Who's Going to Join Me in the Caribben w/ Rain Bird?

Discussion in 'Irrigation' started by JimLewis, Sep 6, 2011.

  1. DanaMac

    DanaMac LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 13,209

    About 3 weeks ago, I went to lunch with the local RB rep and the store manager from our local Ewing. Our Ewing guy knew that I had seen a lot of RB failure in the last year or two, so he wanted me to talk with the RB guy about these issues. I finally followed up with him yesterday by email about it.
    Jim - I know you do a lot with RB, and honestly, I do prefer the RB products. BUT - I see more failure with RB overall than anything else. Maybe RB should send me to the cruise for all the pain in the azz issues I've had to fix. I have to fix what everyone else installs, but they either will not fix it, or the company is no longer in business.
    Here were my issues:
    ESPm - MV err message - received replacement strips from Ewing
    DV-100 occasionally not opening or closing, primarily not closing - received new valves from Ewing - apparently caused by filter/screen in diaphragm
    DV-100 - leaking at the o-rings causing call backs - informed that o-rings are now taken care of, still doesn't take care of the issues of the valves we already bought
    5004 - high rate of failure either out of the box or within 1-2 years (I mentioned to you one lady that had 12 not turning this spring, but 3 eventually started rotating)
    DV-100 - shuts down very fast or abrupt, and with high pressure situations it has broken manifolds

    A few other notes:
    I'm not a fan of the current VAN nozzles, as they clog very easily giving a distorted water pattern - I do know there are new HE nozzles but not available here yet
    Fixed nozzles from 10' on down have such a small opening inside that just one grain of sand can clog them. We see a higher rate of clogging on the smaller radius nozzles as opposed to the 12' and 15'.
    One of my techs really likes the new remote for the ESP. I just hope it is long term reliable as opposed to the early models of RB remotes.
    I'd love to see a monthly % option on the standard ESPm.
  2. JimLewis

    JimLewis LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 6,872

    Well, you raise a lot of issues. I'm not sure I have time to respond to all that. But here are some of my thoughts.

    First off, you should have a good relationship with your RB Rep. If you don't know who your local RB Rep. is, then you should find out and make a point to get together with him/her more frequently. I know some areas of the country have really fantastic reps (like Oregon and Washington) but I also know that certain parts of the country are lacking in the quality of their rep. OR the rep. is stretched too thin and covering such a large area that contractors never see them. That's very unfortunate and I know it's something RB is working on because we discussed it at corporate at a private meeting I was at earlier this year with a handful of contractors from all over the country. My rep. is great and if I come to him with a problem with an item, he makes it up to me, no questions asked. You should be getting service like that and then the rep. should be handling warranty issues like this and taking care of reporting the problems to corporate.

    As for the ESP-M, yes they did have a batch a few years ago that had bad backplanes. We've had to replace a number of those too. But it's a quick easy fix and RB has been great about providing free backplanes. I've got half a dozen in my truck and my tech. has a dozen or so. We still get calls for that once in a while. Given the number we've installed, it's a pretty low percentage. But it was an issue and RB fixed it and offered the replacement part for free. I don't know what else could be done. Seems like they've done what they can to take care of that problem.

    As for the valve issues, there's more there then I have time to respond to. We use the DVF-100 on our installs but those are pretty much the same as the DV-100s you're referring to. I don't see many issues or call-backs with those. Seems to be one of the more reliable valves we've ever used. But I do know we had a spell where we had a few right out of the box that were failing to open/close like that. I was getting ticked because they were brand new. So I called my rep. and it turns out our installers were inserting the glue too far into the valve when they were gluing them to the pipe. The glue was jamming stuff up. So we removed those valves and were careful not to glue so far into them and that fixed the problem. If you asked me before I called my rep. I would have sworn we got a bad batch of valves. But turns out it was installer error. All sorts of things could happen to valves during installation that could cause them malfunction. And if you are doing service, like you said, on other company's crappy installs, it makes me wonder if at least some of the issues you are seeing are related to the installers messing things up. Because we haven't seen that many problems. That's why I've always used the RB valves even since way before I was part of any rewards or select contractor program. I've always had more success with those in the installation and service side of things than we do with other valves.

    Another thought is maybe RB is installed a lot more than the other brands where you are so you just see a disproportionate number of them fail because so many more of them are installed.

    As for the rotors, we haven't had a problem with any not working out of the box ever. I couldn't say for sure if we've had to go back and replace some. Part of that is because we very rarely install rotors around here. All spray heads. Mostly all smaller yards with lots of curves, etc. Maybe 1 in 20 will we install rotors. And when we do, I always use the 5004 Plus PRS. I think the pressure-regulation helps keep them working properly, probably. I know they did upgrade the 5004s recently because we got a batch to test out a little over a year ago. And I'm pretty sure those have already been released now. So the ones on the market now are improved from the ones they sold a few years back. Could be they fixed whatever problem you were seeing with those. I've seen Hunter rotors fail within the first few years too. So I don't know that RB has the exclusive on that. I think all companies face quality issues. Just as the Hunter spray heads had horrible leaky wiper seals years ago. But they fixed them. So it happens. Seems like RB was having enough problems with the rotors that they had to come out with an "upgraded" version. And that's what they are selling now. So I would guess those problems have been addressed.

    As for the VANs, I think that's a common problem. I've heard that brought up in meetings before with RB from several contractors. I've been installing only U-Series for years so I haven't had that problem. But I guess it's common. I haven't seen that same issue with the new HE Vans but haven't really had a chance to use them too much yet. So time will tell.....

