A with Tim Yates, Business Development Manager of the Groundcare division at Kubota UK
1. Congratulations on your new role at Kubota. Briefly tell us how you got to this point in your career and what have been the best bits so far…
I moved into the Business Development Manager role for Kubota’s groundcare division in December 2019. However, I’ve spent the past 20 years at the company. Over this time, I’ve occupied many different roles and obtained a really solid understanding of the UK business and our customer base, alongside the connections and tools often required to make swift decisions and keep business processes fluid.
I’ve had an interest in machinery for many years before joining Kubota. I worked in the plant hire sector at the start of my career – where I helped people and businesses achieve their aims through mechanisation – this fostered my interest and enabled me to start to develop some of the skills which I continue to use in my role today.
My career highlight so far has been the significant sales growth of the Kubota groundcare range whilst I was a dealer manager. Another rewarding experience was helping to establish new distribution channels and launching new products in the Nordic and Baltic countries.
2. Which product in the Kubota groundcare range is the current best seller and why do you think that is?
Our direct cut and collect mowers (G series) continue to be one of our best-selling products across the range.
I saw the first Kubota cut and collect model (the G18) in 1999. Its features and performance levels changed the marketplace, offering a new and better solution for cutting grass. Some of these features have stood the test of time and are still seen in our machinery today.
For example, not having a turbine powered grass collector gives the ability to cut and collect grass in challenging mowing conditions. Meanwhile, having a compact machine enables greater manoeuvrability and precision. Today, our range of direct cut and collect machines spans various configurations from 13.5hp up 26hp.
3. What is your favourite product and why?
The zero-turn mower market is one that grows each year. These machines make the task of grass cutting quicker, more efficient and more enjoyable. This is why our ZD1211 model is probably my favourite product in the Kubota range. The machine is designed to offer faster, improved cutting performance, whilst ensuring that user ease and comfort are still front of mind, this machine continues to prove popular with our customers.
Each year, more and more people are seeing the benefit of cutting around obstacles in one swift pass, therefore we expect this market to continue to grow moving forward.
4. Kubota has unveiled prototypes of electric tractors and electric compact construction machinery (mini excavators). Can you tell us more about these developments and when can we expect to see them on the market in the UK?
Earlier this year Kubota showcased three new machinery developments in Kyoto, Japan,
Two of these machines were battery powered; a compact tractor – for the groundcare division – and a mini excavator – for the construction division. Both machines were a response to the global shift towards alternative energy and signified Kubota’s continued investment in meeting the needs of its customers, both now and in the future. Powered by lithium-ion batteries, the compact tractor will operate using the equivalent output of compact tractors with a diesel engine. Although we don’t have a specific launch timeline for these products just yet, testing in Europe will be ongoing from 2020.
The third machine was a concept ‘Dream Tractor’, commemorating the 130th anniversary of the company and designed in response to some of the challenges facing Japan’s agricultural industry. Equipped with artificial intelligence and electrification technology, the “X-Tractor – Cross Tractor” is completely autonomous and gives an insight into the engineering and development work Kubota pioneer as well as the future of farming.
5. With sustainability and the environment affecting the buying habits of many within the UK industry, how is Kubota keeping pace with changing demands?
From a product perspective, our main focus at the moment is to ensure that our line up meets the Stage V emissions regulations which impact products over 19kw. Being the largest manufacturer in the world of industrial diesel engines under 100hp, Kubota is particularly well placed to meet these new regulations and adopt compliant engines into our groundcare product portfolio.
6. Currently, we are witnessing a global pandemic never seen before. How is Kubota UK coping with the challenges set by the Corona crisis? How has it affected the supply chain and manufacturing of your products and how have issues been overcome?
Over the past few weeks, COVID-19 has presented many challenges for us all, as businesses and individuals. Resilience and the ability to adapt have become key to survival – regardless of industry or location. We’d like to reassure our customers that we are here to support them during this unprecedented period, offering advice and assistance where possible.
At Kubota, we’ve also had to adapt to better serve our customers during this time. Fortunately, we always aim to store many months’ worth of inventory at our Oxfordshire head office, as well as other storage locations around the country. This network – alongside our other factories in countries around the world and our dealer’s inventories – means that if we do see any delay in obtaining machinery or parts it is isolated to a specific factory or location as opposed to impacting our entire system. This should help us to continue to offer the best machinery and service to our customers during COVID-19 and beyond.
7. Kubota celebrated its 130 anniversary this year. What do you feel is the company’s unique selling point that has helped in its success?
At the heart of the Kubota business is engineering. Mix this with the quality and innovation associated with Japanese manufacturing and you get products that speak for themselves. That’s how we have the reputation we have today; as a reliable company that provides affordable, durable products and caters to its customers. This is what sets us apart.
We are also a personable company to deal with. We support our customers through their buying decisions and then provide a high standard of aftercare. Our customers don’t just get quality machines, they also get peace of mind, knowing that our friendly team of Kubota and dealer staff are on hand to support them.
We take time to speak with our customers and understand their needs, challenges and listen to what changes would have a positive impact on their lives. This process brings new ideas to the fore, and means that we can create machines that meet and exceed our customers’ needs; whether that’s today or in the future.
8. What plans have you got for Kubota’s groundcare division moving forward?
On a product design point of view, we know that the machines of tomorrow are being designed today and we always try to be at the fore-front of this.
On the UK business front, we’re also currently placing an emphasis on customer and machine support. As part of a push around these areas, we’ve launched Kubota Care. This is a fully Kubota-backed extended warranty option, meaning that customers can now fully cover their machines against unforeseen repair costs for 5 years. This can help to ensure that a customer’s machine is maintained to the highest possible standards and serviced by Kubota-trained service engineers. The entire warranty can be wrapped up as part of a maintenance agreement and by utilising it – alongside the Kubota Financeoptions we offer – customers can get more value for their money than ever before.