Pictured Above: Precision training can take many forms, from on-farm troubleshooting to classroom education. Manufacturers have evolved and adapted their respective training programs, from setting specific certification requirements to providing optional learning portals for precision specialists.
The ownership of precision technology responsibilities has shifted in dealerships as precision technology becomes more integrated and standard equipment on farm equipment.
Portions of what was once entirely the role of the precision staff have shifted to other departments. Therefore, manufacturers have a slightly different perception and expectation of the precision role within a dealership.
As a result, each one designs their training program for the role and their products a bit different. Precision Farming Dealer took a comparative look at the certification expectations and training opportunities that 5 equipment manufacturers provide to their dealer networks.
Case IH and New Holland require dealer precision specialist staff to complete their courses, while Ag Leader Technology, Trimble Agriculture and John Deere provide optional learning courses.
Each manufacturer grasps the regional differences of precision technology usage. For this reason, most offer regional in-person training for a customized approach, in additional to the other methods of training.
Ag equipment manufacturers vary in the scope and depth of precision farming training offered to dealerships, but each have updated its program and many have plans to make further modifications as ag technology continues to evolve.
New Holland has revamped its precision training program many times the past several years to keep evolving it to meet dealer’s needs. The company has shifted how it is teaching precision farming to it technicians.
Instead of having all separate precision courses, technicians now cover precision technologies in their regular courses as well, so when learn about a new tractor, they also learn about all the precision components on the tractor and likewise for all equipment.
That’s allowed the company to expand the precision classes to include more on selling along with the benefits of the products.
New Holland debuted a new training level structure in 2020, which includes an additional, entry certification level. This allows their smaller dealerships that carry small horsepower tractors along with hay and forage to get more engaged with the precision products.
That entry level course is known as Precision Land Management 1. It’s focused on aftermarket add-ons along with smaller tractors and the hay and forage lineup. It includes products like preservatives applicators and the IntelliBale system, consisting of 10 classes, taking approximately 6-8 hours
Precision Land Management 2 was previously known as Blue Guidance. This level’s content includes factory fit guidance, telematics and remote service tools, choosing and managing subscriptions and section rate controls. This level consists of 9 classes taking around 8 hours to complete.
Precision Land Management 3 will be launched in the future. It will consist of 3 classes, taking 2-3 hours to complete and focus on combines, sprayers and planting lines. Some basic classes are exposure classes, but most have knowledge checks, which require an 80% to pass.
Even before COVID-19, New Holland tried to do as much of the training as they could online. The level two and three classes are blended learning. Dealer staff spend 1 hour per week for 3-4 weeks, in online classes with homework.
For in-person training, time is spent completely on hands-on training. Holding the majority of the training online is an economic for dealers as well, not having to incur travel costs.
Still, in-person classes are scheduled as needed, which New Holland tries to limit to 12-15 people to maximize instructor and student interaction. New dealer staff are required to be a level one service technician through the service department. That consist of 10-15 hours of classes on topics like hydraulics systems, electronic service tool and how-to diagnostic tools.
When it comes to recertification dealer staff only have to complete new classes created since their last certification.
Ag Leader Technology
Ag Leader does not have a formal certification program for dealer staff, but they do offer various training opportunities for precision specialists.
Standard Ag Leader dealers are not required to document their training and it’s handled on a case-by-case basis with the dealership’s territory manager. However, elite dealers, known as Blue Delta dealers, get a technical account manager, which helps them plan for the year and are requires completion of 3 continuing education credits per year.
Ag Leader holds in-person, 3-day, new dealer onboarding training events each year in Ames, Iowa. New employees at existing dealerships can also attend to learn the company culture, meet staff, receive sales training, experience product overviews and tour the manufacturing facility.
Various training is available to new dealer staff, with most of it having a technical focus. New college graduates or those new to the precision industry can attend the Ag Leader technical orientation held over 4½ days in Ames.
The event is high level where attendees learn about the manufacturer’s product line up, how to get the right product to the customer along with how to install and troubleshoot products from planting through harvest.
For more advanced staff that want in-depth knowledge on troubleshooting, they offer a 2-day troubleshooting classroom session.
Virtual classroom training is instructor lead with a dedicated start and end time that typically run 2-3 hours at a time. Usually they happen 3 consecutive days and include homework. There is also on-demand training, that dealers can log into at any time and take that includes knowledge checks. Those can be completed in 4-6 hours.
There are also learning assets such as how-to videos on YouTube for both dealers as well as customers. A website knowledge base curated by the Ag Leader technical support team can be accessed by both dealers and customers as well.
The manufacturer holds most of its in-person training in December and January with some satellite trainings that occur throughout the summer.
Internal collaboration, with guidance from manufacturers, can accelerate precision learning and allow for teams to have multiple specialists educated on a particular product, system or component, without having to pay for a large group to attend on-site training.
