Let's Roll March 25, 2017
Last week, I told you about my adventure in the cold north. It was supposed to be a two week trip but was cut short by winter storm Stella. When we go on these trips, especially when we stay over a week end, we try to do some sightseeing. We went to the Flight 93 memorial south east of Pittsburg. Flight 93 was the fourth plane hijacked on September 11, 2001 and the only one that did not reach its target. The passengers learned of the other intentional crashes and tried to overpower the hijackers resulting in the plane crashing into a field instead of the Capitol Building or the White House.
The memorial is very moving with artifacts from the crash and detailed explanations of what happened. Their is a dedication wall to the deceased with all of their pictures. A glass wall overlooks the crash sight. There is one exhibit where you can pick up a phone and hear the actual recorded phone calls from several of the passengers moments before the crash. It was too emotional for me. I could not listen as one of the passengers said “Let’s roll”.
Desire March 18, 2017
Last week I started a planned, two week trip to the Northeast that included a couple of days at the New England Turf Grass show in Providence. On Friday, we were in Connecticut and were in the middle of the snow fall you see above. There was 4 to 5 inches of fresh snow on the ground but nothing sticking to the roads. It was beautiful. Then Stella happened.
One of the reasons it is nice to have my wife along on my travels is that she is a weather nut. She always makes sure that I dress appropriately. She told me on Thursday to expect something big. When the snow came Friday, I assumed we had dodged a bullet. She corrected me but we decided to push on to western Pennsylvania where we had an important demo on Monday morning. Sunday morning we got up to 18°F with gusts to 20mph but little ice or snow. However, my 13 year old diesel Sprinter with 360,000 miles on the odometer and only 2 of the 5 glow plugs working, doesn’t like the cold. Before you start calling me an idiot for not fixing the glow plugs, I did try. The Mercedes dealer told me that if they tried to replace the glow plugs, they would probably damage the cylinder head, a very big ticket item. When I tried to start it, only one or two cylinders would fire, the computer would sense that it had started and automatically shut down the starter. Except that it hadn’t started. So I repeated the process about 6 or 7 times until maybe 3 of the cylinders were firing and it continued to turn over, finally firing on all 5 cylinders. It was going to be colder Monday, so I decided to buy a jumper pack in case my battery did not hold up. Monday morning was 8°F with gusts to 30mph. It took about 20 tries to get it running. I didn’t need the jumper pack but was still glad I had it. We made it to the demo, and got the order while we were there. We weren’t sure what to do with the rest of the trip because it was looking really bad, when two of the demos for Tuesday called and canceled. That was all I needed to postpone the rest of the trip and make a bee line home to Florida.
Some call me cheap but I hope you appreciate the sacrifices I make to keep our grinders the most affordable. Even so, this is probably the last winter trip for the Sprinter.
By the Numbers March 10, 2017
When I started in this business, most superintendents worked with both annual capital and expense budgets. As long as they kept in budget, no one bothered them. They could buy whatever equipment they wanted and did not need any additional approvals. Also, almost all golf courses had mechanics. There were no equipment technicians and certainly no equipment managers. That has all changed. Most superintendents still have their budgets but must get every capital expenditure approved by the owner, general manager or board of directors. This additional scrutiny requires more careful purchasing. This is where equipment managers and technicians must get involved. Many superintendents, prefer growing grass to dealing with equipment, especially shop equipment like grinders. They will rely on their techs who are not fully prepared to give input on a million dollar package or worse, rely on their favorite salesman for recommendations (guess what they are going to recommend). The best scenario is when both the superintendent and equipment manager are interested and educated on equipment purchasing and maintenance and work as a team to get the most bang for their buck. A good place to start is reading blogs like this one from Stephen Tucker.
Metamorphosis March 3, 2017
We recently remanufactured Boston Golf Club's Peerless 3000. I tweeted the progress and got a lot of feed back and interest so I updated our Remanufacture Page with all of the photos with explanations. Their grinder had been well cared for and did not really need to be remanufactured, but they wanted it upgraded with modern features and options like the power open shield and a digital read out. This, in affect transformed it into a modern Peerless 7000. I will be in Boston next week and will complete the page with the final product, installed and ready to go.
