Live chat interview
With David Harrison and Keith Vertigan from SISIS (Equipment) Ltd.
David Saltman:Welcome and good evening to all our members and to Keith Vertigan (UK sales Manager) from SISIS who is ably joined by David Harrison the export sales manager.
David Saltman:I understand you've been away David, has it all been on business?
Dave Harrison: Hi Dave, good to talk to you again. Sorry it didn't all work out last time. Yes it has all been business, but with some distractions en-route.
David Saltman:Yes thanks for reminding me, last time the hot summer weather played havoc with our computers, sending the server crashing and our interview was cut short to about 15 minutes, apologies again.... Do SISIS do much in the way of export?
Dave Harrison: About 30 % of our annual sales is now exported, if we include the USA, which is still a growing market for us.
David Saltman:I last met up with you at Saltex, where have you been since then?
Dave Harrison: Following Saltex, I went almost directly to the Papendal show in Holland. Then to a distributor meeting in Germany, before going to Austria for the Don Harradine Memorial Trophy. After that it was ELMIA in Sweden, and then a seminar in Iceland last week. A busy month!
David Saltman:You've been very busy then, how many countries do you export to, and/or have distribution?
Dave Harrison: We currently have distributors in 32 different countries, but we actually export to over 40 countries worldwide.
David Saltman:A member asks: Which is your target export market? Do you do any business in China or Russia?
Dave Harrison: Our key export sales areas are obviously Europe, and Middle / Far East. We do now look at China as a potential market, which we are currently looking at via Hong Kong. Russia is also coming on line, but it's still early days.
David Saltman:A member asks: Are all your machines manufactured here in the UK and then exported?
Dave Harrison: Yes, that's right. All Sisis machinery is manufactured in Macclesfield. While we do have our USA company, SISIS INC. it is still only a sales and distribution point.
David Saltman:A member asks: Does the Made in the UK label still have a good reputation for quality?
Dave Harrison: I hope so! I do constantly get reminded of this fact while overseas, and I only hope that our products support this.
David Saltman:I believe they do, SISIS have always been renowned for good quality machinery-perhaps that's why I always see your machines in Groundsmen's sheds. How long have SISIS been in business?
Dave Harrison: Sisis was founded in 1932, originally under the name of the founder, W.Hargreaves and co. ltd. The name Sisis was adopted in 1965, taken from the brand name of the product.
David Saltman:I presume that you are continually researching and developing new machinery for the Industry?
Dave Harrison: Yes, we are always looking for new ideas and concepts. However, we do find that products and maintenance practices do go in cycles. Several of the new products on the market today are not really new. They are just re-workings of ideas that have been around for many years.
David Saltman:That's true, but you launched five new products at Saltex, can you tell us what these are?
Dave Harrison: That is my point. Most of these products launched at Saltex are re-works of existing products, with perhaps wider, faster or more efficient characteristics.
We launched two new brushes, the Varibrush and Flexibrush, as well as a new Veemo scarifier for fairways, etc, and the Rotorake 1000TM, a heavy-duty scarifier - linear aerator for compact tractors. The final product was the SO-FAST SEEDER, a simple hand tool for tilthing and seeding small-localized areas.
David Saltman:A member asks: What is your best selling product in the UK and the overseas market?
Dave Harrison: It's been a good year for thatch! The Rotorake range has been by far our best selling line this year. The range includes the Trio and Auto Rotorake, as well as the Rotorake 600. Even the tractor-mounted units have sold in record numbers this year.
David Saltman:A member asks: What new or improved products can we be looking forward to in the future?
Dave Harrison: You'll have to watch the Pitchcare site for that!
David Saltman:Going back, I attended the SIS conference last week and Alan Ferguson talked about a system that you have developed with him to maintain the new 3G synthetic carpets-do you rely on customer feedback for a lot of your R and D?
Dave Harrison: That's where we get all our feedback. Sisis are fundamentally an engineering company providing tools for the Groundsmen and Greenkeepers, whether that's for turf or synthetic pitches. Certainly synthetic pitches are the hot potato at the moment, but love them or hate them; we must look at them as a business opportunity.
David Saltman:The product that Alan was using was called the OSCA-can you tell us more about it please?
Dave Harrison: OSCA has been around for a while, initially for brushing in heavy dressings on sports fields after, say vertidraining or hollow tining. More recently, we found that it was also ideal on synthetic pitches, especially the new 3G surfaces. It's basically a tractor mounted, "oscillating" brush, which aggressively re-distributes the rubber crumb infill.
David Saltman:How does the OSCA differ from the other Saltex launches?
Dave Harrison: The Flexibrush is a 6 metre wide floating brush system for brushing larger areas such as golf fairways, both for removing dew and for brushing in light top dressings. The Varibrush is a smaller, towed or mounted brush, which gives a concentrated brushing effect for mainly fine turf. However, the Varibrush could also be used successfully on the 2nd generation sand-filled synthetic pitches as well. It's horses for courses as they say!
David Saltman:Have you seen a growing market on the synthetic side of our Industry?
Dave Harrison: There has certainly been an increase in activity, especially in the northern European countries and some of the Mediterranean countries. If we believe everything we hear, it will certainly be a big issue over the next 5 years or so.
David Saltman:It certainly will, the other product that I was impressed and interested in was the SO-fast seeder-who came up with that idea?
Dave Harrison: The SO-FAST seeder was actually the idea of our MD, William Hargreaves, who actually heads up the R and D team. It's a simple idea really. It is a hand held dimple roller, with a seed spreader mounted over the top. It can be used in one direction to tilth up the surface and create a seedbed, and then turned over to distribute the seed. The surface will probably then need a shovel full of top-dressing and a Sisis Trulute or dragmat to finish the job off.
