Each year, a crew from the John Deere Harvester Works Factory travels from Oklahoma to North Dakota, following the small grain harvest. The whole mission of the team and the parts trucks they pull along with them is to do whatever it takes to keep those John Deere combines running during harvest.
They bring along two semi-trailers with more than 1500 parts for combines and headers. These parts include items that are often more expensive to stock, or parts that dealers would have trouble getting ahold of quickly. This is a benefit to the dealerships because they don’t have to carry the overhead of stocking those expensive parts that may not move at the end of the season.
Another benefit to the dealers that these parts vans provide is product knowledge, straight from the source. Dan Mangan and his crew work out of the John Deere Dealer Technical Assistance Center (DTAC). The DTAC group provides year-round support to the John Deere dealerships across the world. By having this DTAC group travel with the parts harvest van, the dealerships have experts from the factory literally in their backyards.
The Harvest Parts Vans first started out as a way to assist dealers with parts support. In the early 1990s, Mike Barnett, Senior Product Support Representative, saw the need for parts support as the small grain harvest and custom cutters moved throughout the Central US. At first, it was just two parts guys from the Kansas Branch that came along to sell parts. Then a few years into the program, they started to see the need for service support as well, so Barnette went to the Harvest DTAC group and starting bringing along service support as well.
Today, the Harvest Support Vans come with two semi-trailers, an enclosed trailer, an office trailer and a team of 7 John Deere Experts to assist the dealers and customers alike.
“When this whole thing started, it was to support the dealers,” Mangan said. “Dealers have a certain number of customers they normally service, but then these custom crews come through and they need parts and service as well.”
Mangan said a big impact these parts vans have for his crew is field-proofed training.
“It’s really cool from the DTAC standpoint because Harvester Works is the only DTAC group in the company that gets to spend their summers actually working on the products they support,” Mangan said. “We learn so much value being here. We go back and talk to dealers all over the world who have an issue, and we can actually say to them ‘Hey I saw that same issue in Kansas, this is what we did to fix it’ and then it gets them going faster.”
A more long term impact these parts vans have isn’t often seen even by the John Deere dealerships. Each Thursday morning, Mangan collects data on all the parts that sold and what work was done for the week, whether that be for 70 series combines, S Series Combines or headers. He fills out a spreadsheet and all the managers at Harvester Works get together in a room, as well as all the engineers under them.
“I start with Van 1 and I explain what we did, on what day, the serial number, the hours, what the problem originally was and what we did to fix it,” Mangan explains. “The impact of this is that each issue is looked at by someone from Harvester Works; each problem is investigated. Let’s say, for example, that on a 60 series combine there’s a bearing that continues to go out. When they research it, they may find that somebody at Harvester Works changed suppliers for bearings on those particular machines, and that’s why it’s going out. Then DTAC can let dealers know and they can fix it before harvest starts up.”
All this support and research helps to further the quality of John Deere equipment. When a customer buys a John Deere Combine, they can know that they have the support from the local dealership, all the way up to the factory that assembled it.
The Harvester Works crew is currently at Gooseneck Implement in Minot. They will remain in Minot until the end of August, before heading back to the factory in East Moline, IL.