0 Moving with the times

LukeSpartalis.jpgLuke Spartalis, mechanic at Royal Melbourne Golf Club, says that technicians need to adapt to new technology.

When Edwin Budding first patented the reel mower back at the turn of the nineteenth century, he could not have envisaged the technology being developed for the golf course industry today.

With evolution in technology comes increased productivity and efficiency, but also a great deal of adjustment.

Just as the thought of having a vehicle lift in a golf course workshop, or a full time equipment technician for that matter, was once considered a luxury, both are now quite commonplace and necessary.

As advances are made in hybrid and battery technology, so too must the technician be able to adapt.

Electric/hybrid powered greens mowers and utility vehicles are already upon us, with the tangible benefits being diminished operating noise, elimination of potential hydraulic spills and reduced pollution emissions.

The systems used to operate these machines are sophisticated and are obviously very different to petrol/diesel fuelled machines. Specialised repair equipment and training is needed to maintain this equipment.

Battery powered turf equipment is a viable alternative, however, because of the weight and charge time involved with lead acid types, this technology has not been fully embraced as yet. Ni metal and Ni Cad are also being researched, which may be the solution.

Advancements in battery technology are gaining momentum with the development of a newly structured material by researchers at MIT and the State University of New York.

This material could reduce the weight of battery packs by four to five times. Other benefits include lower costs and faster charging times, which would make it particularly attractive to our industry.

Extensive testing is still required, and its use could be a while off, but it looks promising.

As well as battery powered turf equipment, GPS navigated, laser guided systems and programmable memory robotic machines are also being developed.

Mowers with inbuilt soil moisture sensors are also being researched in an effort to determine malfunctioning sprinklers and dry areas, this information can then be uploaded into a central irrigation computer.

With this technology being developed, it raises another topic - education for technicians.

Most current technicians started their careers elsewhere and have acquired their golf course skills on the job, with very few apprentices having been trained in this industry.

This means equipment techs must acquire knowledge wherever possible, and the computer is the perfect means to achieve this.

It is important for technicians to be made aware of up-to-date advancements. No longer are they required to just turn spanners, but must also be proficient in front of a keyboard.

Computers are becoming more commonplace in golf course workshops and the advantages are numerous.

Machinery parts manuals, workshop manuals, service bulletins, and machine specifications are currently available on equipment manufacturers' websites, as well as the online ordering of parts, thus saving the time and inconvenience of trying to explain to the spare parts clerk your requirements when no exact part number is available.

Workshop environmental responsibilities can also be addressed with the use of various management tools available online.

These, combined with the fact that catalogues and crossovers charts are also available through the use of your computer, and you begin to wonder how you did without one.

Gone are the days of scribbling service dates and hour meter readings on a greasy wall chart, or rifling through a cabinet full of service and parts manuals only to find the manual you're looking for isn't there. Records can be easily amended with the click of a mouse.

Several fleet management programmes are available to enable accurate records to be kept and accessed, and are a must for any workshop. Education is also accessible through other avenues.

Firstly, there are several dedicated Golf Course Equipment Technician forums available, www.vteta.info and www.golftechs.net are but two.

These forums are useful tools if a tech with a particular machinery problem or query needs to bounce an idea around, just post a question, and receive information and answers from fellow technicianss from around the world; this is particularly useful when purchasing new equipment.
Secondly, webcast training is also available.

Although in house and online training is obviously available to the equipment distributors, until only recently, this has not been available to golf course technicians.

With the inception of the International Golf Course Equipment Managers Association www.igcema.org this is now available via a webcast system, and through the use of the associated forums.

This association was established with the aim of raising the profile and image of equipment technicians/managers along with providing continuing education.

For those not familiar with the concept of web casts, a particular topic is presented from anywhere in the world, in real time. Slides and video can be viewed while you are in your workshop.

The main advantage is questions can be directed to the presenter, usually an OEM representative or engineer. Where else can you pose a question to a factory technician, and receive an answer immediately?

Our industry is continually evolving, and it certainly makes good sense to be prepared.

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