Keep The Tires Turning...and Your Wheels From Spinning
Partnering with a reliable tire dealer eliminates downtime; frustration for farmers.
It's one of those things that farmers all too often simply take for granted. After completing daily maintenance and equipment checks before heading to the field — or periodic in-field inspections during the busy seasons — farm operators just expect tires will keep on turning; all day, the next day, and for many days and years to come. And because tire failures happen so seldom, when it does occur — especially in the field and away from the shop — the importance of having a tire dealer you can rely on to help keep the wheels turning, is essential.
Service, supplies and support — 24/7
According to Kelly Monthei, general manager with Graham Tire in Worthington, Minn., there are several things farmers should look for when partnering with a tire dealer.
"It's all about service," says Monthei. "When the guys go to the field to plant, harvest, or whatever the task, they pretty much run around the clock, weather permitting. A dealer must be able to provide 24-hour service because these guys can't afford downtime. Having the right tires on hand, or the ability to access a specific tire in a hurry is also important."
Monthei admits the many different types of equipment — tractors, combines, sprayers, planters, grain carts, even semis — that require so many different sizes and types of tires, although Graham Tire tries to maintain a diverse, well-stocked supply, it simply isn't feasible for most individual dealers to inventory all tire options. Yet, there is a way to address the challenge of having to prioritize which tires they keep in stock and address the occasional void.
"We've built relationships with many other dealers and are all there to help each other out," says Monthei. "If we don't have a specific tire that we need in stock, I can usually find it at another dealer nearby quickly. We also attempt to survey all of our customers about their equipment, and maintain up-to-date records including wheel and tire sizes and other specifications. This helps us be more efficient in managing our inventory and stock the tires that are most likely to be needed."
Monthei says some farmers may be reluctant to allow a tire dealer to acquire so much information about their equipment, yet having this information in their records helps expedite service more efficiently in the event of an incident. The survey is very thorough, including an inspection and evaluation of the general condition of each tire on every piece of equipment and vehicle in their operation. In addition to having all this information stored in a computer database for immediate recall, records are also provided to the farmer as a courtesy.
"We measure tread depths and complete inspections of each tire," says Monthei. "This information can be an indicator of potential problems. It allows us to anticipate a repair call before it happens, and saves time once the call comes in by not having to gather a lot of information the farmer may not have at his fingertips. If they call in and say their John Deere combine has a rear tire going down on it, we know what size of tire it is and what may be required to fix it.
Tire dealers have also expanded their menu of service offerings to extend beyond traditional tire repair and replacement. Graham Tire, for example, has a full complement of service mechanics on staff, and not just for farm machinery, but for the entire supporting cast of necessary extras that help make their operations run as efficiently as possible.
"We don't just fix their tires, we fix their cars, pickups and trucks," says Monthei. "Farming equipment is so diverse today. It isn't like they just have a couple of tractors, a combine and wagons … now they've got semis, grain carts and a lot of other highly sophisticated implements. We cater to all their needs, from fixing flat tires on their car to the combine, doing engine work for them; pretty much everything.
According to Skip Sagar, sales manager for Titan Tire's brand of Goodyear Farm Tires in Des Moines, Iowa, an increasing number of farm owners and operators are turning to their tire dealer for a variety of services outside of just selling new tires and replacing/repairing those that have become damaged or worn.
"The reliability and expertise of the dealer is more important today than ever before," says Sagar. "If a farmer damages a tire or needs to replace one, they want to know that their dealer specializes in that part of the business, and that they can call on them to get immediate service. The other thing for farmers to keep in mind is that their tire dealer should be there for them to utilize their expertise. A dealer that specializes in ag tires is totally different than a dealer that just happens to sell tires for ag equipment. I generally tell farmers that they should find a dealer that can provide the kinds of services they want and can get the tires they need, when they need them."
Sagar also says that farmers are often concerned about costs for in-field and on road repairs. Yet, he reminds them to keep in mind two important things: 1) the dealer has a significant investment in equipment they purchased specifically to get them up and running more quickly and 2) calculate costs associated with downtime — hours, days, even up to a week.
"When looking for service, it's important to consider how quickly the dealer can arrive," says Sagar. "With so many variables that are out of a farmer's control, downtime resulting from tire damage and repair can at least be minimized by taking some proactive steps, and partnering with a responsive, reliable tire dealer."
The right equipment
Just as the machinery used by their farmer customers has grown and become more sophisticated over the years, so too has the service offerings, capabilities and repair equipment of tire dealers. Companies like Graham Tire have invested substantial resources in equipment that helps get their customers back up and running quickly; and in the most efficient manner.
"We carry everything for tractors, trucks, combines, grain carts; you name it," says Monthei. "It's a big expense for a dealer but if they're customers experience a breakdown, they need us to be there, right now. They can't wait a day for service, or a week for a tire. They've got to have it today. If a dealer doesn't have the right equipment, or access to a replacement tire, the customer will go someplace else. They're looking for the dealer that has everything they need to get them back up and running as quickly as possible.
Over the years, progressive tire dealers have added several pieces of equipment to their service and repair fleets that make the task of repairing or replacing a tire, wheel or rim as efficient as possible, including fully equipped service vehicles, hydraulic lifts and jacks, boom trucks, and highly efficient portable air compressors.
"To provide the best service possible to our customers, we had to increase the size and capabilities of our equipment to meet the bigger, newer farm equipment of our customers," says Monthei. "We have got to have it so we can get out there and get the repairs done right the first time. And get it done fast so our customers are back up and running as quickly as possible. They're all about the time issue when it comes to repairs."
Monthei feels an important component of providing the best service possible for their customers begins with personal introductions and getting acquainted. To that end, tire dealers may hold customer meetings and open houses with the goal of getting their customers acquainted with their service personnel, along with showcasing the capabilities of the company's service equipment.
"We do cookouts and plan other types of social gatherings," says Monthei. "They have the chance to meet and interact with our service guys so they get to know each other better. Our service guys are the ones out in the fields or on the road and have direct interaction with our customers. This is a good way to build confidence between them. It also helps the customer knowing what our service equipment capabilities are and gives them a better idea of the inventory we stock. It has worked very well."
Many tire dealers offer consultation services that include an inspection checklist, along with a list of maintenance tasks they encourage farmers to complete before the busy spring planting and fall harvest seasons. The service helps minimize surprises and breakdowns in the midst of the busiest farming times, when operators simply can't afford to experience downtime.
"Everybody is busy at the same time during those peak work periods," says Monthei. "We offer to come out and inspect their equipment together. We can identify potential problems in advance and then make recommendations for pre-plant or pre-harvest maintenance that should be completed before the chaos begins! Farmers often underestimate the time and effort involved with some things that one would assume wouldn't require a lot of effort. So we encourage preventative maintenance and get it done ahead of time to avoid everyone needing service at the same time."
"Farmers can't afford downtime," says Sagar. "Partnering with a dealer that can offer site visits, complete equipment and tire assessments and recordkeeping, 24/7 service availability, stock the appropriate tire inventory and has the most up-to-date service and repair equipment is beneficial for helping to maintain productivity all season long."