    I can't sit here and defend RB all day. That's for them to do. But I can just say from my experience, we've always seen really good quality, excellent service and attention from our rep., and fantastic rewards for buying what I was mostly already buying anyway. So it's been a great partnership for us. Part of the reason we probably experience a little better quality is because I'm always installing upgraded components. We never install just your standard heads, standard rotors, standard nozzles, standard valves, etc. Even when we install the RB Rotary nozzles, we always are careful to install the 1804-45-PRS which is made just for those nozzles to perform best. So maybe the upgraded components we use have a little less failure rate than the basic components do. I don't know. But even on the service side of things we have always seen less failure with RB systems than we have with the other brands. That's one reason I chose to use them when we started installing them. My service/repair tech. at the time just about told me he was going to clobber me over the head if I didn't use RB, because he had seem so many failures with the other brands out there.
    Last edited: Sep 9, 2011
  3. Mike Leary

    Mike Leary LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 23,148

    Jim makes some good points, as usual. I think we all have to remember the VANs are a necessary evil, I don't care who makes them. One of the reasons I used (when possible) brass nozzles was the ease of cleaning. Plastic nozzles you just chuck and replace.
  4. AI Inc

    AI Inc LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 26,804

    Thats funny Jim . My area is the other way around . For every spray head we install 40 rotors. Only time I ever use sprayers is the curb strip or the few times a customer has 10-12 ft from side of driveway to prop line.
  5. Mike Leary

    Mike Leary LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 23,148

    So, what do you use for mass plantings?
  6. AI Inc

    AI Inc LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 26,804

    Groundcover is not that big around here. 80% are the same old boring azaila, roti, holly unless a LA designed it , and thats rare.
  7. Mike Leary

    Mike Leary LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 23,148

    ::::::falls over:::::
  8. DanaMac

    DanaMac LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 13,209

    All good points. Yes every manufacturer will have some quality issues. And yes we are a predominant Rainbird area, so we see more RB failures overall, but also as a percentage. I do see less Hunter PGP failure compared to the 5004. These have always been great in our area, except for a few bad wiper seals and the occasional not rotating head.

    The DV issues were not operator error. We do glue them in, these are FxF valves. The rep told me is was an issue with the screen/filter in the diaphragm. And the o-ring issue has been ongoing and known by RB.

    I prefer the U-Series nozzles myself. That is all we buy, with the occasional VAN because they are unfortunately used from other companies.

    If RB, or Hunter or whoever, has to make an upgraded model to overcome the faults of their entry level model, than something is wrong with that company.

    I've NEVER had a relationship with a rep. they've never sought me out, I never sought them out. Most likely because I am not a big hitter. I don't buy mass volume because I do not install. I just fix all the screw ups from the manufacturer and the installers. I switched to the PGPs for years following the TBird fiasco.

    Don't get me wrong, I do prefer the RB products. Maybe it's due to what I was taught on. Kind of like someone defending Chevy because they were a Chevy fan from the start even though they have had 3 blown transmissions. Their availability and ease of use is, IMO, better than the others. Personally, I would love to be a technician for your company. All RB, upgraded components, and I can tell from knowing you here on LS that your design and install practices are going to be top notch. I have chosen this technician-for-any-system route, good or bad, and get to live with the downfalls of it. I probably get to see more failed components, designs, and install practices than most of you that do primarily installs.
  9. JimLewis

    JimLewis LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 6,872

    Well, you should make a point to go get to know your rep. The fact that you are not a "big hitter", as you say, just means you're not on his radar. It doesn't mean that you're not important to him/her. I think it would be good for you to start that relationship. Find out who it is. Go to lunch with them (they'll pay). Tell them what it is you do and what your problems have been and that you'd like to start a line of communication with them and have someone to go to with issues like this. Also, that you'd like to be put on their radar and invited to training sessions, etc. RB has a lot to offer in terms of regional training, nights out, product testing, etc. The more you get involved, the more power you'll have to understand and fix the issues you're seeing in the field. I don't think RB only pays attention to the big boys. My experience is they will give attention to big spenders but also with people who aren't big spenders.

    Case in point; I'm on the Rain Bird Contractor Advisory Board. There are about 15 of us on the council who represent different regions of the country. RB did a good job of forming a very diverse group of people on the board. You'd think it would be a board of all big-time Select Contractors who use the rewards program and use mostly all RB in their business. That's not totally true. Many of the contractors on the board do represent HUGE irrigation companies. When I say huge, I mean like just they have 25 service repair technicians. That doesn't even include their installers. But others are from companies my size or even smaller. Some do just irrigation. Others, like me, do all phases of landscaping. Some are Select Contractors, some aren't. One guy who joined the council 2 years ago didn't even install RB products at all. He's a big Toro guy. They invited him to join the council purely because he offered a point of view that the rest of us didn't have. One that was a lot less sympathetic to RB. He was actually amazed he was invited to be part of the council but he's been a great guy to have and has made some awesome input. And he's remained for several years now.

    So I don't think it's true that RB only wants to work with big companies who only buy RB stuff. I think they're interested in developing great products, how they can improve their products, and how they can make their products and service better so that we'll want to buy more. They certainly make a lot of effort toward that, from what I see. So I think it's worth giving them a chance and seeing what could come of a good relationship with a local rep. If you have a good one in your area like I do, you'd probably find it to be a rewarding experience.
  10. Mike Leary

    Mike Leary LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 23,148

    Is Mitch still your REP, Jim?

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