The Blue Monster has hosted PGA Tour events for over 40 years. Past winners include names like Nicklaus, Trevino and Norman. This past weekend was no different, with the course hosting the World Golf Championships – CA Championship. After the Event I caught up with John Patterson, Fleet Manager of Doral Resort. I asked John to give me some insight to the equipment preparation and daily routine to put on a Tournament of this caliber…
When does course preparation begin for the event? (Aerifying, topdressing, verticutting etc.)
At our Friday staff meeting following the tournament we debrief and add any notes to the setup book for the following years’ event, so you could say it begins there. We are constantly evaluating the course and any notable changes to the course are first communicated to the PGA representatives. Cultural practices for Tees, Collars, Approaches Fairways and Greens are performed in the summer months. Greens get a light “dusting” topdressing on the Monday before tournament. Course preparation begins in earnest eight weeks before the event.
Is the course closed to play for the prep work?
The Blue Monster sees over 52,000 rounds a year, so the course only closes for one week prior to the event. The majority of prep is accomplished during play.
Are any special preparations done for the driving range?
We close the upper tier of the range tee for several weeks prior to the event to heal. The driving range tee is overseeded every year with Perennial Ryegrass.
What is the normal height of cut for the different areas of the course?
Rough: 2-1/2”, Intermediate Rough: 1”, Tees and Fairways: .500”, Collars and Approaches: .400”, Greens: .120”.
Are any of these changed for the event?
Roughs are allowed to grow up to 3”, then we go out the week before tournament and just even out the lumps and top the seed heads with rotary mowers set to 3-1/2”. In the weeks leading up to the event the Collars are lowered to .300”. Greens are lowered just enough to get the speed the PGA wants while maintaining plant health during the event, usually .090”-.100”
 Do you always follow PGA recommendations?
Generally speaking, yes. It’s our opinion here at Doral that it is their show, after all. There are some animated discussions at times, though.
What types of grasses are on the course?
Brand new TifEagle Bermuda Greens this year (not overseeded), 419 Bermuda on all other surfaces, Tees overseeded with Perennial Ryegrass.

When do you begin equipment prep work for the event? (Changing HOC, grinding reels, new bedknives etc.)
I basically work backwards from tournament Sunday for budgeting time and money. Everything on the course is fresh ground with new knives two months ahead of the event. Roughs are ground again one month before the event, but this is more for after the tournament, as we let the Rough grow. Fairways get a light grind bi-weekly, scheduled so the last mower is finished by Tuesday of tournament week. Tees/Collars/Approaches are ground weekly, then usually Monday, Wednesday and Friday of tournament week. Greens mowers are always looked at every day of the year (Except Christmas day). HOC changes are made very gradually over the eight weeks prior to the event.
Seeing as there is a Pro-Am and other events earlier in the week prior to the actual Tournament, when do you REALLY need to have the course ready?
Well, beginning this year it is a WGC event, The CA Championship, so the field is set. There is no cut or Pro-Am. We are REALLY ready for the tournament at 0700 EST on tournament Thursday. There are always last-minute things which need attention, no matter how much planning you’ve done – Murphy always makes an appearance!
Are any equipment manufacturers or distributors involved in helping out for the tournament? What do they do?
Jacobsen had their tournament support staff here for the event and brought the big trailer with a full-dress Cushman vehicle (Generator, air compressor, hose reel, work lights.), satellite T.V. for the crew to watch the event, and a large gas-fired barbeque grill. The crew loved it! Gary Kuhl and Vollie Carr from Jacobsen are a welcome addition to any staff, as they have many years experience (Gary is a multi talented factory-level technician and Vollie has over 25 years in at the Masters). Having their eyes and talent on board is a great benefit, whether it’s actually put to use or not. Luckily there wasn’t much for them to do at the shop other than cook lunch for the crew, share “war stories” and talk about new technology. We did demo the new Eclipse mower while they were here and I was impressed with the unit. Our local Toro distributor, Hector Turf, donated the walking Tee Mowers used for the tournament and Hector has always been great at providing anything we need. Toro sales and service personnel were also here on each day of the event to check on us (And the Jacobsen guys, I’m sure!). Much to their credit, everyone behaved as consummate professionals while here. As Gary puts it: “Come tournament time, it doesn’t matter what color it is, it’s all just iron out there”.
What type of grinders do you have?
Bernhard Express Dual and Anglemaster 3000, and Foley 650 and 670.
Are the reels ground each day of the event?
No. Greens/Tees/Collars/Approaches are typically ground Monday, Wednesday and Friday of tournament week, depending on what we see when they come off the course. I let the mowers tell me what they need rather than grind on a set schedule. Each cutting unit is inspected after use and I believe in the saying “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”.

