It is critical now more than ever in the game of bowling to verify your lane maintenance procedures on a daily basis. This simply means using your basic senses to ensure the lane machine that is being run has actually performed the task adequately. Why is this you may ask?
Simply put, the daily responsibility of lane maintenance has somewhat shifted away from the operator and directly to the lane machines that are currently being used. Many bowling centers have automated lane machines that move themselves or manual machines that are pre-programmed and the operator simply presses a button while the machine does all of the lane maintenance.
Just remember it is still the responsibility of the operator to ensure the machine has achieved what it was programmed to do. Just because the lane machine went down the lane and returned back to the foul line does not necessarily mean the lane has cleaned and conditioned properly.
Simply training your eyes, ears, and hands to focus on specific aspects of the lane machine as well as the lane surface will give you daily peace of mind and your customers will be more than satisfied with the end result.
If you utilize these simple tips every time you perform lane maintenance your customers will keep coming back for more. The thing that people look for the most in bowling is consistency, not high scoring. However high scoring inevitably evolves from consistency which means there is a way to give your customers both. Just spending an extra ten minutes per day will guarantee your customers satisfaction every time they come to your center to bowl.
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Sound, sight, and touch will prevent lane maintenance disasters that can occur when everything seems to be operating normally from a lane machine standpoint.
Listening to a lane machine while in operation is much like listening to your own personal vehicle every time you start it and proceed to drive. There are different types of noises within all mechanical things that will sound good, bad, or normal. The more you familiarize yourself with the equipment you are running, the quicker you will be able to tell when something is about to fail or already has. Most lane machines have error codes that will shut the machine down in certain situations, but there are a lot of things that can go wrong, and the machine will still appear to be working to the untrained operator.
A great starting point is for you to train yourself and your staff to hear the vacuum motor when the machine is going down the lane and when it turns on and off during operation. Familiarize yourself with the sound of the cleaner pump when the machine is in the cleaning mode. A conventional spray jet pump can have a faulty diaphragm and still spray cleaner, but there will be substantially less volume than what is needed. A peristaltic cleaner pump will change sound as the tubing starts to wear which is a sign that it needs to be changed.
Neither the vacuum motor nor the cleaner pump failing will prompt an error on the lane machine. It will continue to run every lane and you will not know there is a problem until the lanes are turned on for play and by then it will be too late.
Visually inspect the lane machine before every use to ensure there is enough lane conditioner, cleaner, and cloth to complete the number of lanes you need to run. If you are operating a battery lane machine, verify there is enough battery power to complete the total number of lanes that are going to be cleaned and conditioned.
Personally confirm that the program settings match the program sheet for the pattern that you will be applying and if applicable perform a volume check for the cleaner output and the oil output for the pattern in question. Proceed to enter the starting sequence to enable the lane machine. Start the lane machine and walk beside it as it travels down lane towards the pin deck.
Pay attention to the data that is displayed on the keypad such as drive speeds, distance traveled, program number being run, and anything else that your lane machine displays. The numbers should always be consistent from lane to lane and if a variance is noticed the operator should stop the machine and investigate why there may be inconsistencies.
Watch the machine as it applies lane cleaner and lane conditioner. Inspect the pin deck area to ensure there is no residue or lane cleaner being left behind and the machine is traveling far enough before it reverses out of the pit. Excess moisture on the pin deck will result in sliding pins, possible out of ranges and reduces scoring due to lack of pin carry. The “Backends” as they are referred to in our industry consist of every inch of the lane past the oil line and up to the pin deck. This area of the lane should be residue free and squeaky clean.
Once the machine returns to the foul line, walk back down the lane and look over the oil pattern that has just been applied. The lane pattern should look relatively smooth and uniform depending on the type of pattern being run. After the machine has returned to the foul line make sure there are no drips of lane oil or cleaner, streaks in the lane pattern, or anything that looks abnormal to what you are used to seeing every day. Once everything has been verified you may continue running the remainder of the lanes.
Once the lanes have been cleaned and conditioned, it is always a good idea to at least do a tactile inspection of your backends as well as your lane pattern. This is something lane maintenance personnel have done for decades, and at one part in our history, was the primary inspection regarding the passing or failing of a lane pattern in sanctioned play.
Our Kegel Team has always made a habit of walking our lanes for a visual and tactile inspection after every lane maintenance routine. Walk the length of the lane and locate the end of the oil pattern and confirm all of the lanes have the same look and distance.
Inspect multiple lanes in the backend area to ensure they are clean and free of residue. Use your knuckles as a way to accurately feel the cleanliness of the lane surface by rubbing them across a section of the backend. There should be no marks or film on any portion of the backend of the lane as this will affect carry down and create inconsistent ball motion.
Pick a lane in the middle of the center and use this lane every day as your gauge on what you feel when you run your fingers across the oil pattern at various distances. Start in the head section of the lane eight feet from the foul line. Using your index and middle fingers, lightly place them on the 2 board on one side of the lane and push your fingertips across 2-20 board and get a feel for how the pattern has less oil on the outside of the pattern and more towards the center. Move to the arrow section of the lane and repeat the process. Here you will feel more of a difference between the outside volume versus the inside boards in the lane pattern than you would have at 8 feet. Continue this at 30-35 feet and in the middle of the pattern taper somewhere between 36-44 feey depending on the pattern length.
Most successful lane patterns are crowned in shape or blended from outside to inside by increasing oil volume board-by-board. These patterns will typically be 40-44 feet in length for a standard house pattern and will have a front to back taper of 7-10 feet depending on the lane surface and chemical being used.
If you utilize these simple steps to verify your lane maintenance procedures on a daily basis you can rest assured, you have given your clientele a consistent bowling experience day after day and week after week. As outlined earlier in this article, consistency is the key to happy customers and a successful business operation.
These are but a few suggestions that our lane maintenance personnel uses at every event we do around the world. There are more complex verification procedures that we at Kegel perform at specific events, such as measuring the topography of every lane in the bowling center, monitoring temperature, humidity, and a variety of other things.
In closing, if you are every at an event where a Kegel representative is present, please feel free to approach that individual at anytime to learn more about all of the procedures that we verify to ensure a successful event.