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Full steam ahead

Full steam ahead: Iseki UK was launched in 2017 into a rocky economic environment but with exactly the right man steering the ship. Two years on David Withers has proven his worth as a “Captain” and the company, now based in Ipswich, is making steady progress. 

“We are up on last year which is pretty good,” said David, in answer to the most obvious of opening questions – “How are you doing?”

Full steam ahead

“We are going to sell more this year and make less money and the reason for that has been the collapse in the value of the pound.

That’s even more of a problem for a company which brings in all of its goods from Germany and France – 80% Germany and 20% France,” revealed David, who returned to the UK following his time in the States as President and CEO of Jacobsen.

“The economy is not in great shape and causing a lot of uncertainty but the biggest single impact for us is that exchange rate.”

To highlight the point he added that the pound had devalued by 13% in the previous two months and that Iseki had recently been forced to increase its own prices by 3% to 5%.

“We are going to see inflationary pressures coming in and I don’t think that the economy is going to be strong enough for wages to keep up with inflation.”

Like so many other companies Iseki were prepared for the original Brexit timetable of March 31 and had brought in sufficient parts stock to ensure no issues over that period.

“Then it didn’t happen so, having had a good quarter one, when we were doing a lot to prepare, there was a hangover in quarter two and from April things never really got going.

Now we have prepared again and we are once more full of inventory,” said David, speaking a few weeks before the more recent October 31 Brexit date.

The company has secured additional warehouse space, through a relationship with one of the transport companies on the Ipswich Europark with which they share a postcode to cope over the period.

Any issue of delays at ports is not of huge concern to David, given the nature of the Iseki business.

“If our deliveries take an extra week to get through, it will be irritating but it’s not life-threatening,” was his pragmatic view.

As to the wider issue of ensuring the Iseki brand is available the length and breadth of the country the company is making real progress in bolstering its dealer network.

“What has really worked for us is that we have clarified in our minds what our distribution strategy should be. We find that for many of our dealers we are either the simplest and easiest product a dealer sells – because they also deal with combine harvesters or 500 horsepower tractors and forestry harvesters – and we are the lowest value product they sell.

“Conversely, for other dealers, we are at the upper end of their portfolio. They might be selling products like Mountfield, Honda and Stiga, but don’t have a diesel product other than ours. In these cases we are the most complicated product they sell.”

Many dealers, often classic garden dealers, have been asked if they would like to have a diesel offering in their portfolio.

“We are up to about 16 new dealers but we still have some gaps and we have space for another 30 or so.”

Having spent most of his more recent life at the top end of business life – prior to his time at Jacobsen he was Managing Director of Ransomes Jacobsen, based just down the road from his new home on that Ipswich Europark – he is enjoying building a new business from the beginning.

“I enjoy the closeness with the market, the customers and our staff whereas before there were layers between me and the other people.

That’s fun. But there are plusses and minuses. I find booking my own travel intensely irritating, as I’d never had to do that before,” he said with a smile.

Another area of potential expansion for the company may come on the back of that new dealer network.

“I look forward to the business growing and having more resource and ability to do things. For example one of the things you might see us doing over the next 12 months is bolt on additional products to our range.

“We have had a lot of people asking us if we could distribute for them. I didn’t want to do that to begin with as It was important to get Iseki moving, but now that we have all the infrastructure in place and our polices and procedures are in order we will look at it.

“It would be products of similar standard and reliability and that which are complementary to our own products.”

All forward thinking moves and proving once again that, when the seas become rough and the waves are high, having a capable Captain is so important.

New Wembley Pitch Ahead Of Euros

New Wembley Pitch Ahead Of Euros: The pitch at Wembley will be removed and completely replaced during next winter for the first time since 2010 in readiness for the 2020 European Championships, according to a report in The Times on 7 April.

The present Desso pitch was installed in June 2010 with an estimated life expectancy of ten years. Although selected areas of the pitch are relaid regularly throughout the season, the work planned for winter months involve the installation of a completely new hybrid pitch as Wembley is due to host seven matches of Euro 2020, including two semi-finals and the final.

New Wembley Pitch Ahead Of Euros

With the stadium due to host Ed Sheeran and Taylor Swift concerts this summer, the pitch installation is scheduled to take place over two weeks in November after a UEFA Nations League group game against Croatia.

The first match to be played on the new surface is likely to be the 2019 League Cup Final.

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Bright Future Ahead After SALTEX College Cup

Bright Future Ahead After SALTEX College Cup: The SALTEX College Cup returned to the NEC once again at this year’s event and highlighted just how well young grounds staff are academically prepared for careers in the industry.

