Work with horticultural machinery and equipment includes design and manufacturing, marketing, repair and maintenance, and even hire services. Private gardens need all sorts of tools and machines, and a substantial industry exists to meet those needs.
Scope of Work
The private garden machinery maintenance industry covers all sorts of tools and equipment used by contractors and workers in the private garden industry. This can range from hand held mowers for cutting lawns through to ride-on mowers, tractors or even mechanical diggers.
Some involved in machinery care and maintenance may specialise in particular sectors such as supplying and maintaining equipment for lawn care or tree surgery, or they may be agents for particular manufacturing brands. Knowledge of how machinery works as well as how to change or repair arts is needed.
Related businesses in the private machinery maintenance industry include mechanical engineers, garden equipment consultants, machinery & equipment supplies, tool shops, hire shops.
What You Need to Learn
Engineering science - Machinery & equipment, power, torque, engine sizes & capacities, types of engine
Uses of machinery - Machinery for improving soils, aeration, installing drainage systems, cultivating soils, digging post holes, cut and fill, mowing, cutting branches, drilling
Tools and equipment - Selection of the right tool for the job, operation & correct use, detailed knowledge of maintenance & repair of tools
Types of machinery - Know a range of different types of machinery available to the private garden market
Sales skills - How to interact with customers, sell products and repairs, earn repeat business, network with suppliers of parts and equipment, place orders, keep inventories, marketing, advertising
Health & safety - Assessment of risks & hazards, use of personal protective equipment, fire alarms & drills, location of first aid kits, basic first aid procedures
Starting a Career
There are many points of entry into this line of work. Some start with no training or experience, as little more than a shop assistant helping a machinery maintenance contractor, learning on the job and progressing as they learn. This path can be slow though, and there may be gaps in knowledge that can lead to mistakes, damaging machinery and restricting career progress.
Some formal learning in at least key areas listed above will help a career move faster, and minimise the risk of career or business mistakes.
Because initial training lays a foundation to build further learning on, and gives context to what you learn later through study or experience; it is very important that your initial training is from instructors who have a strong understanding of the science and techniques that underpin machinery management - and that the course you study is delivered in a way that does not just present and test you quickly, but takes time to revisit, reinforce and embed the fundamentals of machinery management into your long-term memory.
People who take shortcuts to getting started can succeed; but people who lay a stronger foundation are likely to be more capable, and that generally tends to lead to higher earnings and more long-term career success.
Common ways to get started are:
Getting a job with someone else (e.g. a machinery maintenance contractor, or machinery hire shop)
Starting your own machinery maintenance business
Progressing a Career
You will learn through experience as you work in the industry. Every problem or challenge you confront can be a new learning experience.
Challenges sometimes reveal deficiencies in your knowledge. If that happens, you may see something you need to learn, by doing research or studying a course. The person who responds positively to such challenges, and sees them as opportunities for career advancement, will progress.
If there are aspects of the list above (what you need to learn) which are deficient then ongoing study is advised to fill those gaps.
Networking within your industry is critical to not only learning more; but also getting new opportunities. Everyone working in machinery maintenance should become active in an engineering or horticultural trade or professional association.
Professional development is also important. Science, products, equipment and techniques are constantly changing and improving in machinery as well as every other industry. If you are disconnected from industry change, you will not remain competitive with others who are up to date. This is another reason you should remain involved with a professional or trade organisation.
Diversifying your learning and experience is a natural, and often very successful, way of helping your career to progress. This could involve doing additional study in order to broaden the services you can offer; or deepen the quality of service you offer. It may also allow you to cross over into other related career paths; perhaps moving from private machinery maintenance into public machinery management, or even into broader horticultural tools and equipment management.
The many sectors of horticulture can go through cycles of high and low demand for experts. The machinery engineer who has a broader range of knowledge and skills may be able to cross over from one sector to another, taking advantage of these cycles. They may for example, work in private machinery maintenance when there is a high demand and good remuneration offered in this sector; and move from that into private machinery maintenance when demand and opportunity in that sector becomes stronger. Enlightened engineers may begin in a narrow sector such as private machinery hire, but through study and experience, fashion a career path over decades that winds across many different sectors of horticulture or other industries.