Golf Lessons

It’s an attitude that many shops could adopt. If you think of profit as being like par, is your shop best equipped to shoot over or under?

I live in Cincinnati. Here in the Midwest, summer is giving way to fall and all too soon—winter, which means golf season in this part of the country is coming to a close. There may be a few more rounds with the “leaf rule” in effect, but mostly, I’ll be storing my clubs until spring.

Like our industry, my golf game has been much better this year than in the past couple years. Maybe there’s a connection, maybe not. We have a league here at work, and this year I was in contention for first place until the very last round. I collapsed like Phil Mickelson at the U.S. Open, finishing second, but I’m still encouraged. Last year, I finished solidly in 12th place—dead last.

I’ve played golf since I was a kid. Back then, state of the art for me was a set of Sam Snead Blue Ridge woods (persimmon) and irons (blades), complete with leather grips on steel shafts. There was no perimeter weighting; these things had a sweet spot the size of a BB. The shag balls I could get my hands on, I ranked by surface integrity using dent, grin and broad smile as the gage. With the clubs available and the golf ball technology of the day, even if I started a round with a new ball, it would show signs of damage after a few holes.

Today, I think that golf has benefited from the technological innovation of its equipment perhaps more than any other sport. The tools available to golfers—better clubs, balls, grips and shafts—have helped players of all levels improve their consistency, scoring and enjoyment of the game.

I think it’s also fair to say that tools available to precision parts manufacturers in 2006 are significantly better, by most measures, than the tools available previously. While the object of the golf game has never changed—get the ball in the hole with the least strokes—virtually everything related to the object has changed. In production machining, the object has always been to make good parts, at the least cost and in the shortest time. Likewise, how most shops achieve their production machining objectives today is unrecognizable from a generation ago.

A question for both golfers and shops is “how much technology is needed to achieve the object of both exercises?” To the point, golfers like Tiger, Phil and Vijay use the most technologically advanced equipment available. These guys are so good at golf that they could easily shoot sub-par with my old Sam Snead clubs. So why try every new development to determine if it fits their game? The answer is simple—competitive edge.

Most golfers could use a persimmon wood driver and succeed in getting the ball down the fairway. However, put a 460cc Titanium, expanded sweet spot, graphite, extra-long shaft driver in their hands and virtually any duffer and all pros will drive the ball farther, straighter and more consistently than with the old technology. For pros, it’s not a matter of skills—they have them. Instead, it’s about trying new technologies to help them get more from those skills to achieve the object of the game.

Too many shops tend to want to hang onto the manufacturing equivalent of the persimmon driver. They have the skills to accomplish the machining objectives but hesitate to invest in new things.
In manufacturing, we all have access to state-of-the-art equipment. It may be a new cutting tool or holder. It may be a new software release that automates a previously manual programming step. It may be replacing an old machine tool with a faster, more productive one.

As I see it, the reason golf pros are open to new technology is because it can help them do their jobs better. Sometimes, the new club, ball or grip isn’t right for the golfer. However, golfers are always searching for anything that can help them better use their skills.

It’s an attitude that many shops could adopt. If you think of profit as being like par, is your shop best equipped to shoot over or under?