A while back, I made a stop at a shop that had an old Peerless 2000 that wasn’t working. I walked into the shop and it was a dump. I didn’t see the grinder anywhere. The super met me and lead me to their equipment storage area and there, in a little nook, was the grinder; no lights, on a dirt floor. No wait, it isn’t a dirt floor. There is concrete about an inch down. I crawled behind the machine and opened the panel. It was the older design with twelve screws instead of the new design with three screws with hinges. I felt my way around and removed all of the screws and by the light of a flashlight, replaced the defective valve then reinstalled the panel. They were very grateful. I looked like Pig Pen from the Peanuts comic strip. As politely as I could, I suggested that they do a better job at keeping the grinder clean and add some lights so they could see what they were doing.
I had a similar experience at another course that did not have a regular shop, but did their repair work in the back corner of their storage barn. They had complained that their bed knives would not cut on the ends. I walked back to the bed knife grinder which had a bed knife mounted and ground. I couldn’t see anything so I removed the bed knife and carried it outside in the sun light. I immediately saw the problem. The blade was dark blue over most of its length and silver over the last inch or so on each end. The stone had loaded up and needed to be dressed. The outside half of the grinding surface was clean and grinding effectively on the first inch of the blade but then it would hit the loaded part of the stone and just burn the blade the rest of the way. I dressed the stone, reground the bed knife and it cut perfectly. Again, as politely as I could, I recommended that they add some lights over the grinders.
While I have seen my share of dumps, there are also some very nice shops. The one above is at Atlanta Athletic Club. I have not been there since all the renovations have been done, but it looks great. I have seen shops where they paint the floor every year, mop it every day and sweep up after every job. This may sound excessive and anal (it probably is) but it is hard to argue with the results. Every one of these show room shops also has impeccable course conditions. There is a correlation. A clean and organized shop makes it easier to properly maintain your equipment and properly maintained equipment works better (thanks Captain Obvious). I have also noticed that a fair number of shops who buy our grinders undertake a major renovation in anticipation of the grinders’ arrival. So the secret is that if you want your tech to maintain a cleaner more organized shop, buy him a set of Peerless grinders.
Ed Ward 2016 Edwin Budding Award Winner (Updated) February 18, 2017
I spent an hour on the internet looking for a good picture of Ed for this blog before I found the one below. I even had Larry, our western regional manager, check his photos for one. Then driving in to work today, I remembered that I had shot the above video at GIS. Doh!
Congratulations to Ed Ward of Mariana Butte Golf Club in Loveland Colorado for winning the 2016 Edwin Budding Award. Awarded by the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America, it is presented annually to an individual in the turf equipment industry whose actions have gone above and beyond the norm to help shape the turf equipment management industry into what it is today. Edwin Budding was one of those individuals who helped define golf, not as a player, but as an engineer. He designed the first reel mower, which has shaped golf as we know it today. Ed Ward is humble yet loquacious and passionate about his profession. It has been a privilege for us at SIP to call him a friend for many years.
While attending the Equipment Managers’ reception at GIS, they introduced Ed as the Edwin Budding Winner. They also introduced the winner of the Most Valuable Technician Award and the members of the Technicians Advisory Board. I recognized a lot of the names so I went back and did some research. Of the Budding Award winners who were golf course technicians, 4 out of 6 use SIP. On the advisory committee, 5 of the 8 technicians use SIP. I drew a complete blank on Most Valuable Technician Award which puzzled me until I realized who sponsored it.
A Really Big Shew February 10, 2017
For those of you who are not age challenged like me, the title is a reference to the Ed Sullivan Show. He would open the show by telling his audience that he had “a really big shew” (his pronunciation of show). It was the longest running variety show, airing from 1948 to 1971. Sullivan did not dance, sing or tell jokes. His only talent was recognizing talent like Elvis Presley from the waist up, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Supremes, Topo Gigio and the juggler with the spinning plates.
The really big shew for me was the Golf Industry Show in Orlando this week. If you have read all of my posts, you know that I am not a big fan of this trade show but this year was the best we have had in a long time. The Orange County Convention Center and the folks there at Freeman are the best in the industry. Always helpful, polite and efficient. In San Antonio, it took us six to eight hours to move in or out, Orlando was closer to two, huge difference. Even the food was good if a little pricey.
I have not seen any stats on attendance yet, but it had to be off the charts. We were busy the whole time all the way to the end of the show Thursday. Usually the second day is slow with nothing happening after lunch. A big shout out to Tranquilo Golf Club and Stephen Tucker for hosting equipment management classes at their facilities. They had over 100 attendees for the all day session which was a huge success. It is great to see GCSAA embrace and continue the work started by IGCEMA by emphasizing the importance of training and certification of technicians and equipment managers.
