A recent survey in Germany showed that a large majority of farmers want pre-season machine inspections. “Fifty per cent of the people asked even want to be alerted as soon as part of a vehicle presents a risk,” says Kevin Etienne, who runs John Deere Expert Check in Western Europe.
Until the automated exchange of information becomes widespread and provides alerts, how does John Deere ensure availability of its equipment during the season?
For agricultural contractors or co-operatives, pre-season machine inspections outside of the contractual warranty has found its place,” concedes Sylvain Autret, product support manager at the Terréa dealership in the Grand-Est region of France.
Customers have a heavy workload and readily admit their mechanical and electronic shortcomings: They need an expert eye. “It is for them that we are developing the Expert Check service, something that will also allow us to better plan the activity of our workshops throughout the season. And we have our mechanics to thank for it.”
Terréa at a glance
Born in 2013 after a dealership merger in the Grand-Est region, Terréa is now part of the Agriteam group. Terréa employs 165 people in 10 locations*, including 80 people in the workshop and 26 warehouse workers. In 2021, the dealership has put 170 new and 210 used tractors into service, as well as 20 new and 47 used combines, 30 balers and 10 sprayers from John Deere, plus 49 new Kramer telehandlers. Expected sales are in the range of €85m (£71m).
*Verdun, Froncles, Sainte-Menehould, Montigny, Vouziers, Chaumesnil, Vitry, Corny and Stenay.
A complete package for a clear quote
Each John Deere dealership can offer Expert Check with a varying range of services, but all have a common core of about 80 operations for a tractor. This includes updating AMS components and installed software, checking fault codes, the air conditioning system, linkage clearance, hydraulic pressure, front-wheel drive, belts and lights.
“During the winter, Terréa adds an engine dynamometer for the tractors and a tyre wear check. We also put the work in in terms of labour,” Mr Autret explains. “We found that this push in labour is almost 15% greater than what would be offered by individually pricing operations on the Expert Check list.” At the end of the inspection, the tractor owner is given a diagnosis and a quote.
“We organise dedicated Expert Check Days at each location at the beginning of the year,” explains Mr Autret. “Customers can be sure of leaving with a fully serviced tractor after 48 hours of downtime, usually very early in the season.” And this approach gets results: Terréa has planned 180 Expert Checks, a large increase compared with 2020.
Expert Check for three tractors per year
Based in Sorcy-Bauthémont in the heart of the Ardennes, ETA (Agricultural Contracting Company) Justin is a long-term customer of the Terréa branches in Corny and Vouziers. Laurent Justin and his wife Nathalie, who took over the company in 1997, manage a team of eight drivers. “Mechanical knowledge is essential for us,” explains Mr Justin. “I never considered hiring a workshop assistant because my dealer has so much more expertise, as well as diagnostic tools like Service Advisor.”
ETA Justin: Machinery fleet
- 9 John Deere 6000 and 7000 series tractors* (1,000 hours/year)
- 4 John Deere combines
- 2 John Deere self-propelled forage harvesters
- 1 John Deere trailed crop sprayer R740i
- 3 Vervaet integrals
- 4 single-grain drills, including 2 John Deere Max Emerge
- 2 self-propelled Plaisance forestry choppers.
*Models 6155M/6170M (2)/ 6195R/6820/6830/6920/7270R/7930.
The business controls an impressive area, a large part of which is cultivated under contract. This includes: 2,500ha of precision planting, 1,700ha of sugar beet, 1,500ha of combinable crops and 1,000ha of grain maize. In addition, there is 1,000ha of maize silage and chopping wood, not to mention the potential for biogas production.
“From May to the end of October our drivers are available every weekend,” says Mr Justin. The off-season maintenance starts in December with a complete clean of the machines. After a month-long closure around the holidays for a break, the major fixes are spread out over January and February. Every year, Mr Justin trusts the Terréa branch in Corny (Ardennes) to carry out a thorough Expert Check of three of his nine tractors.
Two hours wasted tinkering at a seeding site is two hours too many.
“We appreciate the services they offer, and the engine dynamometer run, because it gives us a very good overview of our machine and its engine in particular. John Deere’s reliability is well known, but a tractor that has racked up over 7,000 hours definitely needs preventive maintenance.”
“We rely on this tractor as much as we would a newer one. Two hours wasted tinkering at a seeding site is two hours too many,” says Mr Autret. A simple axle or shaft breakage, to be expected at 8,000 hours, can lead to repair costs up to eight times higher than a preventive replacement.
Also worth considering is the Expert Check 7+ option which, as the name implies, is adapted to vehicles more than seven years old, but whose availability remains as imperative as for newer equipment.
ETA JUSTIN is 100% connected
With 35 years of experience behind him, you might expect Laurent Justin to scoff at new integrated technologies, but he takes the opposite approach. He even sees it as an opportunity to attract a quality workforce.
“All nine tractors, combines, forage harvesters, drills and even self-propelled choppers are connected with JD Link, a great tool,” says Mr Justin. We have information that spans nearly 10 years; we share geolocation, fuel usage and engine hours with certain customers.” Mr Justin is excited about the potential of MyJohnDeere, which will soon be providing him with preventive maintenance alerts. The drivers have already installed the application on their phones.