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.
In The Shop: More Expenses Related to GPS Systems
Jan 08, 2012
I'm not endorsing or condemning, just making an observation:
Adjusting, calibrating, updating and diagnosing problems in GPS-based systems related to autosteer, yield monitors and other high-tech systems in farm equipment is becoming a major issue for both farmers and equipment dealerships. Over the past decade, as farmers have bought into various forms of high-tech wizardry, much of the behind-the-scenes support necessary to diagnose, repair and upgrade those systems has been relatively free. Either as after-the-purchase warranty work or "hidden" in other repair costs associated with the machinery.
The complexity of high-tech systems, coupled with the widespread adoption of those technologies, has reached the point where dealerships can no longer give away the time. Most dealerships now have one or more employees who do nothing but work with high-tech systems. The training and expertise those employees must have to work on sophisticated electronics does not come cheap. Dealerships are scrambling to figure out how to keep customers happy, but pay those employees' salaries.
So, things are going to change in the future. Some dealerships are offering annual contracts, where for an annual fee, customers get "x" number of hours of repair, diagnostic or instructional time related to their high-tech systems. Other dealerships have gone to billing for technology-based issues as they bill time for mechanical repairs--strictly by the hour. Some have even begun billing customers for time spent answering questions or guiding customers through reprogramming over the phone.
Customers don't like paying for phone calls. Customers also don't like paying for somebody to sit in a tractor and do nothing more than push buttons on a display console, or wait while new software downloads. But even more, customers dislike high-tech systems that don't work after they've paid serious money for the opportunity to autosteer, use swath control, or make use of other high-tech guidance and control systems. There's no easy answer. Time will tell how much resistance customers offer to paying for what they formerly got as part of their purchase price, and how much help dealerships can continue to offer for "free."