Supply Chain Interruption June 6, 2021

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Last week, Elon Musk complained about supply chain interruptions and large price increases, especially in raw materials. Ford has stopped shipping their best selling vehicle, the F150 and Chevrolet can’t build Camaros because they can’t get the computer chips that control them. The new iMac computers I ordered are taking 4-8 weeks to ship. Unfortunately, it is filtering down to us as well. The price of steel for our 6000 and 7000 tables has doubled in the last couple of months. The motors for the 6000 have either been discontinued or backordered until September depending on who you listen to. A substitute motor is priced at least 25% higher if we can even get it. It seems that everything we order is both more expensive and taking 2-3 times longer to ship.

Karl is staying vigilant as we continue to ramp up production. We have already sold more machines this year then all of last year and we have that many machines still on back order. The temptation is to build just what you need to get the next batch of machines out but that just makes the problem worse for the next batch. So not only is he building complete batches of parts, he is often doubling or tripling the batch size. I suppose he can get away with this without delaying shipping because it is the delay of the purchased components that is controlling our production schedule. Every one of the subassemblies above for the 7000 is waiting at least one component. Melissa is kept busy looking for alternate sources but it seems the problem is pretty universal. It has gotten so bad, we had been planning an interim price increase before our normal fall price adjustments. We are trying to hold off but if things continue, it will have to be a pretty substantial increase even with our increased volume. Oh well, the joys of owning a business.

Mission 263 May 31, 2021

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My father flew B-17s in World War II. He was in the 15th Air Force, 2nd Bomb Group, 20th Bomb Squadron. He had many harrowing stories that he could tell but the worst was the mission he did not go on. A squadron would send up seven planes on each mission. This accounted for a half to a third of the squadrons aircraft and crews. His first two missions were as co-pilot, Missions 255 and 256. Once he checked out, he flew as pilot. He had one day off, Mission 257 before he flew his first three missions as pilot. He flew three straight days, Missions 258, 259, and 260. This earned him three Missions off, 261, 262, and 263. Mission 263 was to Moravsk Ostrava, Czechoslovakia, the Privoser Oil Refinery which supplied about 20% of the German’s fuel. These oil refineries had been taking a beating so on August 29, 1944, in a last ditch effort, the Nazi’s threw everything they could at the approaching B-17s. It was the worst loss for the 15th Air Force in the war. Nine aircraft were lost, 40 airmen killed and 46 taken prisoner. Only 4 that were shot down escaped. Of these, the entire 20th squadron of seven aircraft were lost, 39 airmen killed and 37 taken POW. Had my dad flown that mission, because he was a new pilot, he would have been in one of the last four positions. Two days later, my dad had to fly Mission 264. He survived his 50 missions with one crash landing and lots of flak. But today is the day we remember the forty men who gave their lives willingly along with all of the other men and women who gave the ultimate sacrifice for our country. The Greatest Generation.

The 37 men killed on Mission 263 from the 20th Squadron:

