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?
“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,
“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.,
“We try to keep ordering limited to a few personnel. This helps with making sure orders are not forgotten and delayed. The precision farming specialist for each location does the majority of the ordering. They help with keeping track of items and once ordered, each customer will have a work order for what was ordered for them.
“This helps streamline large orders made in the spring and fall so they are received and are ready for delivery or install in a timely manner. When dealing with multiple vendors the biggest challenge is getting everything in a timely manner.
“One manufacture may have everything in stock and another may have the part you need on back order. This leads to time spent trying to track down components from other sources and can take longer to get the customer’s order filled. One thing the manufactures could do to make the process more efficient is to make orders easier to track.
“For the CNH precision farming store, any components ordered can be tracked and when you can expect them to be delivered. This is nice when customers are calling looking for something that they’ve ordered.”
— Jason Pennycook,
Johnson Tractor Inc.,
“We order most of our precision products from Trimble through CNH. We use our business system to mark who a part is ordered for if it is special order. Stock units come in just like any other part. The biggest thing we have an issue with is getting a promise for ship dates from Trimble. Even though we order through CNH, it ships directly from Trimble and that communication process could be improved greatly. Until we place an order, availability is something they won’t discuss. We would like to get an idea of availability when discussing a sale to a customer. In a business where navigation is important, the delivery of the product is sometimes not so transparent.”
— Mike Robling,
Birkey’s Farm Stores,
“Since we are a New Holland dealer, when we order parts from them, they are tracked through our business operating system so we can tell what’s on order and what’s not. We have a lot of luck with buying CNH precision products but we are also an Ag Leader dealer and we still run it through the same system but it is more difficult.
“In my mind, the manufacturer should have everything available to order online with the information there so the dealer can look at the orders and track their progress. There has been more than once when something was to be ordered and it didn’t get through. It doesn’t matter if it was our fault or that of the manufacturer. It got missed and we were waiting on that part.
“It would be nice if we could have our parts personnel set up every morning so they could check a website that shows all the orders by date and if they are in progress, shipped, etc. Then we’ll know the orders have been seen on the other end and when they will probably be at the store.
“The best bet is to stock parts you use a lot and make sure you don’t run out. That is hard because we don’t have a lot of parts history in our situation, as we are a relatively new business. That takes several years to really get good, reliable information, so we make good stock orders to have the right parts on hand when we need them.”
— Spud Armstrong,
“Fortunately, I have been blessed with a very good memory and can tell you just about every piece of equipment I have ever sold to customers and any other equipment they have. We have looked into this lately to figure out how we can let everyone know in the organization what the customer has. With John Deere, they have a profile in StellarSupport that normally has all of the equipment they have purchased under their account. With myjohndeere.com, it’s making it easier for customers to have a “one-stop place to shop” for all of their information regarding John Deere.
“If they have Ag Leader, Trimble, Leica or another brand, we have a spreadsheet with names and equipment on it. So we’re aware that if we’re trading the tractor in whether there is precision equipment with it. Other than that, we work on a collaborative effort with the manufacturers around us to make sure the customers are getting what the need. Otherwise, you don’t have a whole lot of a choice.
— Matthew Rohlik,
Haug Implement Co.,