How about bedknives, are they also ground or faced?
See above. Everything is as-needed. We perform as many inspections as necessary (with multiple sets of eyes) to ensure as close to perfect operation as possible, but if it cuts, is square and adjusted properly, going through the teardown/buildup process is allowing room for mistakes and accidents which is not justified in my opinion. This year the bedknives of the Tee/Collar/Approach mowers were faced .010” on Friday. Greens mower bedknives were ground to my specs when they were installed on Monday, then ground Wednesday, Friday and Saturday and a total of .006” was ground from the top face and .012” was ground from the front face; just enough to maintain a .045” front face.
Do you do any preventative spraying for disease before the event; who preps the sprayers?
I am not aware of the specific tank mixes, but the sprayers do go out the week before tournament and we do P.M. and repair work on them as necessary. The I.P.M. Technicians are responsible for sprayer calibrations and changing sprayer tips.
What types of mowers and how many are used in the daily operation for the tournament?
We use primarily Toro equipment on the Blue Monster. Roughs are topped with a 4700-D and 328-D rotaries, Intermediate Rough is cut with three 2000-D trim mowers, Fairways are cut with four 6500-Ds, Tees are cut with six GM 1600 walk mowers, Collars are cut with two GM 1000 walk mowers, Approaches and Par Three Fairways are cut with four GM 3250-D triplex mowers, and Greens are cut with six GM 1000 walk mowers.
Is the routing of the equipment during the Tournament the same as a normal day?
Well, it varies because Thursday and Friday the players go off the front and back, but Saturday and Sunday they all go off the first tee. So yes, we do different routings, but they are no different than if we had a shotgun on the course (which happens often, so we’re used to changing things up).
Do you use Tournament or Micro bedknives on the walkers?
Greens mowers? Micro.
Are all the clippings removed from the course during the Tournament? How is that accomplished?
Clippings are collected from everything except the Par 4 and 5 Fairways. Collection carts meet the mowers at each hole and the baskets are emptied directly into the carts for transport to our horticultural waste area. Par 4 and 5 Fairways are dew whipped after the morning mowing.
Are bunkers hand raked, or do you use machines?
Both. Fairway bunkers are spun with a machine first, then finished by hand. Green side bunkers are done by hand.
Are any maintenance practices for the event different from the normal routine? (Double cutting, rolling greens, grooming etc.)
Besides allowing the Rough to grow, we begin “burning in” the Fairway and Approach stripes two months before the tournament by mowing the same direction. Tees are walk mowed beginning two weeks before the tournament and they stripe well because of the overseed. The Greens mowing seems to be different every year, but this year especially because of the new TifEagle grass and no overseed vs. the old overseeded Tifdwarf Greens. We do cut and roll more than any other time of the year.
Do you do any mowing after the last player is off the course in the afternoon or do you begin the following morning?
We mow everything twice a day during the tournament. Equipment is staged at strategic locations adjacent to #1 and #10 so we can begin as soon as the last pair is out of earshot.
How much time is there in the morning between the last piece of equipment off the course and the first tee time?
In this format we stay well ahead of play. Greens mowers are in at least an hour ahead of the first tee time, but Fairway mowers are usually just getting off the course when the first players tee off.
At any given time during the Tournament, how many guys might we find in the shop prepping equipment for the next day?
Four to six. At tournament time we team up people to have everybody double-checking each other’s work (myself included). We are all dead tired, so it is the best to have as many eyes looking at things as possible.
Having four other courses on the property gives you the ability to tap into multiple resources.  Do you have extra equipment already prepped and ready in case of an emergency, and do you access it only if the need arises?
Yes, and yes. We have three Fairway mowers, multiple triplex mowers, vehicles and walk mowers on standby.
Walk us through a typical Tournament day; the time you get there, any equipment prep, the time needed to complete each mowing task etc…to the time you leave.
0430:   Arrive and open shop. Make coffee.
0445:  Oversee equipment hook-up. No dropped trailers.
0500:  Attend Associate pep-rally and morning labor assignment meeting.
0515:  Top-up coffee. Go out on course to observe equipment operation.
0630:  Meet Superintendent on first Green to check speed and discuss. Superintendent talks it over with PGA representative via telephone so nobody can hear the conversation (Shhh!).
0645:  Continue checking machine operation.
0700:  Back to shop for coffee exchange. Meet with Jacobsen Technicians.

