The Sports Professionals Club in Barcelona
By Dave Saltman
The Sports Professionals Club, sponsored and hosted by Toro and Lely (UK), was designed to bring together a group of top professionals to brainstorm on existing and future products and their performance as well as support services required by the sports customer group.
While Toro have been very active in golf, there was a feeling that the company didn't work closely enough with the Sportsground side of the industry in the past. A four-day itinerary was arranged which coupled the business side of the Sports Professionals Club with the opportunity to see some of the sites in the historic and beautiful Spanish city of Barcelona.
Certainly the formation of this club has had mutual benefits for all. As we know on Pitchcare, problems shared are problems solved and to put seventeen experienced professionals in a room together, airing their views and experiences was both fact finding and interesting.
Following our arrival in Barcelona and transport to the hotel, there was a Champagne reception and evening meal allowing all the guests to meet and get to know each other. The following day, the team met for the first of two round the table morning sessions.
Jeff Anguige, Sales Manager for Lely (UK) hosted the first morning session; he discussed the agenda for the rest of the trip and introduced the representatives from both Toro and Lely (UK). He stressed that 'The importance of these meetings is to share ideas that will help improve the quality and performance of machinery and services that we all use and will use in the future.'
Christian Grisard-Van Roey (European Sales Manager - Toro) presented to all of us a brief history and overview of the Toro Company.
Toro started in 1921, with gang mowers set up to cut behind a tractor at a local golf club in Minneapolis, USA. In 1959 the first consumer ride on mower was invented. Toro today produces a full range of consumer and commercial products from mowers and utility vehicles through to irrigation systems. The Toro headquarters are located in Minneapolis, which alone employs over 1100 employees; overall Toro employs 4500 people worldwide, with an annual turnover of 1.5 billion US dollars.
As part of the new technology strategy, Toro 'on-line' (www.Toro.com) is full of machinery information, maintenance schedules, and technical references. There is educational and training interaction for Groundsmen and Greenkeepers and support of international organisations. Toro serves more of the world's top sporting venues than any other manufacturer.
There is continued investment in new products, research and development; new projects include, geographic information systems (GIS) that map areas via satellite. Fully linked to a PC or palm top, this system is even able to track specific machines, providing information as to where the machines are and the work that the operator has carried out; all important productivity, labour and product cost saving information for the Course/Grounds Manager.
"Smart" products are also in development. Products with sensors, such as light and moisture based sensing can measure plant/soil moisture status, nitrogen levels, etc. The collection of data permits precise "smart" control of times of application and water quantity management of irrigation systems. For chemical spraying machines, these products will automatically adjust the calibration to administer correct amounts of chemicals in the precise area needed.
Autonomous mowers - machines cutting grass at night with no operators. Toro have been working closely with the NASA space program scientists to develop machines that can operate during the day or at night without an operator sitting in the seat. The machines use GPS technology, from multiple satellites to define their mowing path. On-board sensors are used to detect debris, people approaching, etc. so they will not be out of range at any time and safety can be maintained.
As we look forward to the future, the use of alternative fuels becomes ever more important and again Toro have looked at more environmentally friendly options including the introduction of zinc-fuelled batteries, which are advanced batteries/fuel cells. This technology has been researched and developed from the automotive industry, mostly because our industry is not large enough to fund the very expensive development of cutting edge technology.
Lely's Business Development Manager, Trevor Chard, then discussed the Lely (UK) company structure as well as new products already launched and soon to be launched by Toro.
Lely is the distributor for Toro in the UK and Ireland, and is involved with a lot of new prototype technology that includes independent testing in the field. The company has a turnover of £250 million and is independent of Toro. Lely is a privately owned business, with a head office based in Switzerland, and businesses in 16 countries. In total, Lely employs 1350 people around the world. The company started in the agricultural market providing machinery attachments and went on to found Lely (UK) in 1968. In 1983, Lely (UK) was officially appointed the Toro distributor, and currently has an annual turnover of £26.5million. Based at St Neots, Lely (UK) has 99 employees of which 38 are directly involved in the turf division.
Lely (UK) concentrates on the following business strengths:
Product supply: -
There is a distribution service of nineteen main line dealers and 13 full service centres who are supported by 14 Lely (UK) field sales, service and demonstration staff.
Lely recognise the importance of good local machinery pre sales and after sale support and have available a comprehensive range of demonstration equipment to offer the customer.
Customer support: -
As part of the value-added support of Toro products, Lely (UK) also provides its customers with:
Training for mechanics and operators.
Parts and service.
Golf Tournament machinery fleet.
Trade shows/Trade organisation sponsorship.
Direct Service personnel: -
Dedicated personnel with many years of experience includeMike Stephenson, Ian Sumptor, Clive Pinnock, and Laurie Mills.
