The equipment manufacturer emphasizes collaboration at its precision technology summit.

Jack Zemlicka, Technology Editor

August 2, 2012 — Conversation about precision technology — in a variety of languages — was plentiful during the 2012 Raven Innovation Summit in Sioux Falls, S.D., last week.

The three-day conference, held July 24-26, was a showcase for existing Raven staples like the Envizio Pro II field computer and newer products such as SmarTrax 6 auto-steering system featuring 3D terrain compensation, as demonstrated during a ride-and-drive with Tim Heins, Raven product manager.

More than 200 dealers and distributors from around the globe attended the event, primarily to listen and learn.

Several dealers were brand new to precision technology and all ears during a field day at Raven’s innovation campus and a hands-on evening demo session. One attendee told Precision Farming Dealer he was just three weeks into selling Raven precision equipment and wanted to get a “crash-course” on the product line.

More experienced precision equipment dealers like Joe Morman with Ag Systems in West Fargo, N.D., wanted to sharpen their knowledge on the company’s Slingshot product, which debuted last fall. The system allows operators to wirelessly transfer field data to multiple machines and relies on cellular RTK correction signals from major cell phone network providers.

“What has allowed me to have success selling the Slingshot is its ability to send variable rate files via email,” Morman says, “without having to jump out of the cab with a thumb drive and run it to another machine. Customers like that.”

When installing the Slingshot, Morman says he walks customers through its capabilities and often takes time at the start of each planting season to make sure operators are comfortable with the system.

But Morman is the first to admit he doesn’t know it all, which is why he wanted to attend the Raven conference.

“The biggest challenge is that this stuff can be overwhelming to begin with, until you can kind of wrap your arms around it,” Morman says. “You don’t really understand it, until you can see it at work.”

Throughout the event, Raven product and marketing managers encouraged attendees to talk, both to the manufacturer about what they want to see in the future, and to each other to find out what technology is working in their respective territories.

Paul Welbig, director of marketing for Raven, says the company takes suggestions to heart and attempts to build dealer confidence in knowing about and selling precision technology.

After last year’s innovation summit, Welbig says dealers wanted Raven to make its auto-steer technology more compatible with a broader line of equipment.

“We really needed to step up and deliver more technology in that area,” he says. “In the last year, we introduced 50 new steer kits for more than 315 different tractor models.”

Welbig says those numbers will increase during the next year and he also expects Raven to continue enhancing its dealer training. A $2 million expansion to Raven’s innovation campus in Sioux Falls was completed in June and includes an updated classroom training facility.

“One of the hot topics that continues to be a concern for dealers is education and finding the right staff to provide those technology solutions,” Welbig says. “We wanted to make that commitment to provide a hands-on experience to learn about technology in general as well as Raven products.”