Farm Industry News Blog

Iron-clad testimony

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Jeff Ryan makes his way to Waterloo, IA, at the John Deere manufacturing facilities where he adressed various groups of employees and got a behind-the-scenes tour.

We might as well have called it JillFest for the rest of the day.

"Small group of maybe 25 people or so" was what I was told to expect for my audience. I got to the foundry in Waterloo and was taken into a meeting room with way more than 25 chairs in it. A few minutes later, the room filled up in short order with about 50 people in it. When that one was finished, we took a brief tour and then went to a lunchroom for the next meeting. There were something like 150 people in that room. As precise as these folks are at measuring parts they put together in increments of microns, no one seems to be all that close on head count numbers!

"There will be about 25 or 30 people, maybe 173, we're not entirely sure."      

Another thing to keep your audience on your side is to get them involved in your presentation. The foundry workers were a whole lot younger than I was expecting. We had a bunch of 20- and 30-somethings in the group. I had figured there'd be a bunch of grizzled 58-year-olds with a soot-laden appearance who could probably quote me the exact number of hours remaining before they retired. So I decided to ask how many of them had any kind of farm background. It wasn't a lot, but there were some. Then I asked how many had actually driven a tractor. Only a couple hands went up. That probably surprised my Deere corporate host friends as much as anyone.

The larger group at the drivetrain assembly facility was a bit more spread out in age, but I asked the same questions as the foundry group got earlier. More hands went up for both questions. More questions got asked by that group than before, too.

There was one technological glitch we had at the first meeting that we improved by the second round. I had a slide that mentioned product quality. One of my supporting files was a video I had taken with my phone last fall. We had gotten a new 6170R tractor with a loader on about the 8th of November. I was going across the field with it and a squeak developed in the seat on the 23rd of November. This wasn't a minor squeak. I called Mike, the service manager at my dealership, and mentioned it to him as I was parked. Then I told him to listen closely as I held my phone down near the seat and began to drive. It was like fingernails on a chalkboard . . . if the fingers belonged to a Parkinson's patient.

"Oh, $#%^&*!  I'll have somebody out there right away!" Mike said.

I'm not sure what exactly the technician used to solve the problem, but the noise went away when he was done a while later. The smell of his solution remained for a few days.

So, I told the audience at Deere, "82 hours on it; fifteen days into owning it, and THIS is what I end up with after spending _________." (Naturally, I quoted bust-out retail to them and not the final price Honest RC had gotten me on it.) With that, I held my cell phone up to my microphone and played the audio file. 

Boy, did that open some eyes! I mentioned that we have very little tolerance for annoyances. If a machine ends up with some rattle or squeak like that, we get rid of it at the first opportunity. We had one tractor for just a few months because of a noise in it. We have another one right now that isn't all that old and it has a squeak in the steering wheel that I hate, so I do my best to stay out of it. Before we bought the new tractor last year, we tried a low-houred used one. It also had some squeaks and other little issues I didn't like, so we went with a new one instead. I'm not really convinced right now that we made the right decision.

The other thing I mentioned to my various audiences that day was that the gap in quality between Deere and their competitors in the past was almost always wide enough for us not to consider anything else. That gap has either shrunk or disappeared today. With the pricing packages available, it's entirely possible that our next new machine will not be green. These were primarily line employees that I was speaking to, so I didn't tell them that in order to negotiate a better price. I explained it to them so that they know why I make the decisions I do when it's time to buy equipment.   

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The Farm Industry News Blog features commentary from Willie Vogt, Daryl Bridenbaugh and Jeff Ryan.

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