No Electronics or Batteries Required: JohnnyBall Overview

Tue January 17, 2017 - National Edition
Jeff Winke

Low-tech or no-tech options are not always bad. Technology is complex and sometimes can complicate things. Simplicity rules, especially when technology falters or fails… and you start yearning for the old days when rotary-dial phones, crank-open car windows, and manual push design rotary-blade lawnmowers were considered the epitome of mechanical technology.

However, as John Miller, owner of JCM Excavating, Allendale, Michigan, a 30-plus-years experienced heavy-equipment operator and product inventor notes that between the no-technology machines of yesteryear and the semi-automatic machines of today, a step was skipped. There was a jump from a 2D slope meter straight to the satellites of GPS machine control. In this gap is where Miller's clever innovation, the JohnnyBall fits in.

The JohnnyBall is a no-tech, no-electronics operator's tool for at-a-glance slope, level checks on any machine.

Here's the thinking…. Experienced machine operators seem to recognize when they are level and how the machine seems to respond to their knowing they are level. The JohnnyBall, which is mounted inside the operator's cab, is┬ádesigned to allow machine operators to quickly check whether their machine is level. The device features a “compass-like design” consisting of a ball suspended in fluid, inside of another ball.

The device has a weight at the bottom and markings on the top to indicate slope and level at a glance. The product mounts to base cups, allowing an operator to transfer one JohnnyBall to other machines where base cups have been mounted.

Even for those using GPS machine control, Miller believes the JohnnyBall can provide a compelling, low-cost complement—especially when working near tree lines or buildings that interfere with satellite signal reception. And if you think about it, heavy-equipment production is not always GPS connected, so there likely are times when having slope and level confirmation can come in handy.

Miller believes the JohnnyBall can both help the experienced operator perform better and help the newbie more quickly get over the initial new-kid learning hump to comfortable proficiency. -CEG Blog Writer

Watch the JohnnyBall in action via the company's promotional video below.