Cut the Cord September 29, 2019
I came late to cable TV and began my subscription about twenty five years ago when my kids started school. I did not want them to be the only kids in school without cable TV. I added Internet a few years later when I found out I could get instructions on how to fix my washing machine. I have not changed cable companies but they have been bought out a couple of times. I have been frustrated lately by the lack of quality television, the ever increasing bill and deteriorating service. It seemed that I would finally find something to watch and that channel was “temporarily unavailable, try again later”. A couple of years ago, I signed up for improved internet service of 200 mbps. I found out a few months back that I had only been getting 40 mbps and that my wifi was slowing it down to just a couple mbps. I complained and nothing happened so for the first time in 25 years, I changed my internet service which has over 400 mbps download and upload, dropped cable tv, added Hulu and am saving almost $100 per month. The speed difference is really noticeable especially when I screen share my work computers from home. I may always be late to the game but eventually, I do make it.
Conflict September 23, 2019
We have been fighting to get caught up with production. Just as soon as it seems we will, a new issue causes a delay. One of the problems we had was the shaft blocks on the Ideal 6000 bed knife grinder. When our now retired machinist made them, they were mostly right. When he left and we had continuous turnover in that position, you never knew what you would get. If we had a problem, we would swap out the blocks until we found a combination that worked. This was bad enough but when you get down to the bottom of the barrel, we really had to fight it to make it work.
I wanted to change the design to use off the shelf bearing blocks from Thompson Industries. This would require a major redesign of the mounting system. The old system used a tower that had the pads for the blocks welded on, then machined. Then the towers would be welded into the 6000 table. The new design would mount the blocks to a plate that would then be bolted into the 6000 table. Our prototype showed this would work much better and be a lot faster and easier to make.
The conflict came in when Karl, my son, did not want to change the design when we would not have time to debug it. I insisted that the prototypes showed it worked and that we would be saving time by purchasing instead of making the shaft blocks. The discussion got a little heated, but he eventually relented.
He was right. The production plates were not as flat as the prototype plates and the support seized up. But I was right too, in that the fix was pretty simple. The assemblies are now going together more quickly and smoothly and the performance is improved. The moral is if you wait until you have time to improve something, it will likely never happen. Sometimes you just have to bite the bullet and hope for the best.
Automation September 17, 2019
If you are doing full up spin grinding of a reel on our grinders, you will typically go over to the grinder, grab the hand wheel and give it a little bump. It takes about 5 seconds. You may do that every three or four passes for a total of 10 to 12 times. That means it takes about a minute of your time while the grinding itself might take 10 to 15 minutes. In order to effectively automate this task, it has to take less than one minute to set it up or you are not saving any time. That was the real challenge when we designed our auto infeed system. It takes about 10 seconds to program and run.
As you probably know, we have been running long back orders on our grinders which I thought we would have resolved before the end of August. We took several different approaches to try and get caught up. The biggest hurdle was to get parts machined. We added a new milling machine and hired both temporary and permanent machinists. We also outsourced parts that we would normally make in house. Normally we would have better control over quality if we make the parts but in some cases, a supplier has better equipment and gets better results. One of our suppliers uses a CNC mill to make one of our parts. He has made them for us in the past with excellent results. He just recently replaced this machine with a newer one with more capabilities. Just before he started making our parts (about three weeks ago) the manufacturer of the CNC mill upgraded his software. This upgrade has made his machine almost unusable. The real kicker is that this is the last part we need to be able to produce machines and fill all of our back orders. We are talking to him daily and if he can’t deliver parts by tomorrow, we will bring the product in house, which would add another weeks delay.
It is very frustrating to be so close to filling our back orders but not have control of the process. It is important to recognized that automating a process does not always have a happy ending.
Inspiring September 10, 2019
Yesterday I took a day off from my vacation to visit several customers just to see how they are doing. That included our dealer for southwest Florida, Everglades Equipment. They have had their grinders for a little less than a year. Jay is their grinding tech. When he started, he had little experience with cutting units and no experience with grinding. Jon Gowen, our regional manager for Florida and I have both worked with Jay. When I met with him yesterday, I was pleased to see how far he has come. Everything he described to me showed he has a very good understanding of what he is trying to do when he is servicing cutting units. When he has a question, he first turns to the manual which almost always has the answer he is looking for. His questions for me really get into the details and again show a good understanding. It is encouraging and inspiring to find a young fellow who has both the aptitude and enthusiasm to do this job right.
Working Vacation September 4, 2019
Two years ago, I was on vacation in Sanibel when Hurricane Irma threatened and we had to evacuate. So this year, with the uncertainty with Hurricane Dorian, we delayed our trip to Sanibel (hence the late posting of this blog). We escaped unscathed but the destruction in the Bahamas was historic. Three charities that do great work in these situations are the United Methodist Committee on Relief, the Salvation Army and Southern Baptist Convention Disaster Relief.
I took my demo van to Sanibel this year because I have a few calls to make in the area. If you look real hard just off the front of the van, you can see the lighthouse next to our resort. It is also a lot easier to load than the Jetta with everything we need for two weeks.
