staff photo by phyllis zorn
Todd Carpenter uses a computer to diagnose a needed fix on a John Deere tractor.
Mechanical problems checked from afar
Technology has changed the landscape of farm implement repair.
“When I first started doing this in the late ‘70s, I never dreamed I’d be using a computer to do this,” Todd Carpenter, field service technician for Prairieland Partners, said. “Now it’s the first tool out of my tool box.”
Electronic diagnostics are the rule with John Deere machinery. It’s even possible to diagnose a problem from afar, with the implements’ sensors read via satellite.
“The new generation of farmers are so tech-savvy, it’s amazing,” Carpenter said.
An electronic monitoring system sends Carpenter an email if someone’s John Deere implement develops an issue, such as low oil pressure. He can contact the farmer to ask how the machine is behaving.
If needed, he can start getting things together to make a field visit.
During harvest, the company has a crew that drives the nation delivering parts where they are needed.
Carpenter typically spends two weeks per year learning about new technology, sometimes in classrooms and sometimes in webinars.
Classroom sessions are often weeklong, 40-hour classes.
“That’s something we fight all the time as technicians, all the new technology,” Carpenter said. “We go to school all the time.”
During harvest, farmers usually need belts, power train repairs, and air conditioning service.
“Air conditioning is a big thing with the heat, because the equipment really heats up,” Carpenter said.
A winter program tests equipment to make sure it’s ready for spring and summer. Farmers who have field breakdowns often did not have their equipment checked in the winter, Carpenter said.
“We run through it with a fine-toothed comb and see what needs to be fixed and what they want us to fix,” he said. “There’s always a chance for a belt or a bearing to go out.”
Brian McMillen, service manager at Lang Diesel, also seeks to limit downtime during harvest.
“We have an aggressive winter program. Starting in December we have these combines in and look them over really well,” McMillen said. “We had 30 combines through here this winter. That program really helps us in harvest time.”
McMillen said Straub’s closing of its Marion operation “left a lot of people hanging.”
“We’ve been working on the International tractors,” he said. “I would like to let people know they can bring their combines in and we’ll take a look at them.”
The business also works to keep the shop empty during harvest so technicians are available to work on equipment in fields when needed, McMillen said.
“That way our guys don’t have to be two places at one time,” McMillen said.