Earlier this fall I worked with a customer to correct a feeding problem on his combine. He was harvesting crop that was in challenging condition. We tinkered with a dozen or more adjustments, calibrated and re-calibrated a half-dozen automated functions, and fine-tuned every aspect of the head that I could think of. Nothing seemed to cure the problem.
Out of frustration, I asked him to move to a different part of the field, where the crop was in better condition, and make a few rounds. The machine worked beautifully.
We returned to the problem part of the field and within 50 feet, the problem reoccured. After we cleaned out the head and restarted, I asked him to slow down, then slow down more, and then slow down more, until we were moving at 1 mph. The problem didn't re-occur--until he couldn't stand it, and started sneaking the hydro handle forward. Every time he got above 1.5 mph, it started to cause problems, and I again asked him to slow down. We played that game all the way across the field, until I was confident that under those particular weird crop conditions, the only way to make things work was to Simply. Slow. Down.
We politely argued for a couple more rounds, and tried all sorts of variations on the speed-thing. He finally agreed that we had the machine mechanically as good as it could get, that it harvested good-standing crop perfectly, and that the apparent solution in the problem area of the field was to slow down.
But as I got back in my truck I could hear the familiar sound of the transmission whine increasing as he eased the hydro forward…followed by the sound of the head plugging. I turned around, helped him clear the head, and reminded him to go slow in the tough spots. Then I got out of the field as fast as I could.
I don't mean to sound snotty, or arrogant, or snide. But despite all the adjustments and automated features on modern combines, sometimes it takes a seasoned, patient hand at the controls to make things work when crop conditions are tough.
There are combine drivers, and there are combine operators.