From Tin shed to purpose built factory
By Dave Saltman
In l985 Billy Warke operated a tiny lawnmower service from a shed in his back garden….Today, the
Running Coleraine Lawnmower Services Billy Warke was profoundly upset when one of his female customers returned a lawn aerator with a small complaint. Pushing the machine round their garden had resulted in the lady's husband having a heart attack. "It is time," thought Billy," to take a serious look at a powered aerator."
Working from home he decided to make a machine that was so good that everyone would want to buy it 'necessity being the mother of invention.' His background had been in the hire business. His philosophy; listen to what your unbiased end-users had to say.
At that stage two different types of aerator mechanisms existed. Plunge Action and Roll Over types. The Plunge machine used a crankshaft to drive the tines into the ground in rapid succession giving closer hole spacing and consistent depth, the Roll Over worked like a spiked roller giving irregular depth and wider spacing.
The Plunge Action was far superior but perhaps complicated in design and expensive…so the engineering challenge was taken on. Billy after all held City and Guild's in Mechanical Engineering, and had worked in Alberta Canada for 10 years in Design Engineering for an oil exploration company.
The first three production models were completed just in time for their debut on the Ledu stand at the Kings Hall, Belfast in l989. "It had been a hard slog, but the machines looked great," said Billy Warke.
The first machine was sold through CLS Equipment before Groundsman Industries began trading.
The tin shed had served its purpose gallantly but commercial premises were rented in 1992 consisting of a 4,000 sq.ft. bay in an old grain mill.
The Pedestrian Aerators were shown for the first time in England in l992 at the SALTEX Exhibition in Windsor in the shadow of the Castle. And this is where Billy met Dave Meharg of Synergy and both an excellent friendship and working relationship began.
Working with Synergy Products meant frequent 5 am starts and overnight stops - but Synergy played an important role promoting and selling Groundsman products.
The following year the Tractor Mounting Aerator Model was launched at the same exhibition.
In l996, the Box-Arm, heavy duty aeration mechanism was developed and introduced as standard across the range, except for the smallest machines where it is optional. By this time, it was necessary to rent
The following year another new machine was launched, the Flexblade Core Collector. It won Runner-Up for the best new Sportsturf Award for machinery.
1999 came and with it plans to develop a range of Turf Cutters. The project began the following year. Three prototypes were produced and the first production model was dispatched in September 2001.The TC300 was up and running.
Turf Aerators and Core Collector patents have been granted in the United Kingdom, Europe, North America and further afield. Turf Cutter patents have been applied for.
The new factory was opened in front of a collection of guests and staff, many of whom were flown in by Groundsman Industries for two days of some traditional Irish hospitality. The plaque was unveiled and the factory officially opened by Mr Peter Craig, Grounds Manager at the Hurlingham Club in London. Peter Craig said "the new facility would enable Groundsman Industries to remain at the cutting edge of the Industry, continuing to produce high quality, reliable and effective, user friendly machinery."
"There are a lot of people out there promoting and selling our products," he said. "I never thought I would ever get to this wonderful stage in our development. We are all delighted with the new facilities but we must look to the future. We have exciting plans for the plant with new products," he went on, " we will remain firmly focused over the coming months and years, to provide our clients with products and services which are second to none and make sure that Groundsman Industries is the 1st Stop for Groundsman Idea Initiatives."
For more information on the range of Groundsman Industries machinery please contact either Mr Billy Warke on 028 2766 7049, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or Mr David Meharg on 01380 828337, e-mail email@example.com.