Zuidberg North America opened for business in 2014, but this winter is serving as something of a “coming out” party for the Cedar Falls, Iowa-based company.
While its three-point front hitch and front power take-off (PTO) systems for tractors have already established Zuidberg as a major player in the agricultural sector, the company is poised to make major inroads into the snow grooming industry this season thanks to the introduction of its innovative Zuidberg Tracks system.
Two Midwest snow grooming clubs – the White Thunder Riders in northern Wisconsin and the Cadillac Winter Promotions in Michigan – have adopted the Zuidberg track conversion system while Lulich Implement in Mason, Wis. is demoing the system for area clubs.
“We’re finally getting our tracks in the snow and a lot of clubs are really excited about it,” said Ryan Holden, an area sales manager and acting marketing director for Zuidberg North America. The Zuidberg track system allows users to attach a rubber track to virtually any type of tractor and make it more manoeuvrable in almost any kind of winter conditions.
“Visually you can see how smooth the ride is. The cab’s not jerking around. The feedback we’ve gotten from people is they like it.”Shawn Marcus, Sales Representative, Bader and Sons
What makes the system different from other similar conversion systems is its oil-filled bearing hub. The clear glass hub allows operators to easily check bearing fluid levels and quickly refill the hub if the levels are low.
“[With other systems] you literally have to get in there before you go out every morning at 5 o’clock when it’s cold and freezing and you have to push lube into it,” said Holden. “And when you are manually putting grease into those bearings, you are kind of doing it blindly. You don’t really see where it’s going or how much is in there. With our system, you don’t have to do all that. The bearings are inside of a wet oil bath where they are constantly being lubricated, [and] you see exactly the level and the colour of the fluid. It’s very convenient.”
Shawn Marcus, a sales rep for Bader and Sons, a Michigan-based John Deere dealership that sold the Zuidberg Tracks system to Cadillac Winter Promotions, is a big believer in the product.
“We had thought for a long time that the track industry needed some competition because competition drives product improvement,” said Marcus. “We were very excited to hear what Zuidberg was bringing to market because it met requests we had from our customers … namely oil bath bearings. We were also impressed with the installation of the system. It went very smooth, especially considering it was one of the first sets in North America.”
Zuidberg Tracks can be adapted for use with any type of tractor and comes in a variety of widths ranging from 30 to 92 cm. It features a unique bogie suspension system designed to virtually eliminate cab vibrations. The system features axels that oscillate three dimensionally on top of a vibration-dampening piece of rubber and bear the weight of the tractor.
“One of the challenges with a snow grooming tractor is the vibrations in the cab that come from the tread of the track on the ground. It really makes for a hard user experience,” said Holden. “[Our system] is very quiet and very smooth. It’s because of the three-dimensional oscillation of those bogie axels. Visually you can see how smooth the ride is. The cab’s not jerking around. The feedback we’ve gotten from people is they like it.”
Unlike other systems that must be assembled by the end user, Zuidberg Tracks come fully assembled, which Holden says is a distinct selling point of the system.
“When our pieces go out, there are essentially the four tracks, a sub-frame and the hardware. It’s pretty simple and straightforward,” he said. “Groomers don’t need any extra work. And it’s less expensive, too. A lot of dealerships are charging an hourly rate to do installations.”
Zuidberg’s parent company was established in the Netherlands in 1982. Five years ago, it purchased Westtrack, another Dutch manufacturer that specialized in track systems, as part of the company’s efforts to expand beyond the agricultural sector, where it was already an industry leader thanks in part to its front hitches for tractors.
Despite a recent downturn in the agri-retail sector, Zuidberg’s overall market share in the U.S. has steadily increased over the past two years, according to Holden. He says the company sees a lot of room for growth in the North American snow grooming market and expects sales of its track conversion system to double over the next year.
All of the company’s products continue to be manufactured at its plant in the Netherlands, which Holden says gives it a distinct advantage over many of its competitors.
“We bring in raw steel and we do all of the design, engineering, processing, welding and manufacturing,” he said. “We can control that entire process from a cost standpoint and from a quality standpoint, which is kind of neat.”
Holden expects the company to soon begin manufacturing products designed specifically for the North American snow grooming market. Some tractors are specifically designed for American and Canadian users, so it only makes sense to tailor the company’s products to those markets, he says.
Zuidberg recently invested $8 million as part of a project to conduct its own rubber production in the Netherlands. As part of the project, the company will try to determine what compounds and tread patterns work best in different types of snow and Holden says that information could eventually be incorporated into new track designs.
As part of its efforts to increase the company’s brand awareness in North America, Zuidberg will have a strong presence at several snow grooming trade shows this season. It will be represented at the Arrowhead Snowmobile Trailer Groomer Show Feb. 1 and 2 in St. Germain, Wis., where visitors will have a chance to test the Zuidberg Tracks system, as well as the Michigan Snowmobile Association Groomer Workshop, March 2 to 4 in Sault Ste. Marie, Mich.