From 'Salvage' to Recycling

Farmer Iron

The graveyard for older equipment is actually a gold-mine for companies that manage all the details.

Published on: May 14, 2010

There's a story I've been meaning to do for quite a few years. It's one that kind of got swept aside, pushed to the bottom of the to-do list, and sometimes even forgotten. But I'm finally on track to get something put together for an upcoming issue of your favorite Farm Progress magazine. It's about the equipment recycling business.

OK, you might think of it as a salvage yard, but the days of piles of "stuff" sitting on a lot of land behind a privacy fence are ending. The auto industry found out a long time ago that recycling good used parts can be a great business so those "salvage" yards became "recycling" operations. The same is happening for farm equipment.

What was once a business based on acres of inventory where farmers could visit and search out the parts they needed themselves has grown into a sophisticated business with high-tech inventory control, smart buying and solid relationships that build on sales year-after-year.

I made a trip to Worthington Ag Parts in Worthington, Minn., one of 11 locations for this business that's been around since 1964. They still talk about the first sale - a radiator from a 1944 Massey-Harris, pulled for a farmer. But the business has grown, adding new services and support, and creating a support backbone farmers can rely on.

If you've got a machine that's out of warranty and you need a specific, captive part, turning to a recycling yard can make sense. Remember, the used parts you're buying have been tested, in real-world conditions, and they're ready to go back to work.

It's an interesting business. The photo at right shows a rack of parts that have been cataloged and can be searched by computer. Not everything at the Worthington location is cataloged this way, but faster-moving parts are. The company knows what's on hand at each location, and can find it fast and ship it off quickly.

The computer hardware devoted to the business might surprise farmers who remember the "pull your own parts" days. In fact, you can't go on a Worthington lot without being escorted these days; which helps protect a key asset - inventory. The technology deployed includes high-end call center software to quickly connect callers with company folks that can help; inventory control systems that measure not only what parts are selling, but what parts aren't (that's almost as valuable).

It's an intricate business that relies on solid customer service, aided by that technology. And we'll tell you more about it soon.

So while I waited to get this story...which I'm planning on for a future issue (I'll drop a note in this blog on that timing)...it sure was an interesting day.