Amish Sale August 26, 2019
I was up visiting my Amish friends at Mascot Sharpening in eastern Pennsylvania last week. I was saddened to learn that the patriarch had passed away last spring. I think he was planning on expanding his business as he had bought a used Peerless 4000 and an Ideal 1100. They have sold the 1100 but still have the 4000. If you are interested, you can call them at 717-656-6486. They will answer the phone between 7 and 7:30 or you can leave a message and they will return your call the next day. This machine has been well maintained and has had most of the upgrades installed including the smoother infeed with a larger infeed wheel.
It was sold new to our former dealer in Connecticut, Steven Willand, in 2000. They are no longer in the golf equipment business. It does not show any signs of excessive wear
Included is the latest indexer upgrade with an extra hub. The indexer is missing the short blade stop for the quarter inch wide stone.
It also includes the latest fence upgrade and ground driven reel support posts.
Newly printed manuals for both the 4000 and 7000 are included.
The spin motor has been upgraded with the new radius arm, belt guard, slip clutch and clutch lockout.
The Lexan enclosure has been removed so that it would fit in their shop. It appears complete and in good condition if just a little dirty. The grinder is also missing its wrenches. I ran it while I was there and everything worked correctly. They are asking $5,000 and that seems like a fair price to me.
How do I fix this? August 20, 2019
We provide a free days training with each new set of grinders. We have excellent manuals with one color photograph for each sentence that walks you step by step through the grinding process. We have online videos both on our web site and our You Tube channel. We have unlimited free phone support including video chatting. We also offer additional on site paid training or free training at our shop. But I guess that isn’t enough.
When an equipment manager buys our grinders and then moves to another job, there is a good chance the new technician isn’t familiar with our grinders or maybe he just doesn’t want to buy into the concept so he uses the grinders incorrectly. He then wonders why he can’t get the results he wants. I once had a course that had our grinders but had placed an order for a competitor’s. I went by to see him and the new mechanic had said that ours was too difficult and time consuming to set up. When he showed me what he was doing, the previous mechanic had trained him to use shims to align the reel and get the rock out. He had a set of about thirty shims to do the job. I did a mild head slap and asked where in the manual it told him to do that. He had not read the manual. It may have been lost. This story has a happy ending. I showed him the correct way to do it and he immediately got it. Not only did he cancel his order for the other grinder, he used the money budgeted for a new set of our grinders.
The problem pictured above is from a course that changed technicians about 3-4 years ago. I did a paid training but I don’t think it took. Recently, he was upset that he could not get a good quality of cut. He blamed the bed knife grinder. He took his bed knifes and ground them on competitors’ grinders and that did not help. He was rude to Melissa (not a good idea) and demanded that I drop everything to come down and fix the grinder. I was in New York at the time so that wasn’t happening.
Larry took over with phone support and questioned him and gave him suggestions to try. One of the questions he asked was the kind of stone he was using. Larry was informed that it was a CBN wheel and he confirmed that you do not dress those stones. In one of the later conversations, Larry was informed that the tech had to set our grinder to 21degrees to match the 10 degree angle from the other grinders. Larry then requested a photo of the stone and determined it was not a CBN but was our ceramic stone. The ceramic stone never needs to be dressed because it loads up but does need to be dressed to maintain the proper shape. The photo above shows the stone after a partial dressing. It had never been dressed. It was grinding fine, just at the (terribly) wrong angle. After he finished dressing the stone and reground the bed knives, they cut fine. So I am left with the conundrum of what else can I do to get new users properly trained or at least get their questions answered. Any suggestions?
Good for my ego August 10, 2019
I am finally back on the road again and my first stop was training. They have had their grinder for a few months. The first thing the equipment manager says to me is that he cannot believe how much better the quality of cut is now and it wasn’t that bad before. He couldn’t stop talking about how much better our grinders are. Later, I visited a course that has had our grinders for about 6 years. I was pleased to see that the grinders were well maintained and again the tech raved about the grinders. I also visited a course that had a set of twenty year old grinders that were also well maintained. The young tech there had only been at this golf course and the only training he received had been from the previous tech. I was amazed at how much he taught himself especially with the grinders. He was thrilled when I showed him how to relief grind.
Then I saw this Facebook post from Steven Glynn. He made this beautiful case for the RHOC. When a customer likes your product enough to build this… well it just made my day.
Almost made it again August 2, 2019
Yes that is the same picture from last week. That is because Andrèz, our painter, just gave me notice. He has an opportunity to partner with someone to flip houses. Andrèz provides the expertise and manpower to remodel and he will split the profits. We have known for a while that he was planning something like this but we are still sad at his leaving. I know it is a great opportunity for him and I wish him all the luck. On top of that, we had to let an assembler go and Karl starts school in a couple of weeks so I may have been a little too optimistic last week.