After trying for years to make a presentation at the show, I finally had the opportunity to make not one but two, I guess making up for lost time. On the first day, I did a 30 minute presentation for Answers on the Hour about reel diameter effects on frequency of cut and marcelling. The second day, I had a two hour presentation on Extreme Grinding. I want to thank John Patterson for letting me use him as the butt of my jokes. It loosened me and the audience up and helped make for a successful presentation. I guess the folks at GCSAA liked them as well. They have asked me to do some webinars. The first will be an expanded version of the presentation I made for Answers on the Hour and should be in April some time.
Finally I want to thank my crew especially Melissa, our Office Manager ,Larry, our Western Regional Manager, Karl my son and SIP General Manager. Finally, a special thanks to my wife, Michele. All of them worked very hard and effectively to make this show really big.
Happy Birthday to Me February 4, 2017
This blog is officially one year old this week. It began with me ranting and raving about being dragged into the 21st century by using social media. It turns out I enjoy writing this blog more than I thought. I have gotten a lot of positive comments from you. If you like reading this blog, please pass it on, If you don’t, shut up and leave. No wait, I don’t mean that. Send me your negative comments, just don’t tell anyone else.
The second blog I did was about my general distaste for attending GIS. Well it is that time of year again and we are all packed up and ready to go. It isn’t so bad this year because it is in Orlando, just an hour from home. I get to sleep in my own bed every night. If you are going to the show, please come by and see me in booth 261. I have a 30 minute presentation "Clip Rate versus Reel Diameter" as part of Answers on the Hour in booth 609 at 2pm on Wednesday and I will be teaching a two hour class on Extreme Grinding on Thursday at 1pm in room W205BC. Hope to see you there.
New RHOC January 27, 2017
If you read this blog regularly, you are probably getting tired of hearing about the 1-2-3 rule. Too bad, because here I go again. I blogged earlier about the possibility of upgrading the dial indicator on our Reel Height of Cut Gauge and took a poll. I took the poll because the quality of the dial indicator we used was the only real knock against the gauge. The feed back was overwhelming that it is worth a few extra bucks for the better dial indicator. We are now making our RHOC Gauge with the better dial indicator at a slightly higher price. The good news is that we are also changing the indicator on the digital options which we also feel has improved quality but because we are buying them in bulk directly from the importer, there will be a significant reduction in price.
One of our customers in Hawaii had asked about using the gauge upside down. They found it difficult because the brass shield would come out past the milled step and they would have to reach in and try to push it back. I spoke with a few people and found that it is fairly common to use the gauge upside down. I redesigned the gauge so that only the milled step will extend out of the gauge no matter what position you use it. The new gauges can be purchased at your local dealer or on line at TurfAddict.com. Come by and see us at GIS Orlando in booth 261.
1-2-3 Rule Again January 21, 2017
If you are a regular here, you know about the 1-2-3 rule. If one user asks for a feature, I will think about it. If two users ask for the same feature, I will really think about it. Once I have a third user asking for the feature, I will do something about it. I recently added a shield to the carriage of the 6000 Bed Knife Grinder. We also made a kit that upgrades both the 1100 and 6000. Mike Kriz of Arrowhead Country Club was one of the first to get this upgrade. After using the snot out of it, he reported that it was a big improvement in protecting the track shafts but some dirt still got through. He still wanted to be able to clean the bearings but did not have access to it. While Mike is only the first to raise this concern, it was obviously legitimate.
I decided to stop shipping these kits until I had an answer. He originally suggest making an access hole but if I did that, I would want a cover for it. The question was should it be flexible like a piece of rubber, hinged or removed with a screw. Each idea had drawbacks. So when I am stumped, I do what I always do. I ask Darwin. No, not the evolution guy, our semi-retired former general manager. He still comes in two mornings a week for special projects and so I can ask him questions like this. Without batting an eye, he said “Why don’t you just remove the brush wipe?” Doh! Now in all fairness to Mike and me, Darwin did the detail work on the design and assembled several of the first machines with this feature. Anyway, the video above shows how to clean that bearing and the shield kits are now shipping again. If you purchased your 6000 in 2016 and it does not have a shield, you can get the kit free. If we don’t hear from you sooner, we will track you down after GIS.
