The Next Generation

Where is the next generation of bowling center maintenance technicians going to come from? Until we can develop warp drive and travel to a few of the nearby star systems, the search will be limited to the third planet from the sun.

The maintenance of a bowling center requires skills beyond that of the stereotypical grease monkey that seems to pop into the minds of most people in the industry. A head tech needs much more than a basic knowledge of wrench turning and part swapping.

One of the first things a tech should learn is a basic knowledge of the rules of the game. Many parts of their job will be directly affected by these rules. Pinspotting, pit depth and cycle timing are just a few of the items a tech will be responsible for.

A strong mechanical aptitude is needed to become a successful head mechanic. While many people have this ability, transferring it to a bowling environment can be difficult. Adapting to changing needs within the bowling center requires an individual that can use their imagination at times.

He or she must have a talent for trouble-shooting, whether natural or acquired. This ability will help to set them apart from the previously mentioned mental representation of a bowling center mechanic.

A background in electronics, basic building maintenance, heating and air conditioning, lane maintenance and the management of inventory are also required to fulfil the desired traits of a true maintenance professional. Training in the art of interpersonal relationships is needed to allow them to interact with management, customers and the employees who will be working with them.

With all of these requirements, finding an individual to fill a head technician position can be difficult. Not many people walking down the street can come anywhere close to meeting all of the needs of a bowling center seeking a top level maintenance supervisor.

Where can you find a person to fill these huge shoes? Running an ad in the local newspaper rarely produces a qualified candidate. Internet employment websites are a better bet for receiving resumes from a prospective employee. Bowling specific web sites such as Bowltech.com, Facebook and Linkedin.com can produce very good results in your search.

Many of the large chain operations have training programs in place to allow them to promote from within. Pinchasers become “C” mechanics, next moving up to “B” mechanics. The jump to a head mechanic position is the next step in their chain of maintenance.

The training offered by the large corporate owned centers is very comprehensive and includes educational videos and manuals. Candidates are given written tests. After successfully completing a course of study, they move up to the next level of maintenance proficiency.

Depending on the individual, the time frame can be 5 years or longer to move up the corporate ladder. Head tech positions are not often available within the company. A qualified mechanic may be required to stay at “B” level for several years, awaiting an opportunity to show what they can do.

These highly trained “B” mechanics are sometimes unwilling to wait for a position to open within the company and often look to the open market for employment. An independently owned center can find a highly qualified tech that has waited too long for promotion and place him or her in their organization with little in-house training.

In centers without a corporate affiliation, the training of the maintenance staff can be hit and miss at times. Some have great programs in place and others have little more than a service manual and a parts book for teaching a prospective tech.

In many of the independently owned centers the head mechanic has been in place for several years. Some feel threatened by new employees and give them only small quantities of training to maintain a feeling of “job security”.

The best bet for most centers regardless of who they are owned by are the numerous classes and schools available to our industry. From 3-4 week schools on the pinsetters to one day seminars that specialize in major assemblies, these classes are worth their weight in gold.

Instruction in lane maintenance, automatic scoring and safety are offered by manufacturers on a regular basis. Even a seasoned veteran can glean a tip or two from these classes.

Kegel offers training on all of their lane maintenance equipment, along with oil pattern and lane surface maintenance. Kegel will be partnering with Classic Products (October 2019) to offer training on pinsetting equipment. Contact Classic Products for more details.

Any training might seem costly when accounting for the travel and lodging along with the tuition, but the knowledge given to the students can reap benefits to a center for many years.

As many head mechanics approach retirement age, there will be a lack of experienced help in the bowling industry. The only way to offset this loss will be to start the training of their replacements now.

It makes little difference how this will be accomplished. The next generation will be faced with both old and new problems that must be met head-on. Education is the most powerful tool in a bowling center mechanics’ toolbox.

Bill Walters

Currently Bill is Kegel's Pinsetter Parts Technical Support Coordinator. He has over 34 years of experience on Brunswick Model A and A-2 pinsetters and 8 years of experience on Brunswick GSX pinsetters.