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Reduce downtime by being your own ‘parts man’

Mike Wiles Published on 11 June 2015

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The alfalfa is at its peak, and you’ve laid down your biggest field. Rain is in the 48-hour forecast, and at 6 p.m., you have a breakdown. It’s critical a repair be made and you get back in the field.

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Up until the recent past, there was probably little you could do but tear the machine down and be at your local dealership first thing in the morning, hoping they had the parts needed for repair. But recent technology has changed the ability to search for parts when the local dealer is closed.

Most major equipment companies now have websites that give access to finding part numbers, which can radically speed up the process of getting back in the field.

It can be as easy as going to a website, entering a model number and clicking on pictures of the replacement components needed to bring up part numbers. This process helps avoid waiting in line at a dealership or being on hold while someone else attempts to find the part during the busy season.

The newest available technology allows customers to do their own parts detective work any time and actually find where a part is in stock. John Deere’s parts website links to each dealership, giving customers a look at what’s available on the shelves provided they sign up and log in to the system.

Jim Goldschmidt, parts product line manager says, “The customer can now check inventory at their local dealer to see if the part is in stock. And it’s not just the inventory of their local dealer; they also have visibility to other stores in the ownership group.”

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Of course the information is only as good as the accuracy of a dealer’s in-store inventory, which can be a challenge in the busy season.

Another special feature of the Deere site allows a specification search separate from the parts catalogue. Goldschmidt says, “It allows you to search for a part number based on the dimensional aspects of the part. For example, if you were looking for a bearing, you could enter measurements of the one needed and it would pull up all of the bearings that meet the specifications in the Deere parts catalogues.”

While these tools are designed to minimize the amount of involvement with the local dealership, don’t look for the dealer to be cut out of the parts supply chain with a totally automated system.

Orders on all online systems are still sent through a local dealer for accuracy, and there may be times when additional kits or parts are needed to ensure everything is secured for the repair. The involvement of the local dealer is critical to avoid mistakes and oversights causing further time delays.

In addition to the major equipment manufacturers, some farm equipment dealers have also realized the benefits of having parts lookup available 24-7 and are customizing their own websites for that purpose.

Jesse Miller is a parts manager at Messick’s, a five-store New Holland, Case IH and Kubota dealership based in Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania, and they offer links to parts lookup for various lines they represent.

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Miller says their website allows customers “to look up the parts, see if the local location has them in stock, check lead times if they don’t, check pricing and place a secure order.”

Messick’s customers can order parts online from different vendors at the same time that all go in one “shopping cart.” They also offer a downloadable “app” for ordering parts on smartphones. Miller reports the system has worked “seamlessly” for those who have used it.

As more customers take advantage of online tools, dealerships will be able to better utilize their personnel resources and speed up the process of getting replacement parts to everyone.

Miller adds, “For the customer having a part number versus one who doesn’t, interaction with the dealership speeds up tremendously. Assuming they have the correct part number, you’re probably looking at cutting the time on the phone alone by around 75 percent.”

Miller has witnessed an increase in the number of customers using online parts lookup. “We’ve seen more of an uptick in the weekend farmer-type customers, but there are some tech-savvy people in the agricultural community that are also taking advantage of this latest resource available.”

One of those farmers is Steve Beitz of Wellington, Colorado, who has been using online parts lookup for both his AGCO and John Deere equipment for almost three years. Beitz raises corn, alfalfa, barley and wheat, has a custom-hay operation and loves looking up his own parts.

“It’s a considerable time saving,” he says, “versus driving to the dealership or being on the phone while their parts people look it up. By looking up your own numbers, you can quickly find out if the closest dealer has the parts in stock, and if they don’t, head another direction toward a dealership that does have them.”

The advantages are even greater if it’s a new piece of equipment and the parts people at the dealership don’t have experience with it. Beitz says in those situations, “It really helps to be looking at a picture with a number rather than trying to describe what it looks like over the phone with something they haven’t seen before.”

Beitz has used the online lookup both on his personal computer and his smartphone, and he says it is a huge time saver. He’s successfully ordered parts for tractors, balers and tillage equipment and says the systems utilized have all been very user-friendly and he’s always received the right parts.

He likens the experience to being in the dealership and on the computer looking at what the parts people see. In fact, in one case the parts man he was talking to on the phone at the dealership could tell what page he was looking at and went to the same location with him to ensure the right part was ordered.

As technology evolves, finding parts will soon get even easier as the next step will likely be “pin-specific” lookup. That means by entering a serial number, a customer would access parts catalogues specifically for the machine they’re working on and avoid having to sort through serial number breaks for changes made to a particular model.

Looking further out, machines are in the process of becoming sophisticated enough to “sense” where parts are failing and alert customers that new parts need to be secured and installed so downtime is prevented before it happens.

Below is a partial list of major manufacturer websites that offer online parts lookup. To find if these services are available from other farm equipment suppliers, perform a Google search of the company name followed by “online parts.”

Mike Wiles is a freelance writer from Ozark, Missouri.

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