David Saltman:Anything that makes the job easier eh! I presume that this is a busy time of year for you, with autumn renovations and your free seminars as well?
Dave Harrison: September and October are probably our busiest months of the year. As well as the exhibitions that we do, both in the UK and overseas, there is also our annual Bowling Green seminars all around the country, and several other seminars, etc. Then there are all the follow-ups to the shows and the individual demo's to do. As it is the end of the bowling and cricket seasons, everyone wants a " demo" at the same time!
David Saltman:Your seminars are great, how do you view their importance to the industry and yourselves?
Dave Harrison: Many years ago, we realized that it was getting difficult to attract an audience just to watch a machinery demonstration. It has to be educational to be worthwhile. We now always hold our seminars in conjunction with other non-competitive companies, such as seed and fertilizer suppliers, chemical suppliers, etc. Our seminars in the North East this year are alongside Aitkins and Lloyd's mowers.
David Saltman:A member asks: have you any plans to do winter sport seminars on rugby and football?
Dave Harrison: Some of this years seminars in the North East are general, and will cover winter sports as well as bowls and cricket, etc. We have in the past targeted individual sports such as soccer and rugby, and I'm sure that we will do them again. However, we feel we must change our programme regularly, otherwise it all becomes old-hat, and attendances start to drop.
David Saltman:As a point of reference I believe that this autumn's seminar dates are on this site, both in the general news section and on the calendar.
David Saltman:A member asks: Do you carry good levels of stock, in terms of tines and slits etc?
Dave Harrison: Obviously we carry a good supply of all the fast moving parts for the current production machines, such as tines and blades. However, with over 24,000 different part numbers on our stock list, it is impossible to stock them all!
David Saltman:A member asks: Why are there never seminars in the north west, given that you are based there-you mentioned north east and I have seen them advertised down south as well, unless I missed it!
Dave Harrison: Sisis sell direct to the customer in the UK and therefore we need to cover the whole country. However, it is impossible to do the same thing all over the country at the same time. Because the "seminar season " is quite short, we tend to move it around the country each year, returning to the same region perhaps every two or three years. There will certainly be some coming in the near future to the North West.
David Saltman:A member asks: Have you had machines that have bombed?
Dave Harrison: Of course we have, but thankfully not too many! We all get it wrong sometimes, and it is best when you stop a new idea before it hits the market if it's wrong. However, on occasions you have to hold up your hands and admit defeat, and withdraw a product from production.
David Saltman:A member asks: how do you feel about the growing number of machinery manufacturers that seem to be popping up everywhere?
Dave Harrison: We would obviously love to have the entire market to ourselves, much like we did 50 years ago. However, we are certainly not afraid of competition! I believe that many of the "new arrivals" think that this market is bigger than it actually is, and it is interesting to see how many companies come and go within a few years.
David Saltman:That's interesting, but from an independent view, it's healthy to have competition!
Dave Harrison: Yes, that's exactly right. Without competition the industry would be stagnant, and you would probably still be hand-forking your bowling greens. However, competition must be good competition and able to support the product over a number of years.
David Saltman:A member asks: Do you not feel that-and no offence intended-the look of your machines are still very much from 50 years ago?
Dave Harrison: No offence taken! The member is right, some of the equipment does look dated, often because some of the old designs are so good and durable that it is difficult to improve them. Often, the product may only need up dating in terms of components, etc, and therefore the overall look doesn't change much. If it isn't broke, don't fix it!
Dave Harrison: Quite often, the only way to make a product look "new" is to add a fancy guard or a modern style cover, etc. This undoubtedly adds cost, and quite often prices a product above its market value. Better to look old and be affordable than to look 'state of the art' and overpriced.
David Saltman:Taking up one of the members questions, I've seen the biggest changes in scarifying and aeration machines in recent times- what have you changed and introduced in these departments?
Dave Harrison: Basically, the latest models are more efficient, both in terms of reliability and durability, and in terms of speed. It would be difficult to evaluate the actual work done by a 40 year old Sisis Rotorake from the work done by a brand new machine. The main differences are with speed and operator comfort.
David Saltman:A member asks: Can you invent a turf plugger that goes in vertically 8 inches deep and about six inches square for Desso pitches?
Dave Harrison: We haven't considered that one, but there's no reason why we shouldn't give it some thought. However, we must assess the market potential before embarking on any new project, and for a manufacturer, it must be a viable business opportunity. I suspect that in this case, there would not be sufficient potential, but I might be wrong!
David Saltman:A member asks: At what price do the vertical aerators start?
Dave Harrison: The Dart, our smallest vertical action aerator costs just over £3,000
David Saltman:In response to the previous answer a member says: Not if you have foxes running round all day its not!
David Saltman:What prices do the vertical aerators go up to?
Dave Harrison: Our most expensive vertical action aerator, the 1.5metre JAVELIN, is under £7500.00.
David Saltman:A member asks: We bought one of you machines for £10,500 and sold it for just £500 three years later-do you think the sell on value of your machines should really be this low?
Dave Harrison: Without knowing the product or the circumstances it is difficult to comment on specific cases. However, this is certainly not a general reflection of resale values of Sisis products. I know of many cases where resale values have actually been higher than the original buying price, because they have been around so long.
David Saltman:I'd like to thank you David and Keith for your time and openness tonight, there is still plenty that we could talk about but we'll have to wrap up this evenings chat forum-at least we managed two hours this time!
Dave Harrison: That's great Dave. We'd just like to say it's been a pleasure to support Pitchcare on this occasion, and look forward to another session some time in the future.David Saltman:Yes another session some time would be great and thank you to all the members that have watched and participated this evening-good night.
For further information or to ask SISIS a question please phone 01625 503030 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org