Name, Position, Aircraft

Meyrick, Russell W Bomb/Togglier 297159

Marinello, Joseph Ball Turret 297159

Katz, Irving D Eng/Top Turret 2107118

Payne, Russell I Waist Gunner 2107118

Bullock, William Cobb Pilot 46359

Laratta, Joseph M Waist Gunner 46359

Nelson, Maurice E Tail Gunner 46359

Weiler, James A Pilot 232048

Embry, Robert L Navigator 232048

Sulkey, Frank A Bomb/Togglier 232048

Bumgardner, Lonnie H Eng/Top Turret 232048

Martin, John J Radio Operator 232048

Wagoner, Ernest W Ball Turret 232048

Adair, John H Waist Gunner 232048

Byam, Loren E Waist Gunner 232048

Dalcannale, George D Tail Gunner 232048

Helveston, Harold W Co-Pilot 231473

Everett, Edwin R Radio Operator 231473

Durette, Luther L Ball Turret 231473

Munden, Charles A Waist Gunner 231473

Schirmer, Harold Waist Gunner 231473

Pruitt, Elmer J Tail Gunner 231473

Goodman, Carl S Co-Pilot 238096

Hartman, Richard P Bomb/Togglier 238096

Brown, Robert L Eng/Top Turret 238096

Mays, William R Radio Operator 238096

Flahive, Robert J Ball Turret 238096

Bauman, Jerome Waist Gunner 238096

Johnson, James J Waist Gunner 238096

Standridge, Dudley E Tail Gunner 238096

Prentice, Merrill A Pilot 231885

Heath, Theo nmi Co-Pilot 231885

Laux, Robert A Bomb/Togglier 231885

Goodstein, Herbert S Eng/Top Turret 231885

Ellis, Kenneth W Radio Operator 231885

Balcerzak, Frank J Ball Turret 231885

Johnson, Leroy E Waist Gunner 231885

Petrey, Claude A Waist Gunner 231885

Fitch, Robert E Tail Gunner 231885

Christmas in May May 23, 2021

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If you read this blog regularly, you know that I have been using Mac computers since they were introduced in 1984. What success I have had is in part due to the Macs. They let me do a lot of things that using Windows would have required an IT department and special programmers. Of course Windows did not even exist in 1984. These include creating brochures, complex manuals, videos, our web site, all of our engineering documentation, and a fully integrated custom accounting and manufacturing control database. Three of our main computers are about 10 years old and while they still work fine, they will not run the latest operating system. Two of our key programs, Filemaker for databases and Vectorworks for CAD, are updated annually so it is only a matter of time before they will not be compatible with the older operating system. I have been delaying the purchase of these new computers because Apple was coming out with new iMacs using their own M1 processor. They were already using them in their laptops which received rave reviews. They started taking preorders about a month ago and these two arrived Friday morning. The third won’t show up for another month. Because Karl is making me work in the shop, including Saturdays, I could not start setting them up until Friday night. I finished Sunday afternoon and was pleasantly surprised at how easy it was to set it up from scratch. I know that it is easy to migrate from another computer but then you end up with a bunch of junk that you don’t want. I went from 850 gigabytes on my old computer to just 400 on the new one. Monday, I will clone the second one from the one I just finished and then with cloud syncing, my computer at home will be identical to my one at work.

Repair or Replace May 18, 2021

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Last week, I wrote about my old AC unit. It was going to cost about $1,500 to repair or $6,000 to replace. It was a no brainer decision because the unit had several other major components that would likely fail soon. It got me thinking about our grinders since I am helping in the shop, making repairs to an old Peerless 2000 that was remanufactured about ten years ago. The parts replaced included bad parts and upgrading to better parts. I also replaced the front shield. The total cost was about $1,000. There was also about 20 hours of labor, a big part of which was cleaning. So for less than $4,000 in repairs, we have a machine that is as good as new and should give another trouble free 10 years of service. This is actually a very deliberate design consideration for us. We make the basic design as simple and robust as possible so that the expensive parts of the machines do not wear out. We eliminate as many moving parts as we can because those are the parts that wear out. We also use as many off the shelf components as we can because they are much less expensive to replace and are more readily available. Finally, we agonize over the design to make it as simple and precise as possible which eliminates the need for expensive and delicate electronics and computers which can be used to compensate for a bad design. If you have ever had an electronics problem on your grinder, you know you can’t grind.

Last One, I Promise? May 6, 2021

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I am a little late with the blog but it has been a crazy week. Orders are coming in faster that we can make them. A lot of these orders are ones that were postponed from last year. So Karl now has me working in Assembly. I am going through a used 27 year old 2000 which was updated about 10 years ago. That is almost done, just waiting for one part to come in. It was supposed to show up today but, consistent with my luck this week, it did not. I began working on the new 650 Bed Knife Grinder going with it and after I mounted the motor, I found out it was defective. We have to send it back and get another one. But my real bad luck was at home.

I know you are probably tired of hearing me whine about my old house and all of the repairs but here we go, one more time, maybe. As I went to bed Friday, I realized my A/C in the back of the house was not working. The circuit breaker was tripped so I reset it but it tripped again. These are 27 year old Tranes that were top of the line when I bought them and over the last few years, one or the other has required a minor repair each year, usually a bad capacitor or corroded wire connection. I have a friend of Darwin, Dex, who has been maintaining these units for the last ten years, so I texted him to come out Monday and hoped against hope that it would be another cheap fix.

