We almost made it. Jan 18, 2019
If you read this blog regularly, you know that we have been struggling to keep up with orders. This has been a problem for two reasons. We have been experiencing higher than normal volumes and we have had a hard time finding good people. In the last year and a half since our machinist left, we have had at least ten different people in here to fill that position. Some last a few months, others a few days. I believe we finally have our guy. We are also trying to find at least two more assemblers and maybe another machinist and we can’t even get qualified people to interview. Despite all of that, we have worked our lead times down from 10-12 weeks to a more reasonable 2-3 weeks. Our goal is to get back to shipping within one week of receiving the order. And then January hit. We booked as many orders in the first two weeks of this year as we did in 6 months last year. So we are back to 8-10 week lead times on any new orders. And this is before we feel any impact from Neary shutting down. It is going to get worse (better?).
I know, I know. You are playing me the world’s smallest violin right now, and I appreciate that.
RIP Neary Jan 12, 2019
Yesterday, Foley announced that they will discontinue the Neary product line due to low sales volume.
In the late 1970’s Bob Neary was President of Foley. Bernhard had just started importing the Atterton and Ellis automatic spin grinder. Bob went to his bosses, the Ringers, and told them that Foley needed to make an automatic spin grinder. They declined, saying that those grinders would not sell because they could not do relief. At least that is the way the story was told to me. Bob knew better and left Foley to start his own company. He made a copy of the Express Dual for his spin grinder, a copy of the Foley manual reel grinder and a copy of our Ideal 50 Bed Knife Grinder. Apparently, he felt it was a better design than Foley’s (it was). There was some contention that Bob absconded with Foley’s engineering drawings which left a bit of animosity between them. I suspect that he just bought or borrowed one of each of the grinders he copied and reverse engineered them.
Bob passed away before the brand really took hold and the company was taken over by his nephew, Tim Neary. Tim had worked in sales for Honeywell, I believe, and he was a little more successful with the company. He added a patented relief grinding system to the spin grinder in the late 80’s or early 90’s. Foley introduced their first, all new, automatic spin and relief grinder with a similar system in the mid 90’s. Neary sued for patent violation and Foley eventually decided it was cheaper to buy Neary than to pay them royalties on the patent. Although, if the figure that Tim Neary mentioned to me is correct, it wasn’t cheap. That is especially true when you realize that the Neary patent was probably worthless. The Neary patent was exactly like the design of our original grinder, produced from 1902 through 1910. It included the spinning shaft, sliding hub, dual end in-feed and the rotating finger guide for relief.
I was a little surprised that they did not shut the product line down at that time. Tim had designed an all new, top of the line, enclosed grinder, the Neary 700. It was a total disaster in that many of the key components were made from aluminum which was too soft so they would shake themselves loose in a very short period of time. Fred Zimmy was traveling around the country full time trying to fix them before he came to work for me. When Foley acquired Neary, they decided to scrap the whole inventory of them.
In my opinion, there were two reasons to keep producing the Neary. It was a cheap alternative to the Express Dual for people who preferred that technology. Neary had one problem though. They did not copy the Express Dual exactly. They deleted the spring loading of the spinning shaft. Common sense would tell you that if you are trying to do a precision grind, that it is better to have the grinding head mounted solidly. And that is what Neary did. What they did not understand was that those springs prevented the user from over loading the shaft if they did too heavy and in-feed. On the Express Dual, you would just compress the springs which would not change the grinding pressure. On the Neary, since there are no springs, the grinding pressure would increase resulting in a greater force on the spinning shaft. If enough force is applied, the shaft will deflect and go out of balance, causing significant damage to the reel. The Neary could be very sensitive, too little in-feed and the grinding wheel would chatter, too much and the shaft deflected.
The second reason was to tie up dealers in an attempt to keep me out of markets, not an entirely unsuccessful strategy. They apparently did not care too much whether the dealer sold much because they figured they would probably get the sale through their Foley dealer. This is all speculation on my part, but it makes sense. A common response from a Neary dealer I was trying to turn was “We have the Neary line and besides, we don’t sell enough grinders to warrant the effort to change.” Well Doh! I have had more success lately converting these dealers and that may have contributed to Foley’s decision.
A few years ago, Neary private branded their grinders to John Deere under the Frontier product line. This was probably a final attempt to save Neary by adding another distribution channel. It turned out to be a disaster. First, it pissed off their neighbor Toro. Second, it under cut their own dealer network because the Deere dealer could and did undercut them in price. It removed any incentive for the Neary dealers to actually go out and sell. And finally, Neary’s margins we so low that they refused to support the Frontier grinders and Deere did not have anyone who could so the end user was left out in the cold. I believe Deere decided to opt out of the agreement at the earliest possible time. I was pretty sure then that Neary’s time was limited. Then last year, Foley introduced a new grinder which was a Neary spin grinder in a Foley enclosure, the final nail in the coffin.
Their dealer network was decimated from the Frontier fiasco and now they could compete with the Express Dual technology with a Foley grinder. There were no reasons left to keep Neary going. They have met the same fate as Mercury, Oldsmobile, Plymouth, Pontiac, and Scion.
Two of my favorite people Jan 7, 2019
John Patterson and Stephen Tucker are two of my favorite people with whom I share a character flaw. If we start talking about something on which we are passionate, you cannot shut us up. For me, it is about my family or my grinders. For them, it includes maintaining golf course equipment. At least with them it is interesting. They produced a great pod cast worth listening to, just make sure you wont be interrupted for about an hour.
Previous Quarter Next Quarter