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You know the feeling: You’ve got planting or harvesting to do, and one of your machines has decided this is the day it wants a break. You’ve got a narrow window to get this done, and you’re already running on a razor-thin margin. If you don’t get this crop in, that’s a huge lost profit for yourself and the farm. It’s also another hit in the food supply chain, which, we can admit, needs all the help it can get these days.

The bottom line is, whether it’s a leaky gasket, a crack in a pipe, or engine difficulties, one thing is certain – you need that unit repaired and back at work.

If you’re running a bigger operation, you might well have hundreds of vehicles – an entire fleet to tend to. If any one of those machines breaks down, you could be in serious trouble. So how can you keep them operating in top condition and help prevent costly breakdowns?

We’ve put together these four tips to help keep your machinery in top condition and prevent the catastrophic breakdowns that can cost you days or weeks.

Read on for more!

HANDLE PM WORK TO STAY ON TRACK

Pretty much every piece of equipment you own needs preventive maintenance at some point in its life. You probably run occasional virus scans on your computer, or change the oil in your car, right? That’s preventive maintenance in a nutshell.

Performing necessary maintenance doesn’t just lessen the chance of a catastrophic and costly breakdown; it also lengthens the lifespan of your equipment.

We admit we don’t always write for farmers, but we’ve got a lot of experience in the pitfalls and perils accompanying trucks that aren’t properly maintained. Every minute a big rig spends on the side of the road instead of on the road is lost revenue. It works the same way for your farm; you need your equipment to be functioning and safe for those who use it. That’s why we push PM work. You need to maintain your machinery for it to operate correctly. Think oil changes, spark plug care, and all the necessary maintenance you’d perform on any other vehicle.

Not only will you be keeping the actual machinery in good working order; every time you open up the equipment to take a look, you’re giving yourself or a tech a chance to see what’s going on. This is where they’ll notice other parts that may be wearing out or small problems that could, given time, become large. By getting ahead of problems, you’re minimizing potential downtime.

KEEP A DIESEL TECH ON-SITE

We admit this particular tip might not be appealing to a smaller farm with just a few pieces of equipment. But those of you with larger fleets, listen up: If you’ve got the financial means for an additional hire, think about bringing on a part-time or full-time diesel tech.

This can save you a lot of time and expense if something breaks down during your busiest season (which, coincidentally, is also usually the repair shop’s busiest season!).

Keeping a diesel tech on staff is basically like having an on-site repair shop. They’ll handle all the PM work, which as we noted can greatly extend the life of your equipment. If something does go wrong, they’ll be right there to make the repair. Easy access to this kind of know-how means safer, more functional equipment for everyone.

Here’s what your repair situation might look like if you don’t keep a diesel tech on-site:

Your tractor has a problem. You call your local repair shop. Unfortunately, everyone else in the area and their mother have similar problems right now. The shop is swamped, and you won’t be able to get anything repaired for at least three days.

If you already have a diesel tech on-site, you cut out the entire process of waiting and hoping for someone to make the trek out to you (or worse, getting your equipment to a shop). They can jump on the problem immediately and get things operational again.

GET A SYSTEM IN PLACE

If you’re handling everything yourself, there are steps you can take to make your life a little easier. At the very least, you need to track the maintenance and repair history of all your farm vehicles and equipment. Did that harvester break down again? Didn’t you just get it fixed? No, maybe that was the other one.

Yes, we’re being a bit light-hearted, but those are exactly the kind of problems you want to avoid. That’s why tracking maintenance and repairs is so critical to a smooth operation.

You’ll also need to manage your inventory and know which spare parts you have on hand and which you need to purchase. There’s almost nothing worse than thinking you can swap out a part and get a machine back in the field…and then realizing you don’t have that part, and you need to order it, but oh heck, now it’s back ordered.

We’ll give ourselves a little plug here and mention that Fullbay can help you with all of that. Parts management and tracking maintenance is, as the kids say, “kind of our jam.” But the software can also let you see all your farm’s assets and its history, as well as track equipment uptime and downtime.

Sure, you can track all that using spreadsheets or – gulp – notebooks – but that’s a lot of extra work you quite possibly don’t need to take on.

TEAM UP WITH A LOCAL SHOP

Maybe you don’t have the need or financial bandwidth for an on-site tech. Maybe the idea of tracking all that stuff on your own – even using an app – makes you nervous. In that case, it might be beneficial for your farm to make friends with your friendly neighborhood diesel repair shop.

By “make friends” we don’t mean grab a coffee (although you can certainly do that!). We’re talking about establishing a mutually beneficial arrangement. For example, they’ll handle all your seasonal PM work, and in return cut you a deal on actual repairs, or prioritize your equipment while it’s juggling repairs during harvesting season.

This works out for both of you; it gives the shop steady work, keeps your equipment in top shape, and means you won’t be waiting for days if that combine breaks down.

READY TO TRY FULLBAY?

If you like the idea of automating some of your repair work, give us a call! Several of our customers have used Fullbay to track maintenance on farming equipment, and they’ve been very pleased with it. Give us a call and we’ll show you our free demo. We’d love to see if we can help you!

Suz Baldwin

Suz Baldwin got her start in the automotive industry, writing and editing for several motorcycle and classic car magazines straight out of college. In the years that followed, she’s written all sorts of copy for brands big and small while consuming enough coffee to paralyze a dinosaur.