Monday came and Dex was able to determine in 5 minutes that there was a short in the compressor. He could fix it for about $1,500 but he recommended against it. Time to bite the bullet and replace the units. I have an emergency savings account for just this problem and hoped I had enough in it. Dex told me that he sees units in my size going for between $6,000 an $10,000. Boy I hope it comes in at the low end of that range. He gave me the names of a couple places that he trusts so I called them to arrange a quote. The first guy came out for Trane. I liked him because he did not try to sell me anything more than I needed but he had to email me the quote later in the day. The next woman sold Lennox, a quality unit but they are known for using all proprietary parts instead of generic parts which makes them more expensive to repair. The smaller 2.5 ton came in at $6,600 and the 3 ton came in at $6,900. I could live with that. The third guy sold Carrier and while he was nice enough, it seemed he was adding a lot of things the other two were not. He quoted two 3 ton units for $10,000. I thought that is more like it, but when I read the quote, it was for $10,000 each, ouch. Finally the quote for Trane came in with a couple of choices. The base model and one step up. The one step up was exactly equivalent to my 27 year old top of the line Tranes which had single speed compressor motors and a variable ramp up speed for the air handlers. The new top of the line features all sorts of bells and whistles including variable speed compressor motors. Just more stuff to go wrong. After a little negotiating, I opted for the one step up units for about $11,200 for both units. They also provided 18 months 0% interest so I shouldn’t have to touch my emergency account. They start work Monday and should be done Tuesday. In the mean time, we have a big fan from the shop blowing cold air from the front of the house into the back.

It was not lost on me that both my A/C units and the grinder I am working on are 27 years old. I wondered whether I have engineered them well enough to last. I am going to talk about that in an upcoming blog. Stay tuned.

Don’t Assume April 24, 2021

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You have been an assistant technician at a high end course in Florida, mentored by one of the best. You learned to grind on SIP. Then you get a job as equipment manager at another high end course just a few miles away. It gets better. They have an almost new set of SIP grinders. Except you show up on your first day only to find that the bed knife grinder does not work. You call the local dealer, Jon Gowen of Southern Outfitters. He comes the next day and determines it is a bad solenoid. He calls the factory and tells us that the air drive comes on when you push the green button but goes off when you let go. We confirm that it is probably a relay but could also be a loose wire. He goes back the next day and replaces the relay but it still does not work. We send him everything else it could be, reiterating that it has to be a problem with the relay. When John replaced the air valve, he found what he thought was the problem. The electrical connector had been broken, but again when he replaced all of the parts, it still did not work. John is good at trouble shooting these grinders so we now had a mystery on our hands. The next morning, Michele and I took off on a four hour drive to see if we could fix it. When I got there, John had just started checking the wiring against the wiring diagram. First I checked to see if they had tested it correctly. They had. Then I checked all of the connections. No loose wires. So I picked up where John had left off by verifying the wiring. I zeroed in on the suspect relay and almost immediately realized that two of the connectors had been swapped. I pulled them off and connected them correctly. Presto, the grinder was fixed…in less than five minutes. What I think happened is that the original relay went bad and in trying to fix it, the valve was broken, then they tried to jury rig it by jumping the relay and switch the wires. It could have been John when he replaced the relay but I don’t think so. He has replaced a number of relays and moves one wire at a time to make sure he does not cross them up. So that adds one more question we will ask when diagnosing a problem. Has anybody else worked on this machine? If they have, then you have to check everything. You know what they say if you assume.

