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Mechanics Corner: Communication is key

Jim Schlund Published on 15 November 2011

How would you rate how harvest went for you this year? Was the process smooth from start to finish? Are there things you plan to change to make next year’s harvest season better?

 

One of the things that I do when harvest is over is determine how well the communication process went throughout the season.

I ask myself if there were any communication errors that I could have avoided, handled better or could improve for the following year.

I do think that there needs to be more communication between the people that are doing the custom work and the person that the work is being done for in crop production, whether it is corn, hay or any other forage crop.

During harvest and, for that matter, throughout the entire year, it is ideal to have a system of communication in place. The following are some areas to keep in mind to help improve your operation.

Understanding
There has to be an understanding between the people that are doing the work and the people having the work done for them.

To be frank, I feel that in most cases communication could have cleared a lot of the errors and averted many problems.

It is better to try to work out any issues rather than make them worse by avoiding communicating all together.

When things start to go awry, take a step back and prioritize your tasks and responsibilities. Also, although a trend in this industry is that equipment is only getting bigger and processes like harvest are being done faster, don’t lose sight of your end goal – providing a quality product in a safe and efficient manner.

We’ve talked about speed before and how it is detrimental to equipment. Operating equipment at high speeds on rough terrain can cause a whole spectrum of problems. If you run into obstacles, you probably won’t have time to respond.

If there is an understanding between the equipment operator and the producer, then a lot of equipment issues could be resolved before they become problems.

Identify and fix the cause
I think there is a definite need to work closely with our custom harvesters. Forage equipment mechanics also fit in the picture because they’ll be the ones repairing any equipment problems that come up.

As we get down to the nuts and bolts of being a mechanic, let’s answer the question: What does a mechanic fix? In short, mechanics fix the result of something that has gone wrong.

People don’t always see the cause of problems that cause equipment failures; they see the result of the problem.

The question that must be asked, though, is: What caused the problem? The possible causes could include the manner of operation, lack of maintenance, using the wrong accessories, field conditions or, maybe, the equipment wasn’t designed for what you are using it for.

If there is a communication gap, even between the operator and mechanic, all the mechanic will know is what needs to be repaired.

He may have an idea of how the problem was caused but he isn’t the one out operating the equipment. Ideally, you want the cause of the breakdown to be fixed because, otherwise, it will probably happen again.

Take the right steps
The forage grower, the equipment owner (if different from the forage grower) and the mechanic need to all be on the same page.

The right steps, in the correct sequence, need to be taken all the time when it comes to growing and harvesting forage crops.

If you get in a hurry, you may start missing steps, which will cause problems in the long run. If an equipment operator missed steps like checking engine fluid levels or even greasing equipment, he’d better be prepared for a trip to the shop.

Remember that when the pressure comes on, it’s easy to miss steps, and we are all guilty of that in some shape or form. Make sure these steps are calculated, or have an alternative plan ready to go.

Trust
Finally, I think that a certain level of trust needs to exist between the owner, operator and mechanic.

When I was a service manager, we did see some repetitious failures, so we went in and tried to always figure out what caused them in order to head off the same problems in the future.

I would tell the equipment owners to let me fix the problem the way it needed to be repaired. Most of the time when I worked really well with the person that operated the equipment, we had success.

Conclusion
Make sure next year is an even better year than this one by communicating with those who help your business thrive.

Establish a system that will help make you successful day in and day out. Finally, remember, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.  FG

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Jim Schlund
Mechanic/educator

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