March 15, 2004
Mar/Apr 2004 -- Eighteen attendees at the 2004 ASI Annual Convention in Sacramento, Calif., were treated to a unique participatory learning experience in the form of a "Topmaker for a Day" Workshop run by Bob Couchman, managing director of Capronex Services Pty, Ltd.
The participants came from most sectors of the U.S. raw wool trade and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The morning session focused on how wool fiber characteristics affect performance in early-stage wool processing - specifically scouring and combing. Participants learned in considerable depth about the relative importance of various fiber characteristics -- micron, length and strength, yield, vegetable matter, etc. -- in the valuation of their wool, and more importantly, why these relative valuations exist.
The participants then were shown how the objectively measured characteristic results can be inserted into a formula, (TEAM 2 trials formula), to give an estimate of how the wool will perform in combing and the end wooltop result. The computer program for this allows for the accumulation of all the measured characteristics from the wool lots in the batch, the calculation of the averages and then the displaying of the estimated top result and cost in both tabular and graphical form.
Utilizing this technical information, Couchman then ran the participants through the operations involved in selling wool by "open-cry" auction and the commercial implications of purchases in terms of the end top result.
The afternoon was then devoted to a hands-on, participatory workshop. The participants were broken into five competing groups and advised of the wooltop product they had each sold. Each group was given an actual wool sale catalogue from which, over five actual sale auctions, they had to purchase the correct wool at the right price -- to make a profit -- to make the wooltop they had sold. A break between each sale allowed Couchman to review with each group its purchases to date, where it was in terms achieving the desired result and its best strategy going into the next sale.
All the contributory elements to a normal open-cry auction were in place, with market movements between sales, lots being withdrawn from sale at the last minute and pass-in levels for all lots having been set by the broker -- Dodgy Wool Brokers Pty Ltd. The brothers Bob Couchman as "Bob Dodgy," the head woolbroker, and Barry Savage as "Barry Dodgy," the auctioneer, conducted the auction. There was very spirited bidding from all five groups -- especially in the last two sales as each buyer group had to make the final adjustments to its purchases in order to meet its wooltop criteria. The workshop was judged by all a resounding success in both its educational and operational objectives.