John's First April 18, 2021

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In 2008, John Patterson bought his first three SIP Grinders, all Peerless 7000s, for Doral. I had not met John at the time as I had salesmen and I was not on the road. To my disappointment, he bought Foley bed knife grinders. Not knowing John, I had assumed he bought them to save money. A few years later, John moved up the road to a course that had our Peerless 3000 and a fairly new Ideal 1100 (the first generation of the Ideal 6000). He immediately put in to buy a Foley to replace it. Our dealer, Jon Gowen, panicked and insisted that I personally come down and talk to John. I did and he explained to me why he thought the Foley was faster. I thought he was wrong and that it was really more about what he was used to, but I kept my mouth shut except to ask questions. Why did he think the Foley was faster, especially since the Ideal had two grinding heads. He explained that he had developed a technique, using indicators, for loading the bed knife and aligning it that was much faster. I did not argue with him and explain that the time lost in loading was more than made up in grinding. I did tell him that I had been working on an idea for improving both the loading speed and precision and asked if he could hold off on his decision until he had a chance to try out the prototype. He agreed and that was the beginning of a very productive partnership.

Two weeks later, I had a prototype of our pin alignment system that cut the loading time from 3-5 minutes down to about 30 seconds. It also made it so you would grind the front face of the bed knife parallel to the mounting bolts within .002 inches. John liked it. I also think he liked the idea of someone at the factory responding to his concerns. We do that regularly because, just like this case, it is where we get our best ideas. I told John that this was an upgrade kit and could be added to his existing grinder. He said the money was already budgeted and besides, he liked all the improvements of the 6000 over the 1100. John went on to buy three more sets at his next two clubs.

I was reminded of all of this because Doral traded in two of the three Peerless 7000s John originally purchased for two new 7000s. In the 13 years they had those grinders, they rarely stopped. I looked up how much they spent maintaining the grinders and was a little shocked. It was almost $12,000. I did a little analysis and found that $7,000 was for upgrades and consumables like grinding wheels. So that leaves $5,000 for repairs on 3 machines over 13 years or about $125 per machine per year for repairs. I thought that was pretty good.

We have just done a cursory inspection on the grinders and they look to be in good shape with everything working and to factory specs. We will go through the machines and make any repairs needed as well as cosmetic work, then they will be sold. We already have a couple inquiries so if you or somebody you know is interested, drop us a line.

COVID April 13, 2021

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I have been blessed with excellent health all my life. I have only spent two nights in a hospital. During a physical exam for a new job, I fainted when they drew blood. I fell off the stool and snapped my neck. It turned out to be just a sprain that was not helped by the hospital stay. The last time I remember being sick was while we were at the 1990 GCSAA show in Anaheim. I had the restaurant make me some milk toast to settle my stomach and toughed it out. I was mostly fine by the time of my flight home. Because I am almost never sick, I have never gotten a flu shot. Why take something to keep me from being sick which might actually make me sick when I never get sick in the first place.

While I believe that I would probably not get COVID and even if I did, it would not be too serious, I feel it is the socially responsible to get vaccinated. So last week, we had our vaccines. I opted to get our vaccines at Publix because that had a very easy sign up process and there are four Publixes within four miles of my house. I was going to sign up on Monday but I forgot that they started the sign up at 7 am. I did not log in until 8:30 and signed my wife up to get the Moderna vaccine on Friday. This vaccine requires a booster after 28 days. When I went back to make my appointment about 15 minutes later, no store within 20 miles of my house had any appointments available. Wednesday was the next day Publix would be taking appointments, this time for the Johnson & Johnson vaccine which does not require a booster. This time I was ready and logged on to their web site at 6:59. It said that due to heavy traffic I could not access the site and gave me a one minute timer when it would automatically try again. This repeated 10 times when I got in. The sign up procedure was again simple and only took about five minutes. I got my appointment for Sunday. I thought that since this was a single vaccine that I would try and sign my wife up and cancel her other appointment but by the time I finished with my appointment, They were again all booked up for miles.

On Friday, we went to my wife’s appointment and were in and out of there in ten minutes. We left with the paperwork and her appointment in four weeks already booked. On Sunday I went for my appointment at a different Publix with the same quick experience. The one difference is apparently because it is a single does and stronger, I had to wait 15 minutes to make sure I did not have an allergic reaction.