0730:  Meet with PGA Agronomist and company Superintendents, Directors and Vice Presidents on the Putting Green to discuss course conditions and any issues or concerns for the day’s round. Make lots of notes. Get Starbucks coffee from the resort. Tell some people who call I can’t get them tickets.
0830:   Back to the shop to check equipment. Evaluate mowers and determine the day’s maintenance requirements for each group. Assist technicians with various tasks.
0930:   Make coffee. Open office and check e-mails. Breathe. Relax. Think.
1000:   Ride the course and walk #9 and #18 Greens. Make notes. Think. Make more notes. Pick up some tickets from the Tournament Office.
1030:   Back to shop for coffee exchange. Check cutting unit maintenance. Share and compare notes with Shop Supervisor. Meet with Toro representatives.
1100:   Lunch. Visit with Jacobsen technicians and share “war stories”. Attend Associate pep-rally and afternoon labor assignment meeting.
1200:  Watch a little golf. Soak it in.
1300:  Back to shop to help with machine maintenance and one or two repairs.
1400:   Visit with some people who stop by for their tickets.
1500:   Back to the shop to check equipment going out. Repair low tire.
1530:   Repair a vehicle for the Tournament Office.
1600:   Make coffee. Check e-mail. Think. Say goodbye and thank you to the people not staying for evening checkouts. Go back on course to check Fairway mowers.
1630:   Meet Superintendent on first green to discuss conditions and mowers. We don’t tell anybody specifics of what we talk about (Shhh!).
16:45: Meet with Jacobsen technicians. Talk shop. Drink coffee.
1730:   Check a Fairway mower with an issue. Make the call to swap it out for another machine. Return to shop to diagnose and repair the machine.
1900:   Check Greens mowers and determine maintenance needed.
1915:   Call my wife to say goodnight to her and my 15 month old son, who have gone to her mother’s for the weekend. She points out a couple of flaws she saw on T.V. and I tell her I love her anyway. She laughs.
1930:  Back to the shop to check progress and assist with mower checks and adjustments. Thank everyone profusely for their dedication and hard work. Shake hands and slap backs. Send them home.
2100:   Shut down the shop. Stare at things and think. Shut down the office. Prep the coffee pot for the following day.
2130:   Go home. Seventeen hours is about right. There are always some variances, but that’s the gist of it.
When on Sunday can you finally call it “a wrap” and relax?
I start to unwind when I see the Greens mowers come in on Sunday. I watch almost the entire final round, and then can really start to relax when I see the last put drop on 18 and I know there won’t be a playoff. I have to help rake bunkers if there is...
Making 1 new piece of equipment is a task; making a totally new fairway line is a daunting job in the least. To find out more I went to Don Lackner, Sr. Engineering Manager; and Tony Ferguson, Sr. Marketing Manager from Toro.

