John O'Conner draws a new line in the sand for superb customer service
The investment in Rigby Taylor’s TinyLineMarker (TLM) robotic line marking machine by John O’Conner (Grounds Maintenance) will not only enable the company to further improve the effectiveness of its already high levels of customer service but this new, technological approach to sports field marking will also enable the firm to reduce the human resource, time, water usage and carbon footprint of its traditional line marking operations.
According to managing director Matt O’Conner: “Delivery of service is crucial to the ongoing success of our business, which is always looking to take things forward to the benefit of customers.”
TLM, he says, will generate rewards in every aspect of line marking by enabling the company to:
- Save time on the initial marking of pitches and athletic sports’ lines – for example, taking just 30 minutes instead of 90 minutes to initial mark a full-size football pitch, and 1.5 hours instead of up to three-quarters of a day for an athletics track;
- Save on paint costs since TLM, which uses 10-litre drums of Rigby Taylor’s award-winning Impact paint, will line mark a standard-size football pitch with just 1.1 litres of Impact;
- Use a lot less water – the ready-mixed Impact paint means there’s no mixing and no potential water loss; and
- Deliver the service with just one operative and a small van – compared to two operatives (with all the associated tools) and a larger (3.5 tonne) vehicle, so the savings in human resources will be complemented by a smaller carbon footprint for the service in terms of transport/fuel requirements.
“In addition, because everything with TLM is ‘computerised’ with the operator ‘programming’ TLM via a user-friendly tablet to produce precisely-positioned lines, the software also allows for clients to make subtle but sometimes important changes to the positioning of certain lines – for instance, ‘inserting’ training grids alongside running tracks. This means we can ‘tweak’ the line marking to satisfy our clients’ every need in terms of additional line marking, and that can only further improve customer satisfaction levels.”
Initially aimed at football pitches (any length/width), and rugby union and league pitches as well as multi-lane athletic tracks, tennis, lacrosse and American football pitches, TLM can also mark bespoke shapes which are often required for some smaller locations and events such as school sports days.
Indeed, John O’Conner’s contracts for line marking rugby and football pitches are complemented by applications including marking rounders pitches and athletics tracks (200, 400 and 800 metres) as well as javelin and discus grids.
TLM utilises the latest GPS technology with RTK receiver and antenna that connects with global satellites and mobile network connections. It takes the input of pitch line dimensions and multiple pitches via an App and re-positions them to best fit the site using Google Maps. Once stored, the lines are never lost, even if they disappear if a pitch is not used for any length of time. “This means we can save money for customers since we will not be overmarking for the sake of it,” says Matt O’Conner.
He adds: “It’s a similar argument for the use of Rigby Taylor’s award-winning ready-mixed Impact paint. Impact may cost more per tub, but we get brighter and longer-lasting lines so, the cost is lower on a line-for-line basis.” With Impact, operators have no contact with the paint as a flow tube is simply inserted into the paint container.
John O’Conner’s investment in TLM was carefully considered – as is every investment decision made by the company which, during its 50-year history, has grown to become one of the most successful grounds contractors in the country. It enjoys an £18 million turnover from groundscare contracts (as well as tree work and landscaping, for example) with local authorities and schools, in particular, as well as with housing associations, private sports clubs and business parks. The company employs 550 people and it targets to have up to 5% of that number as apprentices/trainees.
Indeed, testimony to its efficacy as an employer and its support for apprenticeships is the fact that in recent years especially it has been recognised with a number of industry accolades, including BALI and National Apprenticeship Awards.
Matt O’Conner explains that the progress of robotic line marking has been monitored closely in recent years by the company and, along with his contracts manager Brian Bunney and senior contracts project manager Paul Miller, “in 2019 we felt that Rigby Taylor’s TLM was proven technology that warranted our investment; it is a machine that would particularly also enable us to ease the line marking bottlenecks that occur twice a year with the transition of winter/summer and summer/winter sports”.
He adds: “It has proven a wise decision since we’ve had fantastic back-up and support from Rigby Taylor during a period when we took our time with the technology to program the initial marking of dozens of pitches in a selected area/customer base covering Hertfordshire County Council schools as well as St Albans City & District and Hertsmere Borough Council parks.” The company works at more than 100 schools, each with multiple pitches, in Hertfordshire alone.
“Importantly, our established line marking operative – a person with many years’ experience of ‘traditional’ line marking – took to TLM like a duck to water, which proves the user-friendliness of the system.”
After using TLM to initial mark pitches/sites throughout the Hertfordshire region, John O’Conner will now roll out the technology across its extensive customer base which extends from Scotland to the Isle of Wight.