In the Shop
As a farm machinery mechanic and writer, Dan brings a hands-on approach that only a pro can muster. Along with his In the Shop blog, Dan writes a column by the same name as well as the Shop Series for Farm Journal magazine. Always providing practical information, he is a master at tackling technical topics and making them easy for all of our readers to understand. He and his wife, Becky, live near Bouton, Iowa.
How Much Will You Pay For Advice?
Mar 02, 2014
I give out lots of advice while I'm fixing farm equipment. My job is to turn wrenches, and that's what customers pay for. But more and more, the way I fix farm equipment is to push buttons on display screens, download new software or recalibrate misbehaving computerized systems.
So if I come to your farm and fix your combine without ever touching a wrench, should you be billed the same hourly rate? How 'bout if you call me over the phone and I spend 15 minutes talking you through a recalibration procedure---should you pay for those 15 minutes?
One of the biggest challenges facing equipment dealerships is how to fund "technology mechanics." Most dealerships now have one or more bright-eyed young people who specialize in installing, calibrating and repairing auto-steer, swath control and yield monitor systems. More and more, repairs or upgrades to those high-tech systems can be done over the phone or remotely via cell phone or satellite links between the dealership and individual machines.
Some dealerships still charge by the hour, per visit, per call, per situation. Others have gone to an annual subscription fee that buys the farmer a specific number of hours of consultations or repairs, whether they be on-farm, over the phone or via satellite. A few dealerships are charging a "per acre" fee, assuming that the more acres a farmer covers, the more tech-related calls will be needed.
It's hard to write a check for thousands of dollars just so you'll be able to talk to somebody when your auto-steer isn't working. It feels "wrong" to pay in advance for a service that you may or may not use. But the handwriting is on the wall that dealerships have to figure out how to pay the salaries of the tech experts that give "free" advice to fix high-tech systems on farm equipment.