Q. When did Toro first decide to create the 5010 series fairway line?

A. Toro began to work on the Reelmaster 5010 series products about three years ago. We conducted market research with many superintendents, operators and technicians to determine what problems they were having and what could be made better with the new mowers.

Q. What factors were involved in the decision; upgrading components in the traction unit, the reels?

A. Our goal was to provide a solution that was easy to use, affordable and provided the superior quality of cut and aftercut appearance. Primarily we focused on the customer. We didn’t compromise by simply upgrading the cutting units we already had, we started fresh and implemented the latest technology. For the cutting units, we knew that the Toro Greensmaster DPA cutting units were far superior to competitive units, we were able to carry over that concept to the new 5010 series fairway mowers. A major influence was seeing how often QOC problems were the result of incorrectly adjusted reels; especially rollers out of plane (either came out of adjustment or never were properly adjusted). This could be the result of many factors, one of which is a complicated adjustment process. It was a major reason for selecting the design we have which is easy to adjust and holds its adjustment.

Q. How does the process begin? Does everyone get together and write down what you want to accomplish?

A. The process is driven by the customer. Marketing’s job is to understand the need, issues and concerns expressed by customers and communicate those to engineering. Engineering is involved with the early stages of the project because we like to have engineers who are well acquainted with customer needs in order to make better decisions. The key is to develop prototypes throughout the process and go back to customers to verify that they value the features we develop and their concerns are addressed. Their input is gathered for implementation. We do write a Customer Specification Document that is used to determine the Design Specifications and the Test Plan. We test the product to the Customer Specifications to ensure that we are meeting the needs.

Q. In the end, what were the goals that were set for the new fairway line?

A. In general, we set out to design, test and build a product that would meet or exceed customer needs without having any weaknesses to competition. I’m proud of what our team has accomplished.

Here are the key features and benefits that we are able to provide to our customers.

 Low Compaction with High Productivity
The new Reelmaster mowers’ optimized design and use of lightweight materials means less weight and turf compaction without sacrificing performance and functionality.
We trimmed unnecessary weight so the mower would have a lighter footprint on the turf. The result is a highly productive 100” width of cut with less compaction and turf abrasion. 

 Superior Quality of Cut and Impressive Aftercut Appearance
The newly designed Dual Precision Adjustment (DPA) cutting units are based on the highly successful greens mower DPA cutting unit concept. Optimized cutting unit features provide more precise adjustments and longer edge retention, which produces a clean crisp cut and healthier turfgrass. Optimized traction unit design features provide lighter weight machines and a high performance cutting unit suspension system, which leads to less turf abrasion and damage and a more consistent cut. A full line of accessories enhances grass preparation, cutting, clipping dispersion, and collection for superior cutting management and customer satisfaction. Accessories were designed at the same time as the cutting unit – not an afterthought.

 Exceptional Operator Comfort and Ease of Use
The newly designed traction unit features provide operators with ergonomic adjustments, comforts, and placements, which leads to less operator fatigue and a more productive and efficient mowing experience. Innovative design features result in quicker set-up times, fewer adjustments, and intuitive controls for quicker operator training and convenience. This results in more consistent performance across varying workforce experience levels.

 Reduced Simplified Maintenance
Improved access to routine service points and service components, along with a robust machine design, results in less frequent maintenance intervals and less time required to perform maintenance tasks. This leads to higher machine and operator productivity and allows mechanics to be more efficient.

Q. When it comes to delegating areas of responsibility for a project; do you “draw straws” or does everyone have their own expertise and they get assigned to that?
A. The selection process is based on availability and expertise. The product development team has one or more representatives from each area of discipline. We will draw on additional resources as required.

Q. How many different engineers were involved in the project?

A. There was a group of core engineers and a support team who contributed to the project as required.

Q. What special engineering software do you use?

A. ProEngineer.

Q. How long did it take from the first “creation meeting” until the first machine rolled off the line in Tomah?

A. Depending on the size of the project this can be a two to three year process.

Q. Did you gain any insight on anything from the testing and the feedback from that; and were any changes made as a result?

