In April this year Sweepfast Ltd reached a significant milestone as it passed its tenth birthday. Eleven years ago when I started looking for a solution to maintenance problems at our local tennis club, I could never have imagined that my research would lead me into a successful, full time business. We now provide employment for 14 and are busier than ever.
I am definitely not an indoors man, so my role has mostly involved being out on the road meeting new customers and suppliers while Dave and the team look after the office. My travels have taken me all over the UK and Ireland along with various locations on the continent, though sadly not yet to Australia where our first piece of equipment came from!! I have enjoyed my trips immensely and have met many interesting people along the way. Work has taken me to stately homes, homes of the rich and famous, private and state schools and to some of the top sports facilities in this country and abroad- the highlight of which must be deep cleaning all of Real Madrid's artificial pitches.
The most prestigious jobs however do not always provide the greatest job satisfaction. For me this tends to come comes from resolving the most challenging maintenance issues. I remember the house owner who thought he'd purchased a house with a grass tennis court, but on inspection we found that his gardener had been painting lines on top of the moss until a branch fell onto the court revealing the artificial grass. After a full refurbishment with 2x8yrd skips of contaminated infill removed the court was as good as new. Then there was the hockey pitch in North Wales "condemned and in need of replacement" bought back to life in 2008 and still in use today.
Machinery is a particular passion of mine and we developed our own at Sweepfast for refurbishing artificial grass. Our original Hydrofast system, with just a few modifications along the way, works more effectively than ever. This is despite us being told at the first Saltex show we exhibited at in 2005, that we were wasting our time! Now with the capacity to refurbish two full size pitches and tennis courts at the same time, we have successfully cleaned over 1 million square metres of artificial turf.
It was at the 2007 Saltex show that I heard about Horger machinery and their new SKU machine for cleaning artificial grass. After a few days I tracked the firm down, flew over to Germany and after lengthy discussions obtained the dealership for the UK and Ireland. The first of many machines arrived in January 2008. As Horger had a long track record for making great athletics track machinery, (there must be a pun in there somewhere!) I was determined to add their machine to our line up. Cost was the only obstacle, so our mortgage was duly extended, big thanks to my understanding wife here, and the machine duly arrived in 2009.
We have continued to introduce more machinery to the Uk market from Australia, Norway, Germany, Italy and Denmark so that we can now offer one of the most comprehensive ranges of machinery and services for synthetic sports surfaces available. There are still one or two gaps in our line up but I am working on those!
On the maintenance front I am constantly looking at our procedures and results. We use an infill contamination test and this shows us the strengths and weaknesses in our procedures. Our guidelines are then modified as necessary to take account of our findings. I find it puzzling that the last time I looked at Sapcas guidelines they seemed to be the same as they were when I first looked at them in 2004.
There are two areas that I feel we particularly need to understand better. The first is the effects of algae on the drainage performance of synthetic surfaces, which has been highlighted as a problem during the recent mild winter. The other area is compaction on 3g surfaces. I find compacted infill not just in the high footfall areas but in some cases across the whole surface and this makes me wonder whether every brush used on these surfaces should be fitted with a de-compaction rake.
Tyre size and pressure, as with use on natural grass surfaces are more important than the total weight of the machine when it comes to ground pressure.
So where will Sweepfast Ltd be in ten years time? Who knows? If I am still around I will be nearly seventy years old and hopefully not spending much time on the motorway. I look forward to facing, resolving and adapting any new challenges that come my way.