At a product introduction you get a lot of information all at once, and sometimes you get to connect with a boss or two beyond the product managers. This week at the John Deere event we got to talk with Luke Gakstatter, vice president, agriculture and turf sales and marketing, United States and Canada, John Deere. Yep it's a long title and shows the range of responsibilities Gakstatter has but we focused on a few areas including market potential and agriculture technology.
Gakstatter's most recent role before taking on U.S. and Canada duties was as China President for Deere, where he got a lot of perspective on that Far East market. He has served in the region since 2003, and held the China position from 2009 to 2012.
He notes that his biggest observation during the three years was the rise of the Middle Class. "I saw it first hand," Gakstatter says. "The demand will be there and farmers will need to fill this rising need." The drive for an integrated system that farmers use with support from dealers is a driving force at Deere these days.
During the John Deere media event he pointed out that the journey to the 2014 new products actually started with the 2010 launch of the 8R series with the first interim Tier 4 engines. Then came 2011 - John Deere's largest rollout in history including the FarmSight system and integrated technology. In 2012, it was about turf and bringing the FarmSight strategy forward with real services.
He notes that for 2014 the company has set itself up to deliver "distinctive value." He points to new JDLink capabilities and Wireless Data Transfer which is integrated into the machines. Remote Display Access will allow dealers to "take the customer service to a new level." That Remote Display Access will allow a dealer - when authorized by the farmer - to actually see your machine during operation and they can help customers fine-tune the machine or solve a problem quickly. It's a rising level of agriculture technology from the company.
And if you have a problem, the dealer can actually reach out to the machine with Service Advisor Remote to see what's wrong before a tech ever gets access to the machine. That's a head start that should help enhance service performance too.
Gakstatter told dealers that "nobody, and I mean nobody, is positioned better than we are to take advantage" of these technologies. He acknowledges that the company isn't perfect but "when you see what we've done today you've got to be proud."
After the dealer talk, Gakstatter and I talked about how Deere is positioned to deliver. The Wireless Data Access the company touts isn't a new idea, competitors have offered similar systems for a couple years. "But our technology is integrated across our product line, this is not a bolt-on," he notes. It's a competitive stance you'll hear plenty about at the fall farm shows and into the 2014 selling season.
He also notes that dealers who use Remote Display Access can help a farmer get things going right from a call center rather than waiting for the tech rep from the dealership to call back with help. Of course, this continued push toward technology will drive dealers to invest in their businesses. "We are seeing dealers build their own call centers, they're investing in support for the technology too," he says.
With all the focus on data management and access, rising potential to enhance machine efficiency in new ways and an increasingly competitive market, John Deere continues to gear up for the future. It's paying off, the company recently reported rising earnings through its third quarter and the company is on track to have a record year.