Spring is the high season for groundskeeper Nicklas Parmo Tang-Petersen. During this period, the around 180 playing fields in Silkeborg Local Authority need to be prepped – and not least lined. It used to take two men 2½ hours to line a field from scratch, but today the job is done in just 20 minutes by a robot.
The robot named “Intelligent One”, which is manufactured in Denmark, handles all the line marking by itself. Nicklas Tang-Petersen simply has to upload the field on the tablet he uses to control the IO to make it do all the work for the groundskeeper.
“We must leave the perfect field for the clubs, and the lines must be precise and accurate. Now we can get more done compared to when we had to line all fields manually. The robots have given a boost to the service we provide and our working conditions all at once. For instance, we may provide additional lining work prior to a summer tournament,” explains Nicklas Tang-Petersen.
Better working conditions
Nicklas Tang-Petersen is extremely satisfied. He feels that his physical working conditions have improved and that he now has more time for other tasks.
“I don’t have to push the line marking cart and I avoid too much heavy lifting, so I definitely feel a difference. Particularly, my legs, back and shoulders are doing much better,” he explains.
Nicklas Tang-Petersen and his colleagues transport the line marking robots around on the platform of their cars. When they reach the football field, they drive the robot down a slide using the joystick on thetablet.They then add paint, if necessary, and chose the pre-programmed fields, and off the robot goes. Intelligent One is able to switch from one field to the next on the same location by itself.
Intelligent One means that the groundskeeper can spend his time better and ‘be in two places at the same time’. This also pleases his manager at Entreprenørgården, Michael Dahl, who explains:
“The beginning of the football season coincides with the emergence of weeds. With the line marking robots, we can get started early on fighting the weeds, which gives us extra resources and time because we can nip them in the bud and be proactive. When we use robots to do things smartly and efficiently, it frees up mental resources to ensure, among other things, that we comply with all the quality requirements stipulated in our contract with the local authority. I’m a great believer in common sense and useful technology. The more technology can do for us, the better. It is our goal to create a better workplace with less functional impairment, and that is where the robots come in,” he says.
Second generation is even better
This is the third year Nicklas Tang-Petersen is working with the line marking robots and he is now using the second generation of the Intelligent One – a generation that, according to the groundskeeper, is superior to the former: ‘The greatest difference between the old and the new generation is that the new IO comes with a base station. That means that it is much more accurate than the old one, which received the GPS signal from a transmitter that could be located several kilometres away.
‘Now you can place the base station wherever you want, which makes the line marking much more accurate. Previously, it could be off by 3-5 cm, now, we are down to 0-1 cm. Both numbers should be compared with manual line marking, which can be off by as much as 10 cm,” explains Nicklas Tang-Petersen, who has been chosen as groundsman of the year in Denmark by Groundsman Association Denmark.
The robot from Intelligent Marking is not affected by wind and weather. Since Intelligent One is waterproof, it is able to mark fields in all weather conditions. Its use is not limited to football fields, it can easily be set to mark lines for running tracks, American football, baseball, rugby, hockey, lacrosse and many other sports. Intelligent One has therefore taken the world by storm and is currently used in a wide range of sports arenas around Europe, the US, Australia and Japan. The NFL clubs Tampa Bay Buccaneers and New England Patriots are among the prominent users of Intelligent One.
Key part of the business model
“Entreprenørgården considers automation a key element in the competition for customers,” explains Michael Dahl, production manager for Entreprenørgården in Silkeborg Local Authority.
“Our total annual revenue is DKK 100 million, from which we must find optimisations and operational savings of 2% each year. We deal with many tasks where we face competition, so we need to spend the money in the best way possible. We optimise and reorganise as much as we can to ensure the quality and finances. We have the number of employees we need, and we have to get the work done regardless of wind and weather, so it is a matter of allocating the resources flexibly. At the same time, we focus on the working conditions. It is important that we ‘loosen the ties’ so that our employees are spared monotonous, repetitive work and heavy pushing of manual line marking machines. That is why we have automated the mowing and line marking at the sports facilities,” he says.
The unique technology of the Intelligent One robot makes it the world’s first line marking robot, which the founders of the company first came up with in 2014. The recommended price for the patented robot is DKK 212,500, and that investment will usually be paid back in 12-18 months. Companies, organisations and local authorities can also opt for the leasing option for around DKK 3,500 per month. Intelligent Marking is headquartered in Hjørring, Denmark, and has a subsidiary in Georgia, USA.