During my visit to Agco's Batavia facility, one of the company's key parts supply operations, we got into a discussion about supporting the customer. Some of the folks on the team are relatively new to ag - not new to parts support - but new to our industry. And they've already picked up on one key fact: When you're down you don't have a spare machine around to pick up the slack.
Joe DiPietro, senior manager, strategy and performance, tells the story of a farmer from Nebraska who called on a Thanksgiving weekend for a part. Of course, the Batavia facility was officially shut down. DiPietro notes that through his dealer the farmer connected with the Batavia facility - because the dealer didn't have the part on hand (it happens to all the majors). Yet this farmer wanted to keep moving and get his crop harvested.
What the Agco team knows is that most farmers don't park a spare combine on their land waiting for a failure. And this farmer was desperate to get back in the field. So desperate in fact that he took his wife's mini-van and headed for Illinois to get the part.
DiPietro recalls that it was a big part. "We opened up the warehouse and pulled the part, but it wouldn't fit in the mini-van," he recalls. "So we removed the third-row seat from the van and we got the part in. Then we shipped the seat back to the guy's farm." For a company that ships big stuff like engines and axles to dealers, a mini-van bench seat is no big deal.
The farmer was on his way and was back in the field soon after. Given the timing, and perhaps the communication between wife and farmer, that seat arrived at the farm a couple days later and according to DiPietro that was the first time the farmer's wife noticed it wasn't in the van. That's right, the seat arrived before the farmwife noticed it was missing. "I'm not even sure he told his wife he was taking the van to get the part," DiPietro recalls.
It all comes down to service. You know your dealer is the first point of contact for keeping equipment running, but consider that dealer the bottom of a funnel of parts supply and backup chain you can count on to keep machines running. Hopefully, dear reader, you won't be "borrowing" the spouse's mini-van for a quick trip for a needed part. But if you do, perhaps you should ask first.
Oh, and I'll bet there are more stories like this in farm country, of dealers and suppliers going the extra mile to get you back in the field. In this industry, and perhaps like no other, it's who we are and what we do.
As for those parts folks in Batavia? They know their customers. They talk to them regularly and even newbies on the team make trips to nearby farms to get a better understanding of your business needs. If you get a call from a major company who wants to bring some folks out for a visit, be open to the idea. They want to hear what you have to say - good and bad - so they can do better at their jobs. And you can do better at yours.