Transition July 31, 2019
If you read this blog regularly, you know that we have been backordering machines for up to two months. This was initially caused by high turnover in our machine shop after our lead machinist retired two years ago. We kept running out of parts and had to delay assembly until we had enough parts made for that batch of machines. Then at the beginning of this year, we were hit with unusually high volume. Our problem of running out of parts was now compounded by the fact that we only made enough parts for the current assembly batch so for each batch we were out of more parts. Earlier this year, we increased our machine shop staff and that has now stabilized. We also stopped making partial batches of parts and, in fact, increased our batch sizes. This delayed the start of final assembly until we had all of the large batches done that were needed. We have now transitioned from making parts that we are out of to making parts that we are low on. That means we can start assembling machines just as soon as they come out of paint. What you see above is a batch of machines in final assembly at the same time the next batch of tables is getting its final clear coat. Hopefully by September we will be back to having machines in stock. Keep your fingers crossed.
Too Easy July 20, 2019
We sell a bed knife shoe grinding kit for our 1100 and 6000 bed knife grinders. It is based on the design of one of our customers, John Patterson. I built it, they used it, it worked. I am supposed to do some training on a new 6000 and they also want to grind their shoes. I figured it is about time that I learned how to do it. They will be grinding John Deere Greensmowers, so I pulled out my bed knife, found some ⅜ precision shoulder bolts we use on the lift table and mounted the kit on my demo 6000. I thought I might have to call John so he could walk me through the process, but almost everything fell into place. I used a different method for stabilizing the bed knife. It took me about twenty minutes to grind the shoe. It came out beautifully.
I need to do a video on this and train my dealers on this process so they can offer it as a service to their customers. I originally thought that this would be a process limited to those equipment managers that practiced Extreme Grinding, but now I feel that anyone who has our bed knife grinder should be doing this on their greens mowers. It isn’t that hard and doesn’t take that long, about 30 minutes per shoe. It will increase the life of your bed knives, make setting quality of cut much easier and reduce your initial grinding time.
Leave well enough alone? July 15, 2019
I really like my new van. All except one thing. It came with swivel seats, which is okay. I won’t ever really use them but the seat belts are built into the seat not the pillar. There is no position adjustment and the retraction spring is wound too tight. It would dig into my shoulder. I tried the sheep skin pad, which didn’t work along with several other engineering failures. It got so bad that I had to drive with the shoulder belt behind my back.
When I got back to the office, I investigated further. The retraction mechanism was easily accessible under the seat. I took it off and started to disassemble it. I took a cover off that I thought would allow me access to the spring. Big Mistake! It was the cover for the spring and since I had neglected to release all the tension on the spring…it sprung…all over everywhere. It took a couple of hours to untangle the mess. I then spent another four hours trying to figure out how to put it back together. I was about to give up and called the dealer for the cost of a new seat belt. $350. One more try. This time I got it, but the seat belt would not retract all of the way. Since I thought I knew what I was doing, I disassembled it again, added a few turns to the spring and now my seat belt retracts with out creating an open wound in my shoulder.
A Warped Engineer’s Mind July 6, 2019
Engineers tend to want to solve problems even if one doesn’t exist. When I was young, I was legally blind, 20-700 in my good eye. That means what I could see at 20 feet, a normal person could see at 700 feet. I had the quintessential Coke bottle glasses and I could see fine when I had them on. That meant that they were either on my face or on my night stand. I even wore them in the shower and swimming. One summer, at our cabin in Northern Ontario (very remote) I forgot to take them off when I went water skiing. I made it all the way back to the dock before I panicked, fell and lost my glasses. The local town of about 100 residents had one with scuba equipment. He came out a couple of days later and found them. He saved me about a months misery.
When I was in my forties, they developed a new fangled procedure called LASEK. Developed by Russians, they reshaped my corneas in what was supposed to give me 20-20 vision. When I went back for the follow up, every one in the waiting room was gushing about how much better they could see. My vision was worse. It scared the hell out of me. The surgeon looked and then called in every other doctor in the office to look. It turned out that I had Cogan’s Cyst, a rare complication from LASEK where the cornea does not re hydrate properly and is full of air bubbles. The cure was simple. Flood it with Saline eye drops for about a week and I could see almost perfectly. They had to do a minor touch up and gave me the option, because of my age, to have mono vision. That is where one eye is focused for distance and the other eye for reading. The brain automatically switches to the eye with the best focus. You do loose a little depth perception and night vision but it was a great trade off.
When I was in my fifties, I began to have a little problem with my reading or using a computer. I started occasionally using reading glasses. As I continued to age my usage increased until finally I had to get prescription reading glasses. My distance vision is still good so I don’t wear glasses most of the time. This creates the problem that, as an engineer, I needed to solve. What do I do with my glasses when I am not wearing them. I have tried every thing. When I had drug store reading glasses, I had 10 pair and left them everywhere. I tried the strap around the neck, but every time I bent over, they were in the way. If I just stuck them in my shirt pocket, they would fall out when I bent over. I tried all kinds of glasses cases and finally settled on one with a pocket clip that opens on the end. These wore out pretty quickly and did not always stay open, which made it difficult to slip the glasses in. Also if you got some dirt or grease inside the case, it was ruined. It got to the point that I would just stick them in the pocket behind the case. That is when I realized that I just needed something else in my pocket to take up the extra space. Turns out that a handkerchief is perfect. And now I am also prepared to help a Lady with tears in her eyes.
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