The Factors Driving Increased Downtimes for Agricultural Equipment

Agricultural Heavy Machinery

Preserving the Efficiency and Profitability of Agricultural Service Operations

Industrial agriculture has always faced elevated levels of complexity and a unique range of variables.

But in recent years, multiple factors have caused these levels of complexity to increase at an exponential rate. These factors bog down machinery uptimes and threatening the efficiency of agricultural service operations.

IoT connectivity drives much of this new complexity, primarily impacting the machinery essential to modern agriculture. Heavy machine maintenance and service operations now face an array of related challenges:

  • More machines in the field
  • Frequent part and machinery updates
  • Mechanical changes
  • An increasing number of markets and regions
  • Unfulfilled expectations regarding the practical value of connected technology
  • New policies governing the content, distribution and availability of product information
  • Increased warranty requirements
  • Increased safety regulations

Two negative trends have emerged:

One, service has become more time-consuming and expensive than ever before. Cost increases have slashed the potential profitability of product service.

Two, service operation management has become prohibitively work-intensive. IoT connectivity offers unprecedented opportunities for transformation. Yet large swaths of product documentation only received partial digitally transformation during IoT implementation. It’s worth pointing out, the PDF version of a static document is still a static document. As a result, many companies continue to suffer unaddressed structural inefficiencies and even execute regular administrative processes manually.

FACTOR #1 – Silo Syndrome, Duplicated Effort and Diminished Document Authority

Documentation is generated, stored and maintained (or not maintained) by separate silos in structures rife with duplicated effort, making it increasingly difficult to determine which product information is accurate and up to date. Make/model/region variations make it hard to determine which documentation relates to which products.

In the process of digital transformation, many companies digitize their documentation without leveraging the connected domain’s power to organize, classify data or selectively reuse data. Organizations often release documents as-is and never update them—even after errors have been reported—eroding technician confidence in the service information itself.

But IoT itself offers many strategies to rectify these issues. These strategies warrant careful consideration. But first, it’s worth taking a closer look at 7 emerging factors which have helped create a perfect storm of operational gridlock and lost revenue.

FACTOR #2 – More Components, More Wiring, Thinner Wire, More Failures

Wiring issues—long a common cause of equipment failures—have exploded, thanks to the addition of new modules, new internal systems and added components.

But the wiring itself has also become less reliable. Manufacturers now employ thinner, more space-efficient wire to create physical room for new systems and components. This thinner wire is more fragile, and far more prone to breaking.

Wiring harnesses now feature a multitude of new splices, further diminishing their stability.

FACTOR #3 – Lack of Searchability

For many organizations, “digital transformation” begins and ends with simply repackaging traditional documentation as static electronic files.

These files are then distributed with little or no regard for searchability or relevance, placing significant barriers between service resources and the information they need.

FACTOR #4 – Lack of Service Portal Integration

Many service portals for agricultural machinery lack cohesive integration, forcing technicians to jump from one interface to another multiple times over the course of a single repair:

  • The technician begins by pulling diagnostic codes via their scan tool
  • Next, the technician opens the primary service portal to the enter the machine PIN number and diagnostic trouble codes
  • Once technician reads the relevant diagnostic info, they may discover the need to track down a separate wiring diagram, technical service bulletin or separate reference material for hydraulic readings, all of which entail opening a separate interface
  • If the technician needs to order spare parts, they’ll need to jump to yet another application
  • If warranty is an issue, that will require opening a separate interface as well

Lack of integration creates a disjointed, disorganized, time-consuming experience for service technicians, and may impact the quality of the repair itself.

FACTOR #5 – Service Management in a Time of Crisis

This lack of portal integration impacts executive control and service operation managers as well.

Many systems force administrators to set resource permission levels manually. With poor documentation management, training and onboarding become a particular challenge, and few systems offer any level of analytic insights into training efficacy.

Some companies even face situations where specific regions own and operate their own unique service portal systems, forcing executives to grapple with multiple, dissimilar regional silos.

FACTOR #6 – Technician Crisis vs. Growing Agricultural Demand

The technician community is shrinking.

The industry’s most seasoned and experienced technicians are rapidly aging out of their profession, leaving the field at a time when machinery is at its most complex.

Fewer and fewer young people are choosing careers in service and repair. Tech training schools have suffered declining enrollment rates for close to a decade.

Good technicians now enjoy unprecedented levels of demand. The best will gravitate toward manufacturers who offer a more refined technician experience—word-of-mouth travels quickly in the close-knit technician community. Manufacturers with more archaic portal systems will be forced to choose from the lower tiers of a dwindling resource pool.

These trajectories combine to form a dire picture, one where companies who take ownership of their service experience thrive as costs skyrocket and potential revenue plummets for the rest, thanks to unfulfilled demand and record downtimes.

FACTOR #7 – Extended Machine Downtimes

Machine downtimes now extend to record lengths as overtaxed technician teams struggle to meet demand.

These extended downtimes are especially troublesome during critical high-use periods like harvest seasons, when uptime is most important. This creates widespread technician frustration, customer dissatisfaction and operational gridlock for manufacturers, service departments, and end users.

With profit margins tightening, the need for guaranteed uptime has never been higher. Unfortunately, periods of intense downtime create a negative, self-propelling cycle—the more machines line up for service, the more burdened technician crews become, creating longer and longer wait times.

Leverage Growing Complexity to Your Advantage

Despite these challenges, the current technological moment holds vast potential. Companies can leverage the same IoT technologies behind these struggles to make service operations more efficient.

Machine connectivity could do more than simply provide higher yields and more efficient use of resources. It could also create unprecedented technician experience, faster repairs, easy centralized administration, and executive control, putting service operation profits back on an upward trajectory.

To properly leverage these recent technologies, companies must focus on these fundamental concerns:

  • Topic- and component-based digital transformation of all technical documents
  • Aggregating all service content with one-click updates and smart reuse of content
  • Providing a central access point for the management of all service regions with automated administration systems for authorization, access and permission levels
  • Offering a central access point for all technical tools and documentation required by the diagnosis and repair process
  • Providing automatic, PIN-specific curation of those tools and documents

And, given the remote locations of many agricultural sites, a service portal should also offer on- or offline access for field technicians.

Accurate Service Information Online, Offline, in the Office, in the Field, in Any Language

Tweddle Group solution engineers have developed a platform to specifically address these issues. Service Portal reconfigures a company’s fundamental information architecture, aggregating previously s documentation without disrupting a client’s internal teams.

Service Portal offers technicians direct access to relevant, accurate, PIN-specific service information, and provides this documentation through any connected device—in the office or in the field, online or offline—translated into any language and optimized for fast, easy searchability.

Centralized Control of All Service Operations

Service Portal also provides a single interface for all administration and management, placing oversight of your entire service operation—every region and every market—under one convenient central control system.

Address the 7 Downtime Factors with One, Integrated Solution

Download our factsheet to learn how an integrated service portal solution can leverage connectivity to improve technician efficiency and streamline management tasks, restoring the profitability of machine service operations.


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