Bohemian Rhapsody January 14, 2017
Like most mechanical engineers, I am a frustrated machinist. Ironically, most machinist are frustrated engineers. My son, Karl, has been working in our shop as a machine operator and then as a machinist since he was 16. He is now attending USF part time, earning his BS in Mechanical Engineering while he works full time as our production manager. He will be one of the lucky few who is legitimately both.
When I was in college, I took a four week, all day course in machining. It did not make me a machinist but it did give me a better appreciation for what was involved. One of the things I did was learn how to operate an NC mill. Notice I did not say CNC mill. CNC stands for Computer Numerically Controlled, so NC obviously is numerically controlled without the computer. It used a paper ticker tape with punch holes to turn switches on and off which controlled all of the feeds on the mill. If you made a mistake, you would take a pair of scissors and cut out the error and tape a correct piece of tape in its place. The most complicated program I made, engraved my then girl friend’s name in a piece of plastic. I think that may be why she decided to marry me, that and I was a good cook.
I am reminded of all of this because of the video above. This carnival organ is over one hundred years old and uses that same basic technology except that the holes in the paper control valves instead of switches. I am fascinated by old things and mechanical things and especially old mechanical things. This is really cool, and the music is pretty good too. Enjoy.
Year End Fun January 7, 2017
When we purchased Universal Gear/SIP in 1988, they were still preparing invoices on a typewriter using a multipart carbonless form, work orders were created by making a photo copy from a master sheet and there was no perpetual inventory. We had to do a physical count. The first thing we did was to use Great Plains Accounting Software which included General Ledger, Accounts Payable, Accounts Receivable, and Payroll. As was the case for all low end accounting software, it was not really set up to handle a manufacturing company which made its own products. There was no provision for issuing work orders and tracking labor. We did most of that with spread sheets which was cumbersome.
Great Plains was not very user friendly and became even worse when they were acquired by Microsoft. New accounting software became available for the Mac but only MYOB (Mind Your Own Business) now AccountEdge, included payroll so we switched in 1995.
In my previous life I had used several different brands of relational database software including Omnis, FoxPro, dBase and 4th Dimension by ACIUS. A relational data base is basically a group of tables (think spreadsheets) in which data from one table is linked to data in another table. For example one table with employee information can be linked to another table with payroll information which can than be linked to a third table with banking information. I was only able to develop a couple of rudimentary databases with 4D as it had a steep learning curve for its programing language. It was also expensive. In 1995, Claris, a subsidiary of Apple Computers, upgraded its database to be relational and was called Filemaker. It was a little crude but it was simple and inexpensive.
I developed my own database which included modules for Inventory, Vendors, Purchase Orders, Customers, Invoices, Employees, Work Orders and Daily Work Records. This allowed us to create all of our paper work like invoices and purchase orders as well as track our inventory and production costs. Once the paper work was created, it was then entered into the separate accounting software, MYOB. For the time and considering the size of our company, this was pretty sophisticated but it still required double entry of data, once into each software program.
Filemaker became more sophisticated with each upgrade. I had begun to develop a new version of my database when Filemaker came out with a major upgrade which incorporated all of the tables into a single file rather than having a bunch of separate but related files. I had to scrap what I had been working on and start over again. I called it Accounting for Manufacturing 3. It was my third attempt and it included provisions for adding accounting functions like AR, AP and payroll. We began using it in 2005. I never added the accounting functions but began developing a new database, AM4, in 2009. It was going to build on version 3 with the addition of the accounting functions and engineering document control (keep track of engineering drawing revisions). I was almost done but was having a difficult time with payroll. Calculating withholdings, taxes and deductions is very circular making it difficult to program. Just as I was about to try, Filemaker came out with a new version including features which would make programing payroll possible. So in 2012, I scrapped everything and started over. Each time I did this, the software became both easier to use and more capable. Finally in September of 2015, I had a usable database I called AM5 (version 5). I imported the first 9 months of data for 2015 and we manually entered data into AM5 for the rest of the year. At the same time, we still had to enter the data into AccountEdge, the accounting software, and Accounting for Manufacturing 3, our old Filemaker database, triple entry.
At the end of 2015, we compared the results from the three databases and found a few bugs mostly relating to importing the data instead of entering it. The non accounting part of the database was pretty solid so in January of 2016 we discontinued entering data into Accounting for Manufacturing 3, an eleven year run. We continued to double enter the data into AM5 and AccountEdge for all of 2016 and AM5 proved reliable, so this January 1 we officially discontinued using AccountEdge and no longer have to double enter data. Melissa is ecstatic. She is even looking for more work.