The SALTEX College Cup, sponsored by Ransomes, is a national student-led sports-turf challenge. It is an academic test of turf management knowledge for student competitors who are enrolled at colleges throughout the UK on relevant courses of study.

Bright Future Ahead After SALTEX College Cup

Askham Bryan College, Bridgwater & Taunton College, Myerscough College and, last year’s winners, the College of Agriculture, Food and Rural Enterprise (CAFRE) Greenmount Campus competed for a chance to have its name engraved on the trophy in support of their respective turf programmes.

In teams of four, the colleges embarked on the two-hour competition consisting of paper-based multiple choice and short answer questions on turf management, plus a case study which required a more in-depth written answer. The students were also presented with live test samples in which they had to identify potential threats to the health of turf.

CAFRE, from Northern Ireland, claimed the top prize for the second year running although Askham Bryan were only one point behind in what was a closely fought competition between all of the colleges. CAFRE was awarded the trophy, a £500 cheque for the college’s turf department, and each student received a £50 Amazon voucher. The team was also presented with a prize that money can’t buy – the chance to get involved with pitch preparation at the 6 Nations, Scotland vs England, at BT Murrayfield Stadium.

Results were announced on the first day of SALTEX and CAFRE’s senior tutor, Paul Campbell, revealed his delight at picking up the trophy for a second successive year.

“A combination of excitement and disbelief ensued among the squad as they emulated the achievement of 2016 – particularly for team captain and rugby fan Michael Dundee as he realised he was on his way to BT Murrayfield – and he didn’t need a ticket!

Paul continued: “CAFRE staff and students fully support the concept of the SALTEX College Cup – it provides a forum for showcasing and acknowledging the skills of young people making a career in the industry and allows college staff to benchmark how their programmes are performing against other specialist colleges in the UK. The excellent organisation of the event, the generous sponsorship and the once-in-a-lifetime experience afforded to the winners will mean healthy competition for next year`s team and guarantees CAFRE will return to defend the title in 2018.”

Commenting on the sponsorship of the 2017 SALTEX College Cup, Ransomes senior director Alan Prickett said: “The SALTEX College Cup was another success this year, and we were delighted to have sponsored it for the second year running. Ransomes has a commitment to educating the next generation of groundscare professionals, and we aim to support this in a variety of different ways, including sponsoring the SALTEX College Cup competition. CAFRE, based in Northern Ireland were deserved winners again this year.

Congratulations to CAFRE and we look forward to seeing if the college can retain its title for a third time next year!”

For more information visit www.iogsaltex.com

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Williamwood Get Ahead With Terra Spike GXi8 HD

Williamwood Get Ahead With Terra Spike GXi8 HD: For several seasons Williamwood Golf Club had their sites set on a Wiedenmann Terra Spike GXi8 HD deep aerator. This autumn, a well subscribed winter membership initiative finally made it a reality for the Scottish course.

“Increased demand for winter play heightened the need to keep the course open,” said Course Manager, Gerry Bruen. “The Wiedenmann is our tool of choice to make that happen.”

Williamwood Get Ahead With Terra Spike GXi8 HD

The James Braid designed parkland course is nestled in the outskirts of south Glasgow.  Gerry Bruen and his team of five greenkeepers cope valiantly with above average rainfall to deliver a consistently high standard of surface.

“Everything about the GXi8 HD confirms how aerators have moved on. Set up takes minutes and not a morning. The depth and heave settings are tool free and can be set in seconds.  You just adjust them to suit the conditions on the day. The machine has several shock absorption systems so there’s no shock transfer to the operator or tractor. Basically it’s just getting the gearing and speed right and off you go.

“We’re out and back within the weather windows. Last year to do one of the wider fairways took a full day and a half.  Now it’s done thoroughly in less than one. Crucially our members are benefiting with less disruption.

“After nine weeks we’re almost two full months ahead of where we would be normally with prep for next season. We haven’t allocated extra time. Aeration for us has become an altogether smarter operation.

The 1.8 metre wide is Wiedenmann’s most popular Terra Spike, the access–all-areas status giving it the versatility to take tees, greens and fairways in its stride.

“Everywhere is scheduled for at least two passes before spring but key areas are earmarked for more. Never before could I have contemplated some of the fairways receiving three visits. In the coming months we will hollow core a few select spots to open the surface even further.”

Alan Jack, Area Sales Manager (West) for Fairways GM, Wiedenmann UK’s dealer in Scotland said:

“Gerry knew exactly what he wanted. The GXi8 HD had his name on it from the start so our involvement has been to help him and his team become familiar and use the machine to best effect. His team is powering through so next season he’ll really be able to see a difference especially to his fairways.”

For more information, visit: www.wiedenmann.co.uk

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