The majority of the dealer network gets to pick and choose what meets their market needs. Soon Ag Leader will start offering basic hydraulic and electrical training. They are adding this into their program after continuing to hear from educators and dealers that the basic theory knowledge isn’t there.
“We’re working to bridge the gap between the knowledge students gain in college and the real-world skills needed,” said Jessica Ahrens, Ag Leader training supervisor.
In 2020 Case IH expanded its precision curriculum to encompass more of the staff in response to the level of precision products dealerships are now required to service. This repositioned the precision specialist position from being a generalist, to the precision farming leader in many
Case IH relies heavily on their Advanced Farming System (AFS) Dealer Advisory Council when developing the curriculum. With such variation by region, this ensures the company and the dealers are in alignment on the certification.
The curriculum path for precision farming specialists in the Case IH dealer network includes a first level, known as core, which is required. Its foundational information that is web based and consist of 7 hours of training.
The next level, essentials for the job role, consist of 9 hours of blended learning training. This level has 3 categories that include selling technology, products and systems.
This comprises of a mix of web-based learning that includes video clips with troubleshooting scenarios, chat and study groups along with conference calls.
To obtain certification precision staff must pass with 75%. In-person sessions are added to curriculum content where needed. They are often held regionally to meet an area’s specific needs.
Certification last for a calendar year. Each year the Case IH AFS Dealer Advisory Council helps set the guidelines, which are released at the beginning of the year. There are incentives to dealerships for completing certification.
“For us as a manufacturer, it’s critical for us to get the voice of the dealer in addition to the voice of the customer. Our AFS Dealer Advisory Council is critical. There are a number of areas that we benchmark and provide incentives for the dealerships overall success with AFS Certification.
“This assists the dealership to identify best-in-class business practices and benchmarks. It allows them to measure their dealerships ability to meet or exceed overall benchmarks.
All while driving a highly-competitive, customer centric dealer level improvement. These incentives come in the form of rebates to offset the costs of training,” says Leo Bose, Case IH AFS Product Manager.
In the future, Bose expects they will develop a level three known as advanced that would focus on command controls and additional digital products for their self-adjusting products. Case IH will likely also start creating shorter forms of training, in response to dealer feedback, that they prefer shorter 30-45 minute training segments.
While Trimble Agriculture does not have a formal certification program for precision dealers, it does have different levels and depending on the level, have training requirements for active dealers as a whole.
Their premier dealers are known as Vantage Dealers. This group focuses on selling solutions and consulting farmers to customize the products for the farmers’ needs. These dealers get access to more training.
Trimble also has a further reaching Trimble Authorized Reseller channel across North America that sells and supports the manufacturer’s full precision portfolio.
It also has specialty dealers who sell a portion of the Trimble portfolio, which are typically specialized products like water management or software and data management.
All dealers get access to the Trimble portal with online training and have the opportunity to sign up for in-person training. The portal consists of videos from the in-person training, so they are the same content.
To be a well-versed standard Trimble dealer, approximately 25 hours of training need to be completed. In-person training is held as-needed based on dealer request or tied to a new product release.
The Trimble training facility is located in Fort Collins, Colo. It’s utilized for training as well as field days with growers. There is a test farm located there as well in partnership with Colorado State University. Dealer training at the facility is a combination of classroom time, field time and hands-on learning. The length is typically two to three days.
Trimble has not yet implemented a grading system for their online training, but it does issue tests for in-person training.
“All of our agriculture dealers also get access to Trimble’s professional development classes,” said Rebecca Hopkins, Regional Development Manager for Trimble Ag. “Class topics range from leadership, finance, sales, to Excel.”
While Deere provides 23 courses that include more than 40 hours of instruction in John Deere University, they do not require dealer staff to partake in them. All training of Integrated Solutions staff is dealer lead.
The manufacturer has structured its training programs to allow dealers to customize a curriculum to best support their employees and business requirements. This gives dealerships more opportunities to advance in their career and capabilities.
Integrated Solution personnel can search for the products or classes they would like to take and then request access from their manager. Many classes have prerequisite classes, so they are taking a series of classes. There are knowledge checks, which require an 80% to pass.
Classes are offered in a virtual setting, classrooms, regional programs at training or Deere facilities, how-to videos, podcasts for training on-the-go, regional training events, virtual reality experiences and supportive resource guides (print and digital). Most online courses are 1-1 ½ hours in length.
The Large Ag Integrated Solutions training is the hands-on piece. In order for dealer staff to attend, they must be at a certain knowledge level by having taken certain prerequisite classes. It’s held in Florida once a year over an extended timeframe.
Deere strongly encourages Integrated Solutions team members to become Certified Crop Advisors as well. This supports the manufacturer’s philosophy that precision brings together agronomic, equipment and technology knowledge.