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Memo to equipment makers

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Memo to equipment makers

I just finished soybean harvest and winter wheat seeding and all went well, thanks to good weather and good equipment. When it works well, it’s amazing how much can be accomplished in one day with modern, high-capacity farm equipment.

I demoed a new tractor this fall, and the electronic controls and functions are leaps and bounds ahead of my existing model that is only a few years old. While it’s great to have new gizmos and electronic functions in the cab, I do have a few suggestions for equipment manufacturers that would provide major benefits beyond what we might get from the bells and whistles.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m not complaining. But I’m not sure that all the innovations coming on stream are necessarily farmer driven. Here’s my wish list:

1) More time in field, less time on maintenance
I believe every ag equipment engineer should have to go through the exercise of greasing and performing standard maintenance on each machine they design. This means greasing the machine when it is dark, wet and dirty. This means trying to get a grease gun on that fitting that requires 4 foot arms and the flexibility of a circus performer. Maybe if they leave some skin on the machine, equipment builders will be motivated to put more thought into the effort and time required to service the machine.

For many implements, I think growers would support automatic greasing systems over other bells and whistles. If you are paying an employee to grease and service a machine, it doesn’t take long to pay for an automatic greasing system.

2) Make Identity Preservation (IP) simpler

The recent commodity boom took some of the shine off Identity Preserved contract opportunities, but this practice is not going away. Farmers who participate in IP production know that it is easy to sign the contract in February, but you really earn your per bushel premium when it comes time to clean out the planter/seeder, or clean the combine out between varieties. Every combine designer/engineer should be required to FULLY decontaminate a dirty, wet combine. If we can create self-steering, self-adjusting, fully computerized combines, surely we can build a machine that is easier to clean out. It’s such an unpleasant chore, I’m sure that even doing it once would motivate combine designers to put more effort into easy-clean features. The same goes for planters/seeders, and grain handling/transportation equipment. Considering the cost of these machines, I don’t think it’s too much to ask.

3) We want large, simple controls

The average age of today’s farmer is fast approaching 60. So why do the equipment manufacturers continue to make the controls and identifying icons in tractors and combines smaller and smaller? There seems to be an attitude that smaller buttons are better, but how does that help us? Larger, simple controls and gauges with a large, clear icon to indicate the function is not a step backward. It’s what we want, especially when most of us need “cheater” eye glasses to read small text. It’s not only a question of convenience, it’s also a potential safety issue for inexperienced users who may not be able to tell, at a glance, what each button or control lever does.

4) Light it up
Tractor and combine manufacturers have come a long way in the past few years in providing vastly improved lighting packages. We all work after dark, and good lighting systems are extremely valuable. The next step is to ensure that lighting packages are also available from the factory on tillage, planters/seeders, sprayers and other equipment. Tractors need to have the electrical capacity to power more lights.

This is my short list of suggestions. What do you think? Are there other suggestions that you would provide to the people designing the equipment we’ll be using in the future? Click on “Reply to this Topic” at the top of this page to offer your suggestions.

Peter Gredig
Author :          JoAnn Alumbaugh
Date Posted : 10/16/2008 11:48:48 AM
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All of us here at the farm agree in your article. This is what companies should be focused on. Customer satisfaction and I think you speak for alot of us on the county sideroads with this article. This is valuable information that should be passed on to the big manufacturers and hopefully this will change in the future. My hired man has been asking for JD engineers to become mechanics first for the last 25 years.

Erik Leach
Date Posted : 10/16/2008 1:39:09 PM
How good are the manufacturers at Report this Message    |   Reply to this Message
Listening to their local dealers - would seem to be a good source of information?

What do others think?
Date Posted : 10/16/2008 5:05:21 PM
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I agree - the service guys at my local dealership always know the weaknesses and flaws in design - especially for equip like combines and balers. They are always frustrated that there is little opportunity for them to provide feedback to the people that build the next model.

The companies do listen, but only when they see that they are missing the boat. Farmer-driven innovation in areas like no-till, strip-till, narrow rows, etc., forced the big manufacturers to get with the program or miss out on sales.

Date Posted : 10/17/2008 12:53:03 PM
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You are so right that engineers don't work on the equipment they create. My saying is the smarter they get the dumber they are.
Date Posted : 10/18/2008 9:03:05 AM
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Amen and kudos for the suggestions, especially less time on maintenance.

While we all recognize that maintenance is important, hours spent maintaining equipment are unproductive hours at our farm. In fact, because labour is so tight around here, we usually pay someone to do the maintenance work on our equipment. As long as we are filling the time with tasks that generate more dollars, I don't mind that a bit.

The problem here in middle Tennessee is that there isn't nearly enough dealers to create true competition so trying to get someone out here on time to do maintenance or preventative type work is a chore in and of itself. If the chore at hand carries over into another day the chances of someone showing up the second day are nil. We've tried to encourage those that help us by paying premiums and tips if they actually a) show up and b) send somebody who is competent to do the work and will finish the job but it is still a struggle, to be sure.
Date Posted : 10/20/2008 11:23:16 AM
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Good points Jason.....I think everyone agrees that there are fewer equipment dealers around and that is a major challenge....

I also think that because we have such intensive periods of activity....planting and harvesting that it puts alot of pressure on our dealers and mechanics...everyone in the area is going hard all at the same time.

Not sure what we can do to overcome the challenges..
Date Posted : 10/20/2008 11:24:07 AM
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I wonder why there is a significant shift in the wheat market. I have read articles form smartwritingservice review about these shifts. But, I could not understand the real reasons.
Date Posted : 12/5/2017 5:52:12 AM
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