Mike Stephenson and Chris Hayter provide all central parts support with approximately 40,000 lines in stock, of which 50% of the parts in stock are Toro parts. Orders placed before 3pm are dispatched and generally received next day. This 24-hour parts supply service works very well with correct communication and courier service. Lely would stress that this service includes free of charge carriage, but ask for the service - dealers will not always offer it!
Lely also offers a commitment that if parts are not in stock, the customer is notified and the parts are air freighted in to be delivered within 3 working days.
Commercial products: -
Toro innovation in recent years has seen the development of time saving, highly productive machines such as:
Workman®truck - a new electric model of the mid-sized utility vehicle that is battery operated provides a low cost run-around for all sports facilities. The larger diesel Workman vehicles, offer 2 and 4 wheel drive options.
Reelmaster®3100-D is a trim cylinder mower that has the ability to shift the cutting units from side to side with the Sidewinder®feature.
New multiple deck rotaries such as the Groundsmaster 3500-D and Groundsmaster 4500-D are machines for mowing fine turf areas such as football fields, cricket outfields, etc. and will leave an attractive striped presentation. The decks are semi-recyclable rear discharge and leave no unsightly clumping.
Many other products including pedestrian cylinder mowers, ride-on greens mowers, trim mowers, sports mowers, small rotary mowers, utility vehicles, as well as aerators, sand rakes, blowers/vacs and sprayers.
Customer integrated products: -
Lely (UK) provides specialised teams on sales, service and technical support for all of the product lines, which include:
Many customers use products from across different product categories and need a central point of contact to obtain the support they require in the daily routines and challenges at work.
New products: -
In 2004, a new introduction will be the 48v electric Workman 2100e. This utility vehicle provides good traction, is very quiet, has a "flexible" chassis (Twister® feature) and is environmentally friendly.
The Groundsmaster®4100-D, new in 2003, is an out-front rotary mower for large scale mowing. The machine comes with a proven power unit, a longer wheelbase that provides excellent weight distribution, increased serviceability on a 126" wide deck, and the machine has all hydraulic drive.
Andy Brown (Toro Irrigation Manager, Europe) discussed the launch of new Toro irrigation products. Lely (UK) has made a serious commitment to the development of the business since becoming the Toro Irrigation Distributor for UK and Ireland.
The company officially became a Toro distributor in Feb 2002, with the full range of products supplied through an irrigation contractor group. The group is fully committed to improving standards and services and works closely with Lely (UK) in designing, installation and system maintenance.
Irrigation is provided for landscape and sports - sports and sports grounds are now having full irrigation systems installed during designs and build.
The Lely (UK) organisation includes a specified 'Contractor Group' who have all attended and completed a certified contractor program. The program is designed to develop the highest levels of professionalism in all aspects of their business. The aim is to create and maintain the best contracting group in the UK.
Andy Brown discussed the new irrigation range, the '800S' series, which includes: closed case rotor with Duraseal™, a removable rock screen, stainless steel valve seat, debris trap, fewer parts in the sprinkler head- all of which means that far less can go wrong.
There have also been nozzle adjustments and changes to improve water distribution and water application, providing better economy of water. The new series also incorporates accurate timing down to the second, avoiding unnecessary wastage.
There is also the E-Z-Sport Series, which has been designed specifically for sports turf applications. It features a heavy-duty drive assembly, adjustable trajectory and up to a 21 metre radius. This series comes complete as full circle only and full & part full options.
Finally Andy talked about the Toro Gemini Control System. This software and hardware allows for full management control of water, sprinkler timing changes, graphical data storage and remote operator use. There is also modem dial-up with remote customer support, for updates, management and technical support.
Here ended the first day's discussion and we retired for lunch, followed by a trip down to Barcelona's Nou Camp and Olympic stadiums. We were taken on tours of the stadiums and were lucky enough to be allowed onto the hallowed turf to talk to the Groundsmen. The one thing that struck all of us was the visible poor quality of these pitches. Whether this was indicative of a long, hot Spanish summer we're not sure, but presentation seemed to leave a lot to be desired. What it did do was reinforce the fact that British Groundsmen lead the way in producing top quality playing surfaces.
Later, a coach took us over to the harbour for an evening meal at an excellent fish restaurant overlooking the moored boats.
On the penultimate afternoon we were taken to the Cava vineyards, where we were given a tour of the cellars and some very welcome wine tasting. After a quick refresh back at the hotel, we embarked to the Old Town of Barcelona for a short tour of the historic buildings and an excellent meal at El Pintor, a restaurant adjacent to the Spanish Parliament buildings.
The following morning, all of the group, some feeling slightly hung over, boarded the coach for a short shopping trip down Las Ramblas, in the heart of Barcelona, before we headed back to the airport.All of the team assembled felt that not only had the trip been educational but it had also cemented relationships between like-minded professionals. Together they enjoyed sharing knowledge, experiences and expertise. I believe that this will be harnessed positively to further improve the industry that we all love and enjoy.