As precision farming dealers, how do you organize/track customer orders for precision hardware involving multiple brands/product types for customers, and what can manufacturers do to make the process more efficient?

Answers: (see "Part 2")

“I’ve implemented a couple of processes to keep things on track for ordering and installs from the time we get a verbal or signed order from a customer. First, my in-field specialists have to give me an electronic order forum. They are equipped with iPhones, iPads and a laptop so they have three different ways of processing the order. 

“This allows me to flag the email when I receive it, if I’m not in my office. Every night I go through all the flagged emails from the day and either process the order or move it out of my daily flagged emails. When I place the order, it’s all done electronically, so when the confirmation is sent back to me, I email it to myself and to the specialist who needs those parts. This allows them to have a tracking number and a confirmation that the order has been placed.

“With most of the vendors we have a one week turnaround time on parts, but most of the time we receive it within 2 days. With most of my field specialists not coming into the office, we have a drop box at the office or their homes, and they receive them directly.

“When the package has been delivered they send me a confirmation that they have received the order and will be scheduling it for install. This is done through Outlook calendars so I can follow the progress of that customer and monitor the time frame it takes to get an order placed and installed at the customer. I only do this so I don’t close the ticket before it has been installed. No one wants to get a bill before their parts show up.

“This also allows me to monitor installs and daily schedules to make sure specialists are being efficient with their routes, cutting down on fuel bills and seeing as many customers in one day as possible. With our growth rate, we’ve had our share of growing pains and this system has helped us develop our procedures for ordering and billing all in one process.”

Phil Draude,
Brokaw Supply Co.,
Fort Dodge, Iowa

“We use QuickBooks and usually have an estimate ready for the customer [almost immediately]. When the sale is a go, we go through what inventory we have and put the order together on a shelf with the attached estimate and check off the items that we have. 

“If we have to order parts we put the customer's name on it. Trimble has a nice website that we can track orders and see if they are shipped or check the status. Ag Leader is a little more difficult, and we have to track down the sales order number and go to the UPS website to see if it has shipped. 

“As the orders arrive, we place them next to parts we have in stock and schedule an install. Each order has its own spot. In the spring, that shelf is never big enough and usually spills over to the shop floor. But after spring rush this system works out well.”

Matt Liskai,
Green Field Ag LLC,
Gibsonburg, Ohio

“We have a process that has been mostly successful. After being in this industry for 30 years, I look at the future — cropping trends, snow cover, moisture levels, commodity prices, last years successes, etc. — for the next 18 months. I then place orders from John Deere to cover the first 2-4 quarters of the business year. I also continue to monitor the inventory every day. 

“We generally follow these 9 steps/guidelines for sales and ordering of precision products:

1. Customers inquire about a solution for their operations and precision farming requirements.

2. A salesperson will gather some of the customers’ machine models involved.

3. A salesperson sends me an email with the information.

4. I suggest a solution and price and usually confirm with our in-house agrologist.

5. Customers place an order with the salesperson and then it’s passed on to me (99% of the time it involves John Deere GPS equipment).

6. I have 2 very good organizers, AMS consultants, in 2 different locations that look after the programming and distribution requirements after that.

7. The technicians install the items.

8. The salesperson collects the money and does the necessary paperwork — bill of sale, warranty, etc. I then make sure the items are properly billed, and not missed on each of the units we sell each year. Usually, it’s about 900 items every year in many combinations. About 40-60% of the items are installed on a machines that were just purchased from us, new or used, so it’s hundreds of combinations and all types of solutions.

9. The salesperson and/or the agrologist help customers set up the equipment on the machines. We also have an in-house call center that trains the customers in clinics during the preseason.”

— Greg Carlson,
Western Sales Ltd.,
Rosetown, Saskatchewan

(see "Part 2")