A. These products were tested extensively at each phase of the development process. Numerous design changes were made based on testing and customer feedback.

For example, after dialing in the desired mowing performance on each grass type, we noticed the wheel tracks were detracting from the aftercut turf appearance. There was a 3” gap between the front and rear tires causing a line in the turf. Based on that testing observation, we stretched the rear axle to allow the tire tracks to abut and eliminated the line. This allowed us to enhance the aftercut appearance to provide a more visually appealing result.

Q. What difference is there in the hydraulic pump compared to the 5000 series line?

A. We are using a newly developed Sauer pump so we can benefit from their latest technology.

Q. Explain the new “CrossTrax” 4wd system and how it differs from the current system on the 5000 series line.

A. The CrossTrax™ all-wheel drive system transfers power from the front tires to the opposite rear tire resulting in improved traction on slopes and undulations, even when wet. Essentially, the unit would have to spin a front tire and the opposite rear in order to get stuck. This is virtually impossible to do.

Q. What changes were made to the down pressure of the reels?

A. We were able to eliminate the down pressure springs on the cutting units and still provide a cutting unit that would conform to the undulations of the fairway. The down pressure spring could exert up to 40 pounds of additional weight onto the turf. That means that the new 5010 series has less turf abrasion due to reduced cutting unit weight/pressure.

Q. You’ve moved the traction speed control from the steering tower to the traction pedal. Is this operator-proof so they can’t tamper with it?

A. A couple wrenches are required to change the mowing speed setting. The idea is to prevent the operator from mowing faster than the superintendent has specified. This is to avoid poor mowing performance by overrunning the clip rate setting. Also, the cutting units will not lower or turn on if the speed control is not in place. As long as the operator doesn’t have access to the toolbox, they cannot change the setting.

Q. What is the average weight difference per reel, compared to a comparably equipped older 4-bolt version?

A. The new DPA reels are only a few pounds lighter. We have used aluminum and composite materials to develop the lightest cutting unit possible without giving up durability.

Q. Are all the reel and roller bearings on these sealed and non-greaseable as in the triplex DPA units?

A. In more demanding application/environment of fairways and roughs, we were not confident in the life expectancy of non-greaseable bearings. In order to ensure customer satisfaction, we have designed in greaseable bearings. We use the same bearing and seal package that has worked very well on the current 7” diameter cutting units used on the Reelmaster 5500, 6500 and 6700.

Q. What type rollers are available for these reels?

A. We have the standard Wiehle rollers as well as full and shouldered rollers. For the rear of the 5” diameter cutting unit, we have a shorter roller as standard. This has proven to eliminate the double roll mark on turf to give improve aftercut appearance in cool season grasses. The 7” diameter has a standard length roller, which performs better in the warm season grasses. The front and rear rollers are interchangeable on all cutting units.

Q. With the groomer and rear roller brush installed, are all the grease zerks accessible?

A. Absolutely.

Q. You now have DPA reels for greens walkers, triplexes, and now on this fairway line. Will we be seeing DPA reels in the future on RM 2000 series trim mowers and 6000 series fairway mowers? RM 3100?

A. Our plan is to implement the DPA cutting units on the Reelmaster 6000 series units early next year.

Q. Can the other 8 hole bedknives currently available be used on these reels?

A. The bedknives from the RM6000 series can be used, however they are slightly narrower and will change the cutting unit aggressiveness. We have four new bedknife options for the RM5010 series and we recommend using those for the 5010 series units.

Q. I know the bedknives are made of a harder steel; how about the reels?

A. The EdgeMax™ bedknives have a leading edge of harder tool steel material. These are standard on all the units. The reel blades are also made from a harder material and are hardened using the superior austempering process. This is the same process we have used for Greensmasters for years. The combination of harder materials provides up to three times longer edge retention thereby reducing the frequency of adjustments, grinding and backlapping.

