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Deere, Standard Equipment Focus on Dealer/Manufacturer Relationships

Wed May 10, 2000 - Northeast Edition
Amanda L. Gutshall

As manufacturers build machines to meet the customer’s needs, the dealer and manufacturer relationship is becoming more and more important.

Roy Neal, president, Standard Equipment Co., Frederick, MD, a John Deere dealer, addressed John Deere employees in the Dubuque, IA, facility, at the company’s Annual Employee Meeting.

The majority of Neal’s talk focused on the Estimate to Cash (ETC) program that Deere has had in the works for more than a year. The ETC program is a new order-to-delivery process, according to Neal.

“The employees of Deere gave up a lot to make this [program] work … They wanted a dealer’s perspective on how it is working,” he said.

The program involves taking a customer’s custom order, building it and delivering the equipment to the dealer within 20 days.

“In my and all dealers’ perspectives this is an extraordinary thing,” Neal said.

He added, “I ordered a brand new Bonneville in January of 1999 and received it in October. They build a lot more cars than dozers. Deere is the only manufacturer in the world right now that can do this.”

One of his main motivations for speaking at the annual meeting, he said, was to express the opinions of his customers, who buy John Deere equipment, to the people who are actually making it.

“To tell them that this is working, that it does mean something, was a great motivation for speaking to the employees,” Neal said.

He has customers that have purchased equipment from Standard Equipment and John Deere because they know that they can get the equipment they need within a 20-day period.

Deere, at the time, had just introduced a new line of crawler dozers, the H-series.

“Roy’s visit was very timely,” said Max Quinn, general manager, John Deere Dubuque Works.

“He gave us some very positive feedback on the comments from his customers on the H-series,” Quinn added.

With the new ETC program, Quinn said, there was some difficult transition in the factory at first. Now the company has more than a year under its belt with the new system. “Hearing from Roy what the benefits are made everyone feel good,” he said.

John Deere is making the exact product the customer wants, at the time that they want it, Quinn stressed. This program, he said, “is much more efficient in driving customer satisfaction and much more efficient for John Deere and its dealers.”

With more than 2000 employees, John Deere works hard on communication. “Bringing in Roy, with his external perspective, someone on the front lines, went over very well,” Quinn explained.

Neal said that he got more out of the speech than he had expected to.

“When we had the opportunity to answer their questions about what it is like to be a dealer, letting them know that it all comes down to what they do, which in the end makes a family’s income, that was a highlight,” Neal said.

He added that he has never been treated so politely and courteously by so many people in his life. “Had I not done it, I would have missed something very wonderful and important in my personal life,” he said.

The employees, he added, were deeply interested in what really happens to a piece of equipment after they built it.

“They were extremely interested in the quality of the product and how the customer and end-user sees the equipment. They were extremely interested in how these machines were accepted and how these machines went to work,” Neal said.

He added that the employees made it very easy for him to speak in front of them. He spoke to eight groups of 300 people at a time.

Neal thinks that John Deere is bringing the dealer-manufacturer relationship closer month by month.

One of the many things that John Deere is doing to make the relationship better is getting dealers involved in its Partner-Project teams. These teams involve dealers with the manufacturing and the setting of policies and trends.

“I think that John Deere themselves are working very hard at making the dealers involved with the process as well as the initiatives that they have going on in the customer portion of the company,” he said.

With these teams, dealers work with manufacturing and construction groups, developing new policies and trends that are focused on the customer and how to acquire new customer business as well as how to maintain the old.

“This is working wonders for the manufacturer/dealer relationships,” Neal said.

These teams focus on many aspects of the business including: advertising; multiple area of responsibility customer base, customers that cover multiple states; new database processes; parts and parts delivery; service, which includes service technicians and the training of technicians; Internet technology; automation throughout dealerships; used equipment, financing credit and new product developments.

“The dealers are involved with John Deere people in each of these aspects. It really is extraordinary,” Neal said.

“They are really getting together with the dealers to promote the togetherness and helping us with our part of the marriage,” he said.

“These groups are setting the philosophy for what we do as John Deere dealers in the future,” Neal concluded. CEG

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