Three Generations of expertise
By Dave Saltman
Originally equipment was only sold through dealerships, however, in 1969 SISIS decided to move to a direct sales policy, which saw sales increase significantly and was the important step needed to provide stability and growth for the company.
Today equipment is sold into well over 60 countries worldwide. David Harrison was asked to manage the overseas operations nine years ago (some 30 years after his father had first sold SISIS equipment abroad). David works closely with foreign distributors and also Ian Camp who emigrated to the USA and now looks after the American subsidiary company SISIS Inc. Keith Vertigan and his team of territory managers and demonstrators take care of UK customers.
In the past 6 years export sales have been rising steadily. In 1996 SISIS exported 15% of their total sales, that figure has risen to 30% in 2005, testament indeed to the export policy that the company implemented.
SISIS have been based at Macclesfield since 1962 and in 1982 a separate Design & Development Dept. and workshop was built, followed by a large finished stock warehouse to accommodate the growth of the business. The company now employs 65 staff, which includes 10 Territory Managers and 4 demonstrators who are responsible for sales and after-sales service.
Six staff work in the D&D Department and they are a very important part of the company. William Hargreaves said, "We try very hard to listen to our customers and develop products that they need and desire. You have to forecast what the market will need in the future. The SISIS Aer-Aid is a good example of this. It took more than three years to develop and was launched 18 months ago. It has been very well received both at home and abroad. We have sold Aer-Aid's into South Africa, Canada, Japan, Hong Kong and Scandinavian countries. It was launched in the USA in September 2005."
The Aer-Aid came about when William Hargreavesand Brian Hartley discussed the possibility of incorporating air injection into existing aeration equipment.
"We wanted to improve the process of aeration, without causing surface disruption. Through careful design we have created that combination by modifying the SISIS Javelin aerator and introducing compressed air", added William. "Compaction is probably the most serious soil problem that Groundsmen have to deal with".
The Aer-Aid is the company's newest addition to the range and the test results are proving quite exciting.
William said, "The Aer-Aid helps reduce the need for top dressing and therefore the time needed for that operation. As a company we have been involved in deep aeration products, but the evidence shows that compaction is mostly in the top 4" of the ground, thus reducing the need to go in too deep. For a healthy root zone, able to support root growth and therefore healthy vigorous plants, there must be air. The ability to fracture compacted ground just below the surface using compressed air delivered by micro tines, without disturbing the surface levels, is a great step forward".
To quote Martyn Jones, "Standard solid tining can help increase surface drainage, but will more often than not, destroy the macropores surrounding the tine penetration. This in turn decreases the soil aeration potential. The Aer-Aid actually increases the surrounding macropores allowing oxygen to be readily taken up by the plant roots and soil microbes. When this is achieved, rooting can be more extensive, beneficial soil microbes will become more active and organic matter decomposition can be rapid. Consequently nutrients bound within the organic complexes are released and turfgrass plants are healthier. Irrigation becomes more efficient and 'black layer' is avoided".
William continued, "We are also proud to say that once all the testing is complete, and we're happy with a new product, we endeavour to source all our main parts through British companies, in most cases local concerns. We have an excellent buying department that maintains quality throughout. We listen carefully to the end user, which is absolutely essential to ensure continual product improvement. Over the last twenty years, we have revisited every machine we produce, making improvements wherever possible".
SISIS produce more than 60 items of machinery for most turf maintenance tasks, including a dozen different aerators; 7 brushes; 6 scarifiers; 3 top-dressers. Without doubt their most popular and best selling machines have been: -
The Hydromain, which was introduced in 1981 (a complete turf maintenance system on a specially designed tractor unit)
The Rotorake (above)
The Veemo tractor mounted scarifier
Examples of close co-operation with the customer include the development of the 'Truplay' system, which came about from working with Cheshire County Council who had a number of Redgra all weather pitches to maintain. They wanted something that could tilth, level, and consolidate the surface in one pass. From the original Truplay design came the Twin and Quadra play systems, where multiple operations again can be performed in one pass.
The Litamisa was developed from the original design of a Groundsman and has become a very popular tractor mounted sweeper. Even now with the new Aer-Aid, the tines have been modified to suit the needs of the Millennium Stadium and their modular pitch.
To survive in a competitive world, it's essential that companies look at long-term strategies and invest in developing future products that the industry needs. A good example of this has been the growth in the provision of artificial playing surface care in recent years, particularly the new 3rd generation synthetic carpets that require effective maintenance regimes to prolong the life of the carpet. This has led to the development of a range of brushes , sweepers and top-dressers for maintaining these surfaces.
One of the greatest challenges facing all manufacturers is the Health & Safety (H&S) legislation. SISIS have modified and developed their machinery products over the years to accommodate H&S requirements such as: -
Reduction of vibration and noise
Improved manual handling
Improved operator safety
The company has also been innovative and resourceful in developing products to suit the users. This can be seen in some of the bowling green equipment, where for example, they have tailored the weight, size and manoeuvrability of the Dart vertical aerator to be more user friendly to operators, who are often, more mature in their years. The Auto-Outfield Spiker now has a spring-assisted system (cantilever) to make the operation of turning much easier.
Joint Managing Director Roger Hargreaves said, "We are a product led company. Getting paid is important, but product efficiency and reliability is more important. Quality products and after sales service is something we believe in strongly. There is no point in making a sale and moving on. We want to retain that customer for years to come. One of the ways to do that is to provide excellent customer service. Our backup service includes offering extended warranties/guarantees on all our products, providing an efficient spares and servicing department and encouraging end user education and training needs. A fifth of our turnover is from spare parts and service, and with around 90% of spare parts sent out on next day delivery, we aim to keep our customers happy. We hold all major parts in stock, and for 10 years after any machine has ceased production spares remain available"."We believe that having happy customers is the key to achieving long-term success."