Sweeping Industry Supplier Profiles
Profile on Sharpco Sweeper Shoes
by Ranger Kidwell-Rossposted March 2010
It's the middle of a dark and stormy night... Do you know where your drag shoes came from? If you operate any brand of sweeper besides TYMCO, there is a high likelihood they originated from Louisiana-based, Sharpco Sweeper Shoes.
James Sharplin got into business about 1972 building land clearing equipment for the farming industry. Through the years, the company has expanded to build blades and buckets, and his crew repairs all of those and more. On the day we held our interview, that part of the business had two Caterpillar backhoes in the shop, one for repair of a boom and bucket and the other getting a new turntable bearing. The company has over an acre under cover. They have lathes, press brakes, rolls for rolling plate, shears, a CNC plasma cutter and more.
In 2003, one of the company's suppliers suggested Sharpco would be perfect for making sweeper drag shoes. After investigating the opportunity, Sharplin agreed, and started up in 2004. He figured there would be a large and expanding nationwide market for the shoes, since sweepers were located throughout the country.
Sharplin then got started by making his initial drag shoes (sometimes called 'sweeper skids') for sweeper models that had a large number of machines in use. "I knew right away that to make it work for both us and our customers, we needed to make them in quantity. We build each model in quantities of between 50 to 150, which gives us the economies of scale to lower both our costs and the cost to the end-user.
Today, his Sharpco Sweeper Shoes makes OEM drag shoes for most all brands of U.S.-sold sweepers except TYMCO. And, Sharpco's market has gone from nationwide in the U.S. to selling drag shoes throughout many other parts of the world.
When asked what distinguishes Sharpco from other producers of sweeper drag shoes, Sharplin paraphrases the old real estate adage by replying "inventory, inventory, inventory. We keep most all shoes in stock—over 3000 shoes are on the shelf at any given time—ready to send out when someone orders them. Plus, when someone gets their order in by 3:30pm, Central Time, we are typically able to ship out the same day. Right at 95% of our orders are shipped on the same day they were ordered."
Because of its widespread sales and distribution network, Sharpco produces most popular shoes in quantities of 50 to 150. This, says Sharplin, allows Sharpco to keep both its costs and selling prices low.
"Third," said Sharplin, "Sharpco uses only mining grade carbide in its shoes, unlike some competitors. Mining grade carbide is impact-resistant while retaining superior wear resistance. There are many grades of carbide, and it's important to know what type are in your sweeper shoes since our application is one of constant wear along the pavement surface. Plus, you do not want to use a shoe that will mark up the pavement surface."
Whenever possible, the drag shoes Sharpco makes are two-piece shoes. Once you buy the complete assembly, you can generally save money by buying just the runner next time you need a shoe. This makes a significant long-term difference as compared with buying a one-piece show. "Whenever we have enough width to work with," said Sharplin, "we make the shoe so a new runner can just be bolted onto the main body of the otherwise worn-out skid.
"It's the bottom that gets worn, so unless a shoe has been bent there's no reason not to just replace the worn-out carbide. There's less cost to make and to ship, and it's actually a bit easier and faster for a mechanic to change out. That's the kind of win/win situation we like to see."
Sharpco shoes also offer an additional refinement made possible by a machine the company built for the specific purpose of getting its drag shoes completely flat and smooth. "We built a horizontal grinder that we use in our final assembly process," said Sharplin. "By grinding our shoes flat and smooth on the horizontal grinder, there is no break-in period and no white marking that can occur on parking lots with other brands of shoes.
"When you buy from Sharpco, you can be assured your drag shoe is ready to go right out of the shipping box. You don't have to worry that there will be high spots on the carbide, or sharp corners sticking out and that sort of thing. We haven't had a warranty claim for over three years. We believe that's because of the attention to detail, quality control and overall quality we put into our product."
You are invited to listen to the approximately 15-minute audio interview we offer with James Sharplin, founder of Sharpco Sweeper Shoes. Sharplin's grasp of the product, combined with his down-home manner, make the audio enjoyable all the way through.
Note that the audio will play without downloading any files onto your computer. If you hear the interview at 'chipmunk speed,' you will need to download the latest version of Adobe's free Flash player.
Note: If the player embedded above does not operate for your browser, click here to play the audio.
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