Picking up ideas for tackling equipment maintenance is a key part of the learning experience for those working their way through the ranks. Efficiency and organization are as important in the maintenance shop as they are out on the field. Networking is such a strong part of this industry. That some of the best management practices are those shared through visits to other facilities, seminar presentations, group and one-on-one conversations and magazine articles.

Tom Nielsen uses pegboard to organizemany of the long-handled tools used forfield and landscape maintenance. A labelbeside each peg notes the specific tools thatshould be placed on it.

Equipment manufacturers, field personnel and regional equipment dealers are another resource for determining the mix of equipment that is most beneficial for specific applications and types of facilities.

Your own staff can provide information on how each machine operates on the field and what attachments, accessories or additional equipment would make their jobs more effective.

Tips for the shop

Many sports field managers conduct an end-of-season, or annual, review of the shop layout and overall equipment program to determine what would make operations more efficient and effective. Below are some tips they’ve shared.

• When mowers operate on different fields at the same site, line them up in the maintenance shop with the first to head out in the morning closest to the exit, then the second, then the third, etc.

• If mowers, field rakes and painting equipment are trucke­­d from site to site, have all machines cleaned and prepped for the next day after they come into the shop each night. Load each truck with the equipment and materials required for the next day’s work.

• Mark the hour reading for the next routine maintenance directly on the machine where it will be easily seen by the operator. Label makers that print on plastic with adhesive backing work well.

• Purchase three sets of blades for rotary mowers. Sharpen two sets of blades at a time so there will be one sharpened to put on the mower and a set ready to replace them. When the second set is replaced, sharpen the two used blades to be ready for the next cycle.

• Develop a system for machine operators to notify mechanics of any sounds, emissions or changes in operations that might signal a developing problem. Some sports field managers keep a notebook in a specific spot in the shop for this. Some keep a white board or chalkboard for these notes. Others post the information on a computer as e-mails to the mechanic or as entries to a specific site.

• Note the part number on the wall or shelf where replacement parts are stored so the same part is always in the same place. Include a number that signifies how many of that part should always be in stock as a notification point for ordering parts when more are needed.

• If small hand tools are hung on a pegboard, post a sign stating which tools should be placed on each peg, or paint an outline around them. That serves as a reminder to put them back after using them, and shows at a glance if any are missing.

• Keep small containers of paint on hand for quick touch-up of scratches or scrapes on the equipment discovered during daily cleanup.

• Determine the application rates most commonly used on seasonal equipment, such as topdressers and spreaders, and mark the proper settings and the rates they represent directly on the machine.

• Keep it clean. Neat, clean and organized should be the first impressions formed by those entering the shop and seeing the equipment, either as stored or in action on the fields.

The overall cleanliness, organization and wise use of space at theLouisville Bats Baseball Club reflects the attention to detail evidentin the field management program. Tom Nielsen, head groundskeeper for the Louisville Bats BaseballClub, shows the drawers used for storage marked with labels notingwhat is inside, and with the items within the drawers neatly arranged.

In-depth training

Investing in formal equipment maintenance training pays dividends, according to Mark Clay, a graduate of the Lake City Community College program. As sports fields and grounds manager for SMG/Jacksonville Jaguars in Jacksonville, Fla., he is responsible for the multiuse stadium field, three practice fields, and the grounds and landscaping around these facilities and two other city-owned properties. The stadium field is home to the NFL Jaguars was the site of Super Bowl XXXIX.

Clay says, “When I attended, there was a year of mechanics training before you got into the turf program. It covered small engines, hydraulics, diesel engines, all of the tools you’ll be using on a golf course or athletic field. It included the technical side of how things operate with lots of hands-on opportunities. What you did helped you get a grasp on what you’re going to face in the work world. At the end of that year, you had the option for on-the-job training or staying for the summer to attend the service schools conducted by the major golf and sports turf equipment manufacturers. I chose the service schools. If you completed either of those options, you got a certificate in golf course equipment mechanics, and could move on to a position in the industry or continue in the rest of the turf program.

Along with the overall cleanliness of the Astros’ shop, note the savvy use of space and thestaging and accessibility of the equipment.

“Along with the basics of equipment maintenance, you learn how to better understand the differences, both pro and con, of the machines you’re considering for purchase. You know what to look for and what questions to ask others in the field to better gauge equipment performance and durability. You’re more equipped to determine which equipment will best serve your specific program. Even if you never use a wrench again yourself, you and your program are better off because of the knowledge you’ve gained.

“You learn that keeping equipment properly maintained and serviced preserves its usability and its value. You also learn the importance of having some type of replacement plan in place. Part of that comes through good record keeping, tracking equipment maintenance and use details.Even the best maintained machine reaches the end of its use cycle. When you’ve tracked how many hours the machine has been used, and how many hours and how much money are going into its maintenance and repair, you’re better able to document why you need to replace it. You’ll also be able to show how an additional piece of equipment for the same task will extend the efficiency of your program. The cost-to-benefit analysis, backed up by your record keeping, helps justify those purchases.While gaining budget approval is always a challengeand doing more with less is the expectationdemonstrating need in black and white still makes an impact.