Q. Can they both be ground using the current stones in our grinders?

A. Yes. There is a recommendation to dress the stone more frequently.

Q. When did you come up with the idea for the EdgeMax bedknife; and how long did it take to get it figured out?

A. This was early in the program in response to customers telling us how much they would like to reduce the amount of time they spend working on the cutting units. It took a couple tries to get it right, but it worth it to provide a superior product and mowing result.

Q. How did you get the tool steel imbedded in the landing area of the bedknife?
A. Sorry, this is a proprietary process.

Q. Will you eventually offer the EdgeMax for the RM2000, RM3100 and RM4000?

A. We have plans to carry EdgeMax technology to the rest of our product line.

Q. Have you done any extensive testing with the EdgeMax on Zoyzia and Paspalum for longevity of sharpness?

A. Yes. As you know these are tough grasses to mow due to the thicker stems. And the silica in the grass blades can wear knives more quickly. We have tested these mowers on every grass type. We are confident that the DPA cutting units will outperform current cutting units on the market.

Q. Will the 5000 series fairway line be phased out; and if so, how soon?

A. The Reelmaster 5000 series will be discontinued by the end of 2006.

Q. Will Toro U be offering a timeslot this winter for the new fairway line?

A. Yes. This is one of the many new products that we will feature at Toro U.

Nestled in a farming community of 3,700 in South-Central Wisconsin lies one of the major underpinnings of John Deere’s Golf & Turf division. Encompassing 214 acres and employing up to 1700 people, with a long and rich history of providing equipment for the consumer, agriculture and the golf & turf industry is John Deere Horicon Works.

Originally a grain drill company built and owned by George and Daniel Van Brunt in the early 1860’s, JD bought them out in 1911. In 1958 the name was changed to John Deere Horicon Works. In 1963 the first lawn tractor rolled off the assembly line and recently they passed the 5 million mark for lawn tractor production. From 1971 to 1984 snowmobiles were made here; that segment was then sold to Polaris. In the late 1980’s the facility came under the umbrella of the Commercial and Consumer Equipment division, where it remains today. In 1991 the “Reel Cell” was created, consolidating the manufacturing and assembly of all reels, reel cutting units and the green and tee walkers.

I had the chance to tour the facility with my host Dick Thier from Engineering and Jerry Hagen, who recently retired after 32 years here. Jerry gives the tours probably because he’s one of the few around who knows every square inch of the 214 acres, as well as what went on in every nook and cranny of the facility for the last 32 years. Today was a “slow” day by their standards; the busy time usually runs from January to July.

The Reel Cell

As a separate area of the plant created in 1991, the first reel was made in late ’91-early ’92. The only thing on the reel itself that is outsourced is the center shaft. The machining of the center shaft ends, stamping of the spiders, and the reel blades themselves are all done in-house; as well as the robotic welding and heat treating of the reels. The welded and cast bedbars are machined by an outside supplier, but the bedknife / bedbar assemblies are finish ground here. The rollers are done in-house. The 18, 22 and 26 inch walkers are completely assembled here, as well as all the cutting units for the triplex and fairway mowers. The reels and bedknives are both ground prior to cutting unit assembly. The cutting units are then shipped to JD Turf Care in Fuquay-Varina, NC to be shipped with the traction units made there.


They use an electrostatic powder paint process which includes a “dip” or submersion in a bath. I was happy to see that. After working on various makes of equipment over the years, I found “if you just spray and bake; it’s going to flake”. Paint coming off in sheets on a cutting unit or deck. The submersion bath is the key. They’ve got 9 miles of overhead track carrying parts on racks through the painting process, which takes 8 hours from start to finish. For the hard to reach places on some parts, a robot is there to spray those areas; programmed for the specific part that’s in front of it.

