Feature Interview – Technology in Today’s Bowling Centers

In last week’s blog post, we talked about the dangers of accepting the “normal” and the status quo in our bowling centers. This week, we want to expand upon that theme and to do so, I interviewed someone who has perfected the art of avoiding the normal – Glenn Hartshorn, the owner of New Center Consulting. Glenn is considered a true innovator in our industry because of the many ways in which he incorporates technology. His innovation rests on one key thing – he never settles for the routine or “normal.”

Jim: What is your approach to technology for bowling centers?

Glenn: While most companies concentrate on wholesale changes in technology, and only want to use the latest and greatest systems with all the bells and whistles, my company has chosen, instead, to develop programs and products so we replace only the pieces of technology that are broken.   

Jim: What would you say is one of biggest technology advances in our industry?

Glenn: The biggest technology advance, which has changed bowling forever, is automatic scoring.  And this is also great example of how we, at New Center Consulting, have rejected the trend of immediately buying the newest technology. As many of the companies that designed scoring systems have gone out of business, or have decided to stop supporting some of their legacy scoring systems, we have had to make a decision – either replace the scoring systems entirely (even if they mostly work), or find creative ways to fix them. We chose the latter route.

In our situation, the technology still kept score, but the technology was showing a lot of wear and tear. So I identified a company to make a flat screen conversion product line that converts 26 different scoring systems. In that way, we were able to preserve what was working with the old system, while incorporating even better technology.

We also found a Xenix and Unix programmer to create a management system, replacing old hardware while keeping the original software operating system. Once that was no longer possible, we hooked up with AK Microsystems to develop a modern POS Windows-based operating system to control many of the legacy scoring systems that can replace part of a lane pair’s components, or all of the components. The new system for scoring includes: Live data capture for third parties to use in web and phone apps, tablet keypads that can display scoring grids, advertising, and third-party software to use my scoring system to play new games, or to save customers’ recorded data for practice or for competing with others.  

Jim: Technology really has changed everything in how we run our businesses.

Glenn: Agreed, however, not all technology is new technology, and not all technology is helping the bowling industry.

Jim: What about the technology needed for scoring systems? That is often one of the largest expenses for a center.

Glenn: Centers have spent a lot of money buying, repairing, and updating their scoring systems.  Most technology products in the world have dropped in price, even while their capabilities have gotten better – with faster and more efficient speeds. While most new scoring systems haven’t changed the basic function of keeping score, even with the faster and more efficient technology, costs really do not seem to have dropped much.  

The real appeal of new scoring seems to be new games and new graphics. But in every other industry these things can be easily purchased from third-party companies.  You don’t buy your “words with friends” app on your phone from the phone company (they would charge more if you had to do that), so why pay higher prices from the scoring manufacturer? Open architecture would allow for other companies to provide the same services for less.

Jim: Is there such a thing as having “too much” technology?

Glenn: All of us are different – some markets require more technology than others and with that need comes higher prices and deeper pockets. The key is to know what your market wants. I go out west and in parts of the south driving my big F250 Diesel Ford King Ranch that is “big dog” of the area in the suburbs of Michigan, but out there, it is average at best. Bigger, taller, stronger trucks that haul more and have dual wheels in back for traction are everywhere you look. Why? The short answer is: different market needs. 

A big-city center in a popular entertainment area may need a fancier system to attract customers. Then again, some people buy a Lexus or Cadillac just for the status.

 If you have extra money you don’t need, spend it; the economy thanks you.

Jim: So what is the next big thing on the horizon?

Glenn: I see scoring moving to cell phones next.  We already have awesome tablet applications, and I think it’s likely that phone apps will be next. No need for keypads, no need for monitors. Patrons will be able to download the app to their own phones, or bowling centers can hand them a tablet, which we are already seeing at some centers.

If you’re looking for ways to innovate without breaking the bank, feel free to reach out to Glenn directly.

Glenn Hartshorn
New Center Consulting, Inc. | Rochester Hills, MI | 248-375-2751| ghartsho@yahoo.com

Glenn has made a career out of consulting people on how to avoid doing the “average” and “normal” things. What about you? What are some ways that your center is implementing unorthodox strategies?

Yours for Better Bowling,