Downtime. It’s an ugly word. Whether a small farming operation or the largest construction company, the downsides of downtime don’t change – but the word itself does mean something a little different to every company.
For RCM Farms of Barney, ND downtime means more than a few lost hours in the field. It means thoughtfully-planned schedules get throw off. It means work during crucial windows may not get done at the opportune time. It means workers, including those hired to increase productivity during peak points in the season, are halted. And it means money lost.
These reasons are why RCM Farms chooses to take a proactive approach to preventing unplanned downtime, an initiative it has been working on for several years with help from RDO Equipment Co. and John Deere.
RCM and RDO
Located in the southeastern part of the state, in a busy agricultural community, RCM Farms grows corn, soybeans, and sugar beets across its 7,500 acres. Rick Bladow runs the operation with his brother-in-law, son, and a team of both part-time and full-time workers.
RCM Farms has been a customer of RDO Equipment Co. more than 15 years. One of the ways RDO Equipment Co. has and continues to help RCM Farms avoid unplanned downtime is through John Deere Connected Support – Expert Alerts and Machine Monitoring.
RDO Equipment Co., in partnership with John Deere, offers customers the ability to monitor their machines for potential issues. Sometimes the team finds a small issue that can be fixed easily by the operator or with a remote software update, and sometimes the problem is larger, where the RDO Equipment Co. team can engage a certified service technician to diagnose and make a plan to fix the issue. Best case scenario, the technician can schedule the repair during an optimal time for RCM Farms, strategically plan the downtime to lessen the impact.
Rick recalls his first experience with RDO Equipment Co.’s connected support team.
“I received a call from Dan Wiertzema telling me there was an issue with the engine fan speed on one of our machines,” Rick said. The machine was operating normally so Rick and his team thought nothing of it. However, they quickly learned that taking the time to address a small issue while still small would pay off in the long run.
“Dan explained that if the issue was left too long without being fixed, it could ruin the fan bearings and grow into a bigger issue,” Rick said. At some point, the fan – and machine – would fail. The proactive monitoring from RDO Equipment Co.’s connected support team found an issue that might have gone unnoticed until it was a big problem.
While Rick described that first experience as, “overwhelming,” he says it turned out positive and it was a relief it was caught because it saved them a lot of time and money.
The monitoring and alerts provided by RDO Equipment Co. was something RCM Farms wanted on all of its machines. In fact, it was a factor that pushed RCM Farms to switch all its equipment to John Deere. Historically, it operated a mixed fleet of equipment from various manufacturers and it was only within the last five years the team made the switch to operating all John Deere equipment.
Machine Monitoring and Expert Alerts are similar to insurance. The hope is it’s never needed but there’s peace of mind that it’s there – and it’s there for good reason. Rick shared another recent example of the benefits provided by his and his equipment’s connection to the RDO Equipment Co. team.
“We were spraying with one of our track-driven tractors that has air ride suspension,” he said. Dan received an alert that the compressor wasn’t working properly. After calling the local RDO Equipment Co. store in Breckenridge, MN, and discussing the situation with a service technician, Dan found out that technician was already planning on going to RCM Farms to work on the machine later that day to complete a different repair.
“I called Rick and asked if it would work to have our technician also address this issue while he was there,” Dan said. The advance notice meant the technician planned to have the right parts with him to fix both issues. An added bonus for Rick was that he could plan ahead for an opportune time to have the tractor down for the repair.
The opportunity to schedule downtime isn’t just beneficial for RCM Farms – it can be downright crucial. Especially during important times, like spraying, Mother Nature can make getting into the field a challenge.
“Some days, it’s too windy, other days, it’s raining, so the window of opportunity to spray isn’t always a big one,” Rick said. He further explained it’s one of the times they really don’t want a machine to go down unexpectedly because it’s not always a guarantee they’ll be able to resume spraying when the machine is back up and running.
Working Out Well
The relationship between RCM Farms and the RDO Equipment Co. connected support team is one that Rick feels works very well for his operation. When an alert comes up, Dan has the opportunity to assess the degree of immediacy, speak with a service technician, and have a solution ready for the RCM Farms team – often, before they know there’s even an issue.
If it’s a small issue, Dan proposes a timeframe for the technician to come out and complete the repair within a few days, where if it’s a larger issue needing more immediate attention, he’ll suggest the technician come out as soon as it’s convenient. Either way, “usually it works out well,” Rick said.
Rick’s experience with Machine Monitoring and Expert Alerts is one he feels all John Deere customers should be taking advantage of.
“I would highly recommend it,” he said. “It has been well worth it for us. A lot of little things we’ve fixed through this could have turned major if not done right away.”
Small issue or large problem, saving money, time, and preventing unplanned downtime is always a winning combination.
Interested in more information and success stories with Machine Monitoring? Read our article: How Machine Monitoring Equals Better Fleet Management.
To learn more about agriculture technology from RDO Equipment Co., visit our Precision Ag page or your local RDO Equipment Co. store.