While Michele did not have any side effects from her shot, I woke up Monday not feeling 100%. By one o’clock I had to go home. By dinner time I had a lot of flu symptoms, so I had some milk toast and went to bed. I woke up this morning feeling much better only to find out that they had suspended the use of the J&J vaccine. Apparently six women under the age of 48 developed serious blood clots. I used to work for J&J and one of things we did was help determine acceptable risk-benefit ratios. The risk here is 6 in 6.7 million or .00009%. We would have been thrilled with that risk-benefit ratio. I saw one report saying that was bad math and should be based on women under 48 which they said was 6 in 200,000 a .003% risk ratio.Still very good, but there was a problem with the math. If we start with 6.7 million and cut it in half because it only affects women. Then we cut it ⅜ because it affects women between 18 and 48 (women have an average lifespan of 81 years). That means that it in the most conservative case, it is 6 in 1.25 million, risk ratio of .0005%, incredibly low. You are actually at much greater risk of getting blood clots if you catch COVID or use birth control pills.

I am sure that the people making the decision to delay this vaccine are well intentioned but I suspect they do not live in the real world. It is like the engineer who designs a piece of equipment without taking into account how to work on it. (every engineer should be required to spend time in the field repairing their equipment). Instead of delaying the J&J vaccine, why not just shift who gets it. Reserve the Moderna vaccine for women under 50 or 60 and use the J&J vaccine on the rest. I think it is important to get things back to normal as soon as possible. We in Florida have fared better than most and except for the face masks, are close to normal. That is why in a bid to do my part and with the great personal sacrifice of having mild flu symptoms for a day, I was vaccinated.

Plumbing April 6, 2021

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I know I missed posting last week but I have an excuse, a minor emergency. I also know that you are probably tired of hearing me comment (complain) about work on my old house. Too bad cause here goes. My pool pump sprang a leak just as I was about to get the pool all cleaned up from the annual leaf and pollen season. I could have just replaced the seal again but the pump was over ten years old and was not creating enough flow to power the pool sweep. I did some research on pool pumps and come to find out that single speed pumps will be outlawed as of June because variable speed pumps can be 80% more efficient. Of course, they are also twice as expensive. A little more research and I found that Leslie’s Pool Supply had them discounted by $250 and that the local electric company had a $350 rebate which made the variable speed pump only $50 more than the single speed pump, a no brainer at that point. The Hayward pump I selected also has a built in timer so I can set it to run different speeds for different lengths of time on different days.

In doing my research I relearned something I knew from my college fluid dynamics course (I had to relearn it because that was 40 years ago). I learned that you need a straight pipe five diameters long as the inlet to the pump, 10 inches for a 2 inch diameter pipe. I had an elbow right at the pump inlet. I had been planning on doing a little repiping anyway in order to add a couple of valves which would allow me to direct the flow from either the pool drain, skimmer or the vacuum port. This meant I had to move both the pump and the filter and would allow me to eliminate a bunch of extra elbows and tees. Since I had to move the pump and didn’t need the old timer any more, I was going to rewire everything including replacing the circuit breaker box since the old one was cracked. So what could have been a couple hours and $20 turned into a $1,300 week long job including about six trips to Lowes.

Once I figured out where I wanted the filter and pump, it was time to start digging. Now I have been told I am a pretty smart guy, that turns out to not be the case. As I was cutting out the old pipes, I cut the line from the main drain below a coupling so I would not have two couplings within inches of each other. The bone head part was the cut was also below the water level. So the water flowed out into the trenches I dug and soaked into the ground…for hours. This caused me to stop working for a day. When I continued, I wanted to cut the line from the vacuum port. I thought I would be okay because it had a cap. Well the cap wasn’t water tight so I tried to seal it with a plastic bag and then glue the joint but that failed. I had the trench filled with water again before I figured out that I should put the vacuum hose in the port and put the other end above water. Once the ground dried, I was able to finish installing the pipe. I let it set over night and wondered how many leaks I would have. To my slight amazement, there were no leaks. Just to add to my boneheadedness, as I was cleaning up, I tried to avoid some branches and fell into the pool instead. Scraped my arm and banged up my knee a little bit but my new iPhone was okay.

I think what I got out of this was a much greater appreciation for you folks who maintain the golf course irrigation system. In that context my 1.5 hp pump and 20 feet of pipe don’t seem that complicated.

 

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