A Pressing Matter

Or as the rock group Queen would say…”Under Pressure”. Besides making all the decks for the lawn tractors, all the 7 IronII™ decks for Commercial and G&T are made here. The “7” refers to the 7 gauge steel used in the deck; it’s the thickest currently being used by the Big Three for rotary decks. These decks are pressed out in one piece. The only welds are for brackets for the anti-scalp rollers on the outside and the baffle chamber on the inside. It’s a safe bet that they have the biggest, baddest press in the golf industry. It stands 3 stories tall and has 2,000 ton capacity. That’s 4 million pounds of force. And you might want to schedule your vacation for when you change the hydraulic fluid; the hyd. tank holds 4,000 gallons.

On The Line

Besides the reels, cutting units and walkers, the X300, X500 and X700 series tractors for the consumer market are also made here; as well as the compact and heavy duty Gator™ Utility Vehicles with gas and diesel engines. Even though they may be the “new kid on the block” in the golf industry, their 100+ years experience with manufacturing is very evident. They have AGV’s and AGC’s (auto-guided vehicles and carts) that roam the facility. AGV’s have been in the auto industry for quite a while, but this is the first time in my visits to three different manufacturing plants in the golf industry I’ve seen them used. The vehicles are all electric and follow a wire buried in the floor. They pull up to a conveyor belt loaded with pallets of parts, the conveyor loads the pallet onto it, and it takes off on it’s merry way headed to the station on the line where the parts will be used. I watched one pull up to a conveyor, get it’s parts, get on an elevator, go down 1 level, and head off to a station on a line there. If they have no further job assignments, they head back to their staging area or “corral” to await further instructions or get plugged in for a recharge. There are still forklifts, just a lot less of them. The main aisles are as wide as they were before to handle any forklift traffic; these things run next to the aisle like in a “carpool” lane. As one line was getting ready to start, I saw a whole bunch of the AGC’s appear out of nowhere; lining up with the same distance between them and each carrying a complete rear end assembly; all headed to the same station on the line. The first time you see these things; you just stop and stare.

Each station on the line has a 19” LCD screen which shows the assembly area for that station; listing the part numbers, their location, and the assembly sequence if needed. Those stations that perform multiple tasks have touch-screen capability to change menus.

All the air ratchets are calibrated to a specified torque; some stations can have 6 to 8 of them hanging down. In each air line for each ratchet there is an electro/pneumatic sensor that detects how many times the ratchet was used, if at all. If something doesn’t match up with the number of ratchets used or the number of times a specific one was used, the station automatically locks itself down and the unit being assembled cannot move forward to the next station until the problem is corrected.

All engines are run and tested on the line to make sure everything is working OK, both gas and diesel. Diesels are left with about a gallon in the tank so they don’t have to be bled after purchase. For the gas engines an auxiliary fuel line is hooked up directly to the carburetor for starting. Jerry says they use a type of aviation gas in the engines so that when the fuel line is disconnected and the engine runs until it dies, any residual aviation fuel in the carburetor evaporates quickly and leaves no deposits.

Just in Time

John Deere and many others in the business of manufacturing products use the “Just in Time” model for stocking parts and their availability to the assembly lines. It is what it says. Parts arrive from vendors just in time to be used; usually a few days in advance. This eliminates the need for a massive warehouse and it’s associated maintenance costs; as well as having excessive inventory that’s just sitting around off the books.

The Horicon Works really knows how to put this model to the test. Remember I said this was a slow day? Jerry showed me one assembly line where they have the capability when fully manned to turn out over 400 lawn tractors per shift…about 1 every minute. There are lines making other tractors, Gators, cutting units, walkers and reels at the same time. In the picture you can see a bridge across some water and a road cutting through the facility. That’s Main St. in town. To eliminate the problems of dealing with traffic and the weather(we do have winter in Wisconsin) they have a tunnel running underneath Main St. so they can shuttle parts and product back and forth seamlessly. It takes a well coordinated effort to keep the parts moving.

They may be the new kid on the block, but they’ve grown up quickly.

GIS 2015 San Antonio