The most important element is not the sale process but what happens after it. UK John Deere dealer Ben Burgess uses connectivity to maintain direct lines of communication between dealer, machine, and operator – allowing for greater operational control and insights into the true machine efficiency.
For arable farm manager Alister Farr at Chivers Farms, Cambridgeshire, the aftermarket solutions have given him access to reliable contacts that have helped his fleet’s technological transition. “I’m managing around 1000ha of combinable crops spread over 11 blocks of land so there’s a lot of travelling. The soils are heavy, but we also sit in a dry corridor– and like most farms in the area, we have the challenge of blackgrass and cabbage stem flea beetle,” says Mr Farr.
“We run an extensive rotation, mainly using min-till to establish both winter and spring crops – with the latter helping to combat blackgrass. To improve sustainability, we have moved to a controlled traffic system, and this year we trialled 28ha of phacelia.”
Mr Farr decided to part company with his John Deere self-propelled sprayer in October 2019, opting instead to buy a new 6175R tractor and R962i trailed sprayer. “The self-propelled was great but it’s a one job machine,” he says. “The separate tractor and sprayer give us much more flexibility within the fleet.” He also introduced a 785i combine harvester to his fleet in July 2020.
On delivery, a precision ag consultant from Ben Burgess collaborated with Mr Farr to set up and calibrate each machine to get the best in- field operation. “When we had the combine delivered we needed the precision ag consultant to fine tune the combine so that machine sync was enabled, allowing the combine to dictate the speed, direction and position of the chaser bin tractor,” explains Mr Farr.
“We have also had help importing and exporting boundaries, guidance lines, variable rate plans, and section control on the farms drill.”
The remote access means that even from the field the precision ag consultant can troubleshoot for us when we need that assistance.
After the headache of running a mix of guidance brands, the uniformity of fleet technology was attractive to Mr Farr. “Technology is great when it is working – but using a mixed system proved time consuming with inaccuracies and issues with data transmission,” he says.
His main aim is to achieve connectivity through the fleet, with the transfer and collation of previous data – like yield and harvest/spray maps, and variable rate data – all coming back through his Gatekeeper software.
“We are now able to transfer our yield maps to Gatekeeper. And while we wait on software development for further data transfer, we can use MyJohnDeere for those applications and its other features. We feel set up to get more out of the system as the Gen 4 upgrade comes.”
Remote display access has kept Mr Farr remotely connected to his precision ag consultant, enabling him to assist with set-ups, troubleshooting and machine performance. “Farmers are now expected to be techies as well as everything else,” he says. “The remote access means that even from the field the precision ag consultant can troubleshoot for us when we need that assistance – during harvest that stopped a couple of tech issues causing bigger problems.”
I can see it as a useful tool. What we have also found useful is the benchmarking report – it ignites a bit of a competition between the operators; you can’t complain if it improves efficiency.
With permission, the aftermarket solutions team can monitor the machine throughout its operational life – connected via JDLink – allowing the team to consult with the operator on functional adjustments throughout the seasons.
Operational data can also be monitored to generate reports which calculate potential savings by analysing fuel usage and idle time. “With such a hard year – poor weather and a tough harvest – we haven’t fully utilised the capacity of the monitoring and reporting,” explains Mr Farr. “
I can see it as a useful tool. What we have also found useful is the benchmarking report – it ignites a bit of a competition between the operators; you can’t complain if it improves efficiency.”
The machine monitoring also enables two kinds of alerts: operational and expert. Optimisation alerts inform the service team enabling them to consult the driver on how to enhance machine operation in real time – maximising uptime and minimising the cost implications of inefficiencies.
The expert alerts are generated by algorithms which identify patterns within measured parameters to indicate an imminent fault. They alert the precision ag consultant, who can then inspect the machine through remote access. While Mr Farr’s fleet has not yet experienced an expert alert, another customer avoided a £15,000 engine repair bill after the system detected a faulty oil pressure regulating valve – the spilt value would have caused significant damage. Instead it cost £150 for a replacement.
Maintenance and repairs
Consistency and longevity of machine performance heavily relies on good maintenance, the frequency of which depends on workload and machine operation. But perhaps most challenging – above costs and scheduling services around jobs – is the availability of parts and labour. “The dealer can easily see when our machines need maintenance so can call us in good time to arrange the work,” explains Mr Farr.
“During the earlier part of our harvest, the combine was vandalised – we came out in the morning to find the windscreen smashed and the display screens ripped out,” he says. “We talked to the aftermarket team and by lunchtime we were out combining with a stand-in machine – our own was repaired and returned within three days.”
Ahead So how does Mr Farr see the fleet moving forward? “We will certainly be carrying on with the services provided by aftermarket solutions – there is definitely range to improve our efficiencies.”
So how does Mr Farr see the fleet moving forward? “We will certainly be carrying on with the services provided by aftermarket solutions – there is definitely range to improve our efficiencies.”