COVID-19 may have the power to put several industries on hold, but it cannot stop the need for agriculture and all of its supporting partners.
As farmers prepare for another planting season, Sloan Implement is adapting to continue serving its clients in a crisis. The network of John Deere dealerships has locations in Wisconsin and Illinois, as well as an after-market parts business some may recognize as Sloan Express.
Foot traffic may be closed at all locations, but nearly 550 employees are still reporting to work at normal hours to provide service from a safe distance. Thanks to technology, parts can be ordered online or over the phone.
Jeff Sloan admitted it can create a little extra work for both the customers and the staff.
“Overall, this big change in our business has been widely accepted,” Sloan said. “People understand that we’ve got the best interests of our customers’ health in mind as well as our employees’ health.”
Knowing breakdowns are never planned, Sloan keeps nearly $28 million of new parts on hand among stores. Because most delivery services are still in operation, the dealerships have not seen any delays in shipping parts.
“We can typically get from our own parts inventory to your nearest location in a day by the route truck,” Sloan said. “I don’t see that changing during the spring rush either.”
Time is of the essence during planting or harvest, so if there is not a part of the shelf, Sloan has even gone as far as taking parts off equipment on the lot to keep farmers moving in the field.
“The number one thing we want to do is keep the guy running in the heat of all that,” Sloan said. “We can order the part and put it back on the equipment on the lot. That’s not a problem.”
A unique challenge because of Coronavirus has been finding a plan for technicians going out on service calls. Sloan advised those leaving the shop to use gloves, clean cabs and work areas, and have extra sanitizers on hand. He said it is also crucial that technicians work by themselves.
“We have not seen any disruption to our service calls or our service business,” Sloan said. “Farmers are understanding that the technicians are risking a little bit more right now. We’re in this together.”
They are also looking for increased communication among clients. If a customer who recently had a technician visit becomes ill, Sloan Implement asks the customer lets staff know as quickly as possible so they can adjust and quarantine a worker if necessary.
Sloan added in a worst-case scenario situation where there is an issue on one store, there are close enough locations to continue providing service to farmers in that affected area.