Guest Column - July 2014
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Green Light? Good to Go!
Find Smarter Solutions to Manage Riders

By Samuel E. Baker

Another facility acquired some "balance beam" scales—like the ones you see in a lot of doctors' offices—basically a mechanical scale with lots of metal parts prone to rust, especially in a humid environment. So, with that system several of those heavy and awkward scales were carried all the way up the tower where they were to be used. Unfortunately, about halfway through the season rust had taken over and the scales didn't work so well. So nothing to do but carry them down to the shop to be wire brushed and spruced up for the rest of the season. Of course, then they have to be carried back up the tower to be put in use again.

The wide variety of climatic conditions from Saco to San Antonio and from Denver to Dubai, not to mention the particular challenges of indoor parks, make the selection of scales challenging and worthy of careful investigation. One American manufacturer has coined the phrase "Purpose Built" to identify a scale system "specifically" designed and built for use in waterparks. One size does not fit all, so the variety of scale sizes offered easily will accommodate from one to six riders on freestanding or flush-mounted scales. Scales are supplied with a light system designed to take the stress and confrontation out of the attendant's workday. If the light stays green, riders are "good to go." If the light is red, adjustments need to be made to meet weight limits. It is all done for safety, so guests don't complain.

To meet the wide variety of climatic conditions for indoor and outdoor parks, special attention must be paid to design, materials and construction of a scale system. Scales made of stainless steel with hermetically sealed load cells and water-sealed electronics work well to meet environmental conditions. The weighing surface must be extremely tough, chemical resistant, and non-skid. All these accommodations make for a product designed for heavy-duty, long-term, trouble-free use, simple installation and a lifespan of more than one season. Scales should be backed by a solid warranty, with readily available technical service.

Parks interested in "value added" data collection software can have a variety of key performance indicators included in their basic guest weighing system—information that speaks to the practical business side of operating a waterpark. Is there a need to track the number of riders per minute, day or hour? This could help in the scheduling of attendants. Parks spend a lot of money on rides, and clearly they want to be sure to get maximum return on their investments. In one recent situation it was determined that the ride was so popular, the number of riders was changed from two to three. A "purpose built" scale can easily be re-calibrated on site to accommodate the additional rider.

Maximizing rider participation, avoiding rider disappointments, knowing the "turn down rate due to overweight/ underweight" and a number of other operational details for each ride all is easily captured by software. This information ensures park operators can get maximum value for new and existing rides. The statistics could also be transmitted to a handheld device where needed.

When parks are serious about insurance, risk management and safety, they also begin to identify a number of venues where scales would provide benefits to attendants and guests. The initial financial outlay could prove challenging, so a scale supplier should offer reasonable lease arrangements.

It would appear that James Sinegal, the colorful former CEO of Costco who is credited with increasing the company's stock price by 2,000 percent had it right when he said, "in the final analysis, you get what you pay for."

Samuel E. Baker is director of Global Development for SR Instruments Inc. For more information, visit