quote:I recently had a chance to interview Brenda Green, who serves as marketing services manager for Ebonite International, Inc. since she joined the company in 2003, She oversees the company’s pro shop support programs as well as leads and coordinates the marketing activities between brand managers, communications agencies and sales teams.She is currently a Silver Level USBC Certified Coach and organizes a youth bowling league in Clarksville, Tenn., with approximately 150 youth, ages 3-22. Green is also a member of two bowling leagues and carries an average of 190. She resides in Clarksville, Tennessee with her husband and son. Here is what I asked her:1. In 2007 Ebonite International purchased the assets and manufacturing rights to Columbia Industries, parent of Columbia 300, Track, Dyno-Thane, and Circle, and moved these to Hopkinsville, Kentucky. Ebonite International now makes several product brands - Ebonite, Hammer, Robby’s, Columbia 300, Track, VanTech, and Powerhouse™. What is the current business relationship with these companies and Ebonite?Answer:The Ebonite International product portfolio consists of separate, distinct brands. Each has its own identity, its own product attributes, and its own marketing approach. Ebonite International, as the parent company, has complete control of all product lines, but does not micromanage each division. For example each brand manager, (including the Ebonite ball line), solely determines what type of ball he wants R&D to develop. A single R&D Dept. serves all ball product lines but within the R&D are separate “teams” for following development of product. For example, coverstock material decisions are done by a brand line “team” within the R&D Dept.2. Are there multi-facility locations or a single manufacturing site for making all these different product lines?Answer:Ebonite International uses a single manufacturing site located in Hopkinsville, Kentucky for development, and manufacturing and distribution of all ball lines. Also located in Hopkinsville is Power House and VanTech Capital Equipment. Power House is a major brand for ball cleaners, polishes etc. for the bowler. VanTech, a part of Ebonite International’s acquisition of Vantage Bowling, makes scoring systems, bowling center furniture (ball storage, seating, etc.), ball return mechanisms, and wall masking units. Ebonite International also has another location in Columbia, Tennessee for other product lines. At the Columbia manufacturing location, is the Robbies™ brand, a long time producer of bowling accessory gear. Robbies™ has its own sewing factory, for making bowling gloves, towels, etc. Also located in Columbia, is Galaxy Lanes, the only Ebonite owned bowling center open for public bowling. Galaxy Lanes also serves to promote the Ebonite International product line and center equipment made by VanTech.3. Are tours conducted at the Hopkinsville, Kentucky plant?Answer:Tours of the plant are allowed, but not in proprietary areas. The plant receives only about 200 visitors a year. Mostly grade schoolers come for tours.4. In regards to bowling balls, is there a “melding” of technological effort, such as Research & Development (R&D), that is shared by these companies? If so, how are these balls similar/different?Answer:Yes and no!Yes-Brand Managers from each of the ball lines coordinate and discuss commonalities and scheduling of R&D, arranging distribution and setting a time for releases. But all balls are made using the same steps and manufacturing processes. The Core design for each brand is done by same person at the plant. His experience and knowledge of each brand’s core design allows him to maintain differences between cores of each line.No-Individual brand lines maintain separate design teams. These decide what chemicals to use in their coverstock material all of which are different between the brands. All chemicals used in the manufacturing process are researched and made at the plant and, unlike some other manufactures, is not purchased using a different chemical company. For example, all liquids used in the making of the core and coverstock is created and made at the plant in Hopkinsville.5. What new products can we expect in the future? Are there any developments in new core technology? What about in the new field of Chemical Friction Technology (ie. “Ra-values”, anything new on that front?Answer:Most new products are timed for release in May just in time for the International Bowl Expo, the bowling industry's premier annual event where new bowling equipment from all the manufactures is unveiled along with training seminars, presentations of Service Awards and other festivities is exhibited and presented on the trade floor. Balls complimenting the new line of balls are also brought out in August and in February.Ebonite’s newest release, the Mission is their first high performance ball release since May 2009. It was 6 months in the making. According to Ebonite, the Mission is the most tested high performance ball it has ever made. The company says the finished product resulted in a red pearl that is the accumulation of a series of never-before-done processes that makes this ball all new from the inside out. One of the features of the new Mission is its core, called The Mission 1.0. This core is much smaller than most high performance cores, yet still packs a mass bias of 0.013. Larger cores can sometimes be problematic in that drilling can alter the core which can change the manufacturers intended mass properties. By concentrating the weight in the center, the shape of this smaller core keeps it mostly clear of a drill bit, thus maintaining its mass properties.In addition to Ebonite’s new release, the Columbia 300 line has produced a new ball called the Pure Swing. This is a polished reactive pearl ball unlike other reactive pearls. The Pure Swing compliments their Full Swing and uses the same strong core. The unique thing about the Pure Swing is its 800 grit Abranet® finishing process. Abranet® is a new type surface preparation technology used for this first time by a ball manufacturer. The Abranet® material provides a polishing technique without grit. It consists of an Aluminum oxide weave bonded to a polyamide fabric. This alters the surface of the ball in a way not seen with grit pads such as the Abralon disk pads which use silicon carbide particles bonded to a fabric face When combined with a 1000 grit Abralon pad, a pattern shape of micro-surface scratches emerge which gives the result the Columbia 300 R&D team were seeking. The problem with most polished balls is they look great on the shelf, but need to be modified to fit a desired reaction. By design, polished balls tend to go very long before changing directions, on most lane conditions you have to take the shine off to get them to hook. With the Abranet® finishing process used on the new Columbia 300 Pure Swing, the end result is a polished ball that hooks sooner.6. Regarding distribution policy, why can’t bowling balls be purchased at big block sellers such as Costco, Big 5, Sports Authority, etc?Answer:Dick’s Sporting Goods has predrilled beginner bowling balls. But, the real issue has more to do with support for the Pro-shops which represent the customer base for manufacturers. If, for example, balls were available everywhere then it is feared that this would diminish the viability of the Pro-shop and the largest segment of the manufacturers market would collapse. Besides, without the availability of the Pro-shop who would possess the special skills and knowledge needed to drill the ball?7. This last question what is Ebonite International doing to promote bowling? Also, what is your take on why bowling is not in the Olympics?Answer:There is concern that the popularity of league bowling is dropping. Where there once was 10 million league bowlers across America, now there are about 2 million. Most of these league players were USBC members (or equivalent.) Until more people participate to turn this trend around, bowling will lack the political power it once enjoyed. Also, bowling must be seen as a bona fide athletic event. Here are just some of the things that the Ebonite business lines are doing to promote the sport of bowling. Ebonite sponsors youth events to encourage young bowlers- Hammer has the NBA (National Bowing Association) for getting more African Americans involved in bowling. Clara Guerrero is a National Staff member on Team Columbia, working with Columbia 300 and promotes bowling within the Hispanic community. Track’s Mitch Beasley regional PBA was in Air Force and helps bring bowling events to the military bases.This concludes my interview with Ebonite International, Inc. This is the first in what is hoped to be a series of interviews exploring the bowling industries major manufacturers.
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