Dealers are developing comprehensive equipment and technology evaluation services to keep precision staff productive and profitable during downtimes.
The summer months traditionally offer precision farming specialists a chance to catch their breath between planting and harvest. But the “off-season” is shrinking as some dealers are taking advantage of the downtime to offer profitable farm equipment and technology inspection packages to customers.
This year, South Dakota Wheat Growers, based in Aberdeen, S.D., launched a planter inspection program, which provided farmers with a 75-point inspection of their equipment and precision components.
“We wanted to figure out a way to utilize our employees’ time and we felt like this was a good opportunity to leverage our knowledge of corn planters and precision setups to offer a useful service to customers,” says Brent Wiesenburger, precision ag manager with Wheat Growers. “Once a farmer was done planting, we charged $45 per row to do a top to bottom evaluation, let the customer know what was wrong and provide an estimate for fixes.”
Wiesenburger says they didn’t advertise the inspections and targeted select customers this spring with the offer, hoping for 3-5 sales. They ended up selling 10 packages and plan to expand the program next year.
“This should keep our precision staff busy all next summer,” Wiesenburger says. “One thing we’ll also be doing in the future is to try and upsell more precision hardware during the process of giving customers the evaluation.”
After the inspection is finished, a specialist does a walk around with the customer to identify worn parts or bearings. At that point, Wiesenburger says, there’s an opportunity to start a conversation about adding row clutches, rate controllers or other precision technology that could benefit the customer.
“We also want to have a row unit for every brand of corn planter on display with every piece of technology you can think of,” he says. “So when customers bring in their equipment, we’ll be able to educate them on the different components available.”
H&R Agri-Power, a Case IH dealership group in western Kentucky and west Tennessee, recently launched a pilot program for $250 pre-season precision combine inspections, called the AFS Harvest Ready Package. While the dealership offers traditional combine inspections, precision specialist Heath Conklin says they wanted to include specific precision evaluations, like proper yield monitor calibration.
“We run through a checklist of all the things farmers should do before they head to the field, but maybe don’t,” Conklin says. “We’re not expecting to get rich off the program, but it’s a good way to keep our specialists productive during the summer and it’s gives them a reason to visit customers, which can lead to additional equipment sales.”
During the first two weeks of the pilot program, Conlkin says, the dealership sold 12 combine inspection packages. Several inspections also led to additional sales of RTK unlocks and modems, and a handful of auto-steer systems. Another goal with the inspections, Conklin says, is to stimulate a conversation with customers about the value of data collection.
“As we segue into offering some data management services, we want to help our customers gather useful data, turn the data into information, and explain why that’s important,” he says. “It allows them to make better decisions, which makes them more profitable and in turn, enables them to spend more money with us on farm equipment and technology.”