"I'm in the dirt moving business, not the oil changing business. I'll pay the dealer to service my equipment."
That is what a John Deere construction customer recently told Mark Wagner, Manager of Service Business at John Deere Construction & Forestry. Wagner's customer summed up how John Deere is positioning itself to help fleet managers and contractors make the most of their dealer services and expertise. This allows contractors to focus on their business while their dealer focuses on the contractor's equipment.
John Deere introduced its new construction equipment dealer service program, the John Deere Protect™ Service Plan, geared towards supporting construction equipment customers with improved aftermarket and support capabilities. "John Deere Protect adds a layer of certainty and predictability with machine costs and downtime, giving owners the room to focus on other aspects of their business," Wagner says.
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The plan's concept is similar to the service plan that is already available to John Deere’s Ag equipment customers. Equipment owners have the option to turn over all or partial equipment maintenance responsibilities to their John Deere dealer, made possible by the deeper use of machine monitoring and remote diagnostic capabilities under John Deere's Precision Construction umbrella.
Wagner notes that machines that have periodic maintenance performed at recommended intervals by a qualified dealership technician tend to experience fewer downtime failures, and perform better for longer. Oil sampling, machine monitoring, and machine inspections identify issues early, which provides the opportunity to fix small problems before they become big problems, and this results in minimized machine downtime.
Wagner admits, the key to doing these proactive maintenance tasks depends on a couple of hard-to-come by factors.
First, simply getting the maintenance checks and changes done is a challenge, Wagner says. "Qualified techs are very difficult to find these days across the industry, and when you do manage to hire these folks, they tend to quickly get pulled away from machine maintenance jobs to support other areas of the operation. Quite often the maintenance jobs just don’t get done." When a technician gets called away to run a piece of equipment instead of servicing a machine nearing its 500hr check-up, the best laid plans to keep to an effective maintenance schedule are suddenly sideways.
Wagner says the shortage of qualified technicians also speaks to the problem of inexperienced technicians who may not have the expertise required to evaluate wear and recognize emerging problems on a machine. Techs today must be able to do a skilled analysis of the vehicle's telematics data and understand clues on the machine to foresee the possible sequence of events that could lead to downtime in the near future.
The service plan makes the best use of the telematics data the vehicle provides, combined with a dedicated machine monitoring specialist located at the customer's dealership. These experts establish a solid working knowledge of each contractor’s or fleet manager's goals and therefore can tailor recommendations based on how that customer works and uses their machine. The dealer's specialist may utilize remote technology to read and clear codes, record machine performance readings, and even update software. The machine's operational data is also a good starting point when discussing excess idling, over riding alerts, or other operator behaviors.
John Deere Protect™ gives dealers the ability to monitor and co-manage the contractor's John Deere fleet using a combination of John Deere's Precision Construction technologies, live dealer-based specialists who analyze each machine's activity in the field, and proactive maintenance and repair scheduling based on the dealer's knowledge of the equipment and the customer's usage. As the machine nears its recommended scheduled maintenance, the dealer will contact the fleet manager to arrange a service time.
For example, if a contractor's wheel loader throws an error code suggesting the machine is experiencing an overheating situation, the dealer's Machine Monitoring Specialist will look for other vehicle information to identify the true cause of the issue. The Machine Monitoring Specialist may then message the machine operator to alert him to the situation, call the fleet manager to discuss the issue, or clear the code remotely. If necessary, the dealer can dispatch a service tech to the machine's jobsite for emergency on-site repairs. The dealer becomes the fleet manager's real-time first line of defense by essentially 'being there' as the machine goes about its tasks.
John Deere Protect™ works alongside and with the vehicle's warranty. Fixed costs for the machine’s maintenance are calculated, customized to the fleet manager's needs, to include the required parts, labor, as well as, time and travel. This simplifies scheduling the machine's maintenance time and budgeting costs.
"The primary benefit of the John Deere Protect Service Plan is [that] the task of maintaining machines is put into the hands of our dealers. As a result, our customers are more confident because they know their equipment is being watched by an expert. When combined with the power of JDLink™ telematics, the dealer can monitor machine status and proactively communicate with customers to schedule services, reducing missed service intervals and minimizing unexpected downtime," says Wagner.