Buyer Beware...or Be Happy
Jul 29, 2018
As always, my blogs are strictly my own opinions. Other people may, and often do, disagree.
I had a bad experience last week with a small company that sells aftermarket components for farm equipment. They advertise that their components make Deere, Case, New Holland, Agco and other brands of equipment work better in the field. That may be. I have customers who are delighted with the way their products work.
Through the years I've dealt with a lot of aftermarket manufacturers, installing, repairing or diagnosing their products installed on our dealership's mainline equipment. I've had wonderful experiences, and I've had nightmare experiences. In general, the larger the aftermarket manufacturer, the better their service and support system. If you call them for help, or visit their website, to get instructions or diagnostic information, you usually get detailed, accurate, useful stuff. They often have a person, maybe a department, designated to take and answer technical questions. I'm not afraid to point to Raven and Lankota as examples of aftermarket manufacturers that offer excellent after-sale support. Both of these companies started small, produced quality products that they strongly supported after sale, and are now large, respected aftermarket companies.
The other, darker side of the aftermarket industry are one- to ten-man shops that invent a gadget or tool that fixes a problem they or their customers have seen with a piece of equipment from a mainline manufacturer. Often times, their product does what they claim it will. Sometimes it doesn't. Either way, these folks are often mechanical geniuses who are wizards at cutting and welding metal, but can't explain themselves worth a darn. Ask them how to install their product, or for details on how to adjust or calibrate it, and it's like they speak a foreign language. Last week an aftermarket manufacturing genius finally got tired trying to explain his product to me so I could install it on a machine, and said, "I haven't got time to explain it to you, I'll send you photos." And he did--five blurry smartphone photos that could have been shots of the Loch Ness Monster or Bigfoot, for all I could tell.
My opinion--and this is only MY opinion--is to be cautious when buying aftermarket products for your equipment. Ask a lot of questions. In fact, ask stupid questions and see if they have the patience and communication skills to deal with challenges. Check with farmers and retailers from their immediate area. Do not trust their internet photos or whatever sales brochures they send to you--find some of the products installed on machines and examine them closely. The stuff they put on display at farm shows has been buffed and polished and made as close to perfect as they can make it. Quality control may be an issue when their day-to day products are built in the back of a dirt-floor machine shed using a torch and buzz-box welder, while they try to sell enough product so they can build a nicer shop with production-quality tooling. I respect their efforts and admire their spunk, but in the end it's all about whether or not their product is good enough to work like they say it will.
I don't mean to be negative, folks, but darn it, I've been bitten too many times by aftermarket manufacturers who promise more than they can provide.