Maximize Machine Uptime

November 2, 2011 06:21 AM
Maximize Machine Uptime

Technology platforms and leasing arrangements boost logistics

By early next year, McCarty Dairy near Colby, Kan., will be managing 7,200 wet cows at three facilities. Identifying where it can streamline efficiencies and manage expenses is a top priority as the expansion comes to fruition.

"Across our business, we are trying to minimize waste and maximize efficiencies, and this includes equipment," explains Clay McCarty, one of four brothers who farm with their parents, Tom and Judy. "Our highest priority is 100% uptime because when you look at peak profitability, that means units have to be running."

This year, the farm took a new approach to managing machinery, with two hybrid lease programs that eliminate ownership.

"We knew we had inefficiencies and we could no longer be as up to date with servicing our machinery as we need to be," McCarty says.

Taking a lesson learned from the animal care side of their business, they turned to technology.
"Because of fewer large animal veterinarians available for our needs, we worked with our vet to adopt ultrasound technology," McCarty explains. "The same applies to equipment dealers and being able to tap into their machinery expertise. Lost time is lost efficiency when spent trying to troubleshoot and fix problems in-house."

McCarty Dairy currently has a master fleet services agreement with Cat dealer Foley Equipment near Colby, Kan., as well as a hybrid lease with maintenance responsibilities with John Deere dealer Colby Implement.

"We view our equipment dealers as partners in our business," McCarty explains. "We approached them with our business expansion plan, and we worked together to develop how machinery fits in."

The operation leases 16 John Deere tractors and 17 Cat machines—skid steer loaders and wheel loaders equipped for feed and manure handling. The first step in the process was identifying what machines the three locations needed.

"In drawing it up, we took into consideration what took place every day and what took place through the year with feeding, manure removal and other tasks," says Dustin Daniels, a sales representative at Foley Equipment. "Then we matched the size of machine and attachments for the best fit and factored in the expected use of the machine to find the best balance of machine and hours and perform the job at the lowest cost per hour."

Telematics Ease Logistics. As operations such as the McCarty’s expand their equipment fleets and costs increase, it is essential to keep equipment up and running. To cope, more fleet managers are turning to the logistical advantages only telematics can provide.

Telematics is a platform that enables wireless data transfer from machine to satellite. Companies then provide the interface for users to be able to view and manage the data on their computer.
"The age of telematics has arrived," says John Lagemann, vice president of marketing and sales for John Deere. "Wireless com­munication is changing the way we do business."

As part of the company’s launch of its FarmSight strat­egy, all John Deere S Series combines, 9R tractors, 8R tractors, 7R tractors, 6R tractors and 4940 sprayers are ready for telematics when they leave the factory. Field install kits are available for other models.

Other machinery and technology companies also are launching telematics technology.

"Our AgCommand system is similar to tracking yield data, only you are tracking machine data to share best practices to improve operation, transport, tendering, machine use and, ultimately, productivity," says David Webster, director of sales for AGCO Application Equipment.

AgCommand is a software package that allows managers to review machinery performance. Webster believes that telematics will help farmers learn more about how their machines are truly being used. For example, one manager discovered his floater operator took the machine to Dairy Queen for lunch.

Maximize Machine Uptime 2
Part of the program used by McCarty Dairy includes on-site training for every operator by its dealer, Dustin Daniels of Foley Equipment (in the yellow cap).

Training for Efficiency. The McCarty’s take advantage of telematics on their Cat equipment to help with preventive maintenance, rather than reacting to a problem. With new wireless technologies, the team can monitor how the machines are used to further refine the fleet. GPS tracks each machine in operation as well as its mechanical information.

"We track fuel efficiency under idle and work," McCarty says. "We could identify that a payloader was being run with a silage facer in the wrong gear and overheating the transmission," he says. "We also found that our machines wasted a lot of fuel when sitting idle, so now all of our loaders will automatically shut off after the bucket is dropped and sit idle for five minutes."

The Cat program, called Job Site Solutions, provides a master fleet services agreement that includes equipment, on-site training, daily walk-arounds of each machine, online monitoring, service and maintenance, and routine evaluation of the program with conference calls and site visits.

"When we put our plan together, we actually needed less equipment," McCarty says. "When you get 100% uptime, you can run with less."

Primary operators receive extensive training on the machine and are required to fill out a daily checklist. Other employees, except those in the milk parlor, get some training.

One detail the McCartys included was to provide the basic checklist in Spanish, the primary language of many of their employees.

"The walk-around only takes five minutes, and if you lower the barriers to an employee doing it, they’ll not only do it but do a better job, and a problem is more likely to get resolved," McCarty says.

Long-Term Learning. Applying the lessons learned through telematics is an ongoing process.
"We’ve learned we can tailor to what the customer asks for," Daniels says. "The biggest challenge is keeping everyone on the same goal."

Implementing the technology takes a team at the farm and at the dealership. The McCartys divide up the responsibilities by site. At Foley Equipment, five to six people, including Daniels, help bring telematics to the farm.

"Right now, we have weekly conference calls with the Foley team," McCarty says. "They’ll move to twice a month, then quarterly and annual reviews of the units."

Overall, McCarty says, the business will use telematics as a platform to further increase efficiencies.

"We have a technology on the feed mixer wagons that monitors shrink and deviations among all the machines. The monitoring technologies will dovetail nicely into that. If I can cut shrink by 5%, huge gains will be made," McCarty says.

Daniels says that when farmers expect 100% uptime, they should think about how telematics can fit into their business.

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