If you've ever bough a self-propelled sprayer or another new piece of equipment, how well did the dealer seem to understand his product? Did a delivery person just drop it off and say 'have a nice day,' or did a dealership representative come along, ride along at first, maybe even come back to check in a couple of days.
Matt Hayes, Equipment Technologies, Mooresville, head of the company that makes Apache sprayers, wants his dealers across the country to be well informed. That's why he recently brought them to Mooresville, not just to get acquainted and see the factory, but to try various sprayers in the field. Explaining features of the sprayers to them were some of the people who actually designed and build them, including Michael Thompson, the ag engineer that designed the 'joystick' control option featured on this particular brand of sprayer.
The value of follow-up is making sure the customer understands how to properly use the product, and get out of it what it was designed to do. One company rep related a story about a farmer where his dealer just dropped off the sprayer and left. After one day in the field, he called very upset, wanting to give the product back. He couldn't get the hang of the joystick concept, the rep says.
Once the rep walked him through it by phone and explained how it was designed to operate, the farmer agreed to try it another day or two. Three days later he called back and loved it, said he would never part with it, the rep says.
Sometimes dealers, especially new dealers, aren't aware of all the options and how they function, company spokespersons say. Bringing them together and walking through various option sheets helps bring everyone up to speed.
Newer features, such as accuboom and automatic boom control mean that sprayers are more complex than a few years ago. Equipment Technologies has tried to combat that by going with a standard controller, a Raven controller, and offering other Raven options, on its sprayers. Raven is one of the leaders in providing products to control and vary flow.
The newest models are even ready for auto-steering. "Our sprayers come out ready fro various options," Thompson explains. "Then the customer can add the ones he thinks he needs."
Adding options just to be adding them might not be the best plan. Company reps for Equipment Technologies explained that some of the options for their sprayers are designed for parts of the country where a southern Indiana hill looks like a tiny raise in the landscape. Options and maintenance procedures needed there could be much different than those needed in level landscapes.
Consensus coming out of the training was that self-propelled sprayers, even those with mechanical drive like Apaches, aren't a product that should be dropped off the truck and left for the farmer to figure out. Used correctly, features built in for various situations can deliver top performance. Not understood well, they can simply confuse the operator, and perhaps add extra wear on the sprayer.
"We've made it easy to shift using the joystick control," Thompson concludes. "But we find that some operators are shifting more than they need to. That's just unnecessary wear on the machine."