ServicesExpert Check: The expert for peace of mind

With the Expert Check, service tech­ni­cians like Thomas Merkel help to avoid expen­sive repairs and ensure peace of mind. The most impor­tant pre-requi­si­tions for this: A lot of expe­ri­ence and struc­tured work.

Steffen Tkacz’s farm is quietly located at the end of Ostrava-Zschochau – a commu­nity of 200 inhab­i­tants in Saxony, Germany, about 50km north­west of Dresden. It rained the day before I met him, and the fields are still wet. The 57-year-old farmer cannot work on them today. A perfect day to have his tractor checked out. His 8403 John Deere is already waiting on the cobble­stones of the rectan­gular farm. ”The tractor is my baby,” says Mr Tkacz. ”It has been with me for eight years and has around 4,000 hours of oper­a­tion. I use it for spraying and general work, basi­cally every­thing. That’s why it has to run reli­ably.” Since 2015, Mr Tkacz has farmed around 100ha of land, growing sugar beet, maize and wheat.

Thomas Merkel will find out how things stand with the 8403 on this day. The 29-year-old has been working as a service tech­ni­cian for John Deere for around 10 years. He is very familiar with the model and knows where he needs to take a closer look during the check. ”Front axles and Vari­Cool belts are often an issue,” he says.

Thomas Merkel and his colleagues check agri­cul­tural machinery as part of the John Deere Expert Check.

The love for agri­cul­tural machinery runs in the blood

Mr Merkel acquired his love for green-yellow agri­cul­tural machinery almost as a baby. His father’s farm only had John Deere machines. ”Anything else was out of the ques­tion for my father,” he laughs. The fasci­na­tion for agri­cul­tural machinery has become second nature to him. ”Many people like to work on cars,” he says. ”But I find that totally boring. You always have the same parts and models. There is more variety in agri­cul­tural machinery. And because you often work on them outside in the field and not in the work­shop, where you have every­thing, a lot more talent for impro­vi­sa­tion is required.”

The expert checks with every sense

During the Expert Check, Mr Merkel works on the basis of a fixed protocol that he has on his tablet, but also draws on his expe­ri­ence – and uses every sense when checking. ”I listen to the engine and then assess whether every­thing is ok. Then I smell the engine oil, for example, to see if it smells burnt. If I find a leak some­where and it is not imme­di­ately clear what kind of liquid it is, I will have a taste if neces­sary.”

But before Mr Merkel puts his hand on the machine, he first talks to the customer. ”You can find out impor­tant details in this prelim­i­nary talk,” he says. This is also the case with Mr Tkacz: ”There is conden­sa­tion in the cab and the front axle squeaks when steering.” Mr Merkel listens care­fully and then gets down to work. He begins in the cabin with clean hands, reads out error codes and checks the seat. Then he deals with the conden­sa­tion and quickly finds the error: ”The air condi­tioning system needs to be cleaned and disin­fected.”

While Mr Merkel goes through the indi­vidual check points and notes any anom­alies, he also thinks about the customer’s wallet. After all, not every repair has to be imme­diate; some can wait until the season is over. For Mr Merkel it is impor­tant that the Expert Check is under­stood as a preven­ta­tive instru­ment. ”For the customer, Expert Check is not partic­u­larly expen­sive. But on the other hand, they can save a lot of money because I can recog­nise early on what might soon become a problem and inform the customer in good time.”

The Expert Check begins with a prelim­i­nary discus­sion. Thomas Merkel learns a lot about the tractor.

Thomas Merkel checks the cabin filter and seat, among other things.

Outside, the engine and trans­mis­sion are put through their paces.

Merkel checks front and rear axle for play.

When checking the coolant, the pH value is impor­tant among other things.

The hydraulics must work with the correct pres­sure.

When checking the hitch, tech­ni­cian Thomas Merkel requires full phys­ical effort.

With Mr Tkacz’ tractor, the problem with the squeaky steering is such a case. When Mr Merkel notices that some­thing is playing up, the farmer’s heart skips a beat. But the expert can reas­sure him: ”I can adjust that quickly”. Without these few steps, this would have resulted in a much more expen­sive problem in the long run.

You can find out impor­tant details in this prelim­i­nary talk.

Thomas Merkel

Mr Merkel notices some­thing when he checks the steering and the Vari­Cool system. ”The Vari­Cool belt is heavily worn. It will last this season but will then have to be replaced. Other­wise the tractor is gener­ally in very good condi­tion.” Mr Tkacz is pleased: ”I service it myself every day and make sure that it is in good condi­tion,” he says.

The Expert Check begins with a prelim­i­nary discus­sion. Thomas Merkel learns a lot about the tractor.

At the end of the check, Mr Merkel goes through the results in detail with the farmer using the check­list. Then the keys are handed back to the customer. An ”Expert Check” tag now dangles from the key. Farmer Mr Tkacz sums up: ”The Expert Check has paid off for me again this year. Now I know where I stand and can start the new season with peace of mind.”