Measure and Manage Equipment Uptime to Minimize Downtime
Efficiency metrics and telematic tools can extend the life of ag machinery in the field today and create future resale or rental value.
Can farmers today afford to spend a third of their day idle?
Of course not. And neither can their ag equipment – especially with uptime costing close to $300 per hour and inputs not expected to get any cheaper.
Historically, the percentage of time machinery spends working, idle, or in transit has been evenly divided into thirds. But advanced telematics and machine tracking can help farmers reallocate inefficient downtime to productive uptime.
Crunching the Numbers
Considering that depreciation value is dependent on operating hours, farmers have the incentive to be smarter with where, when, and how much their equipment runs in and out of the field.
“With inflation and the cost of steel now, farmers and fleet managers can’t afford not to know how that engine time is being spent,” says Steve Cubbage, AGI Vice President of Services for Farmobile. “Is an operator leaving a sprayer engine running for 20 minutes while he grabs a coffee, or is it idling on the edge of a field waiting for a tender truck to arrive? Those are metrics that need to be measured to understand how to better manage those machines.”
The website Sprayers101.com provides a handy sprayer efficiency calculator to compare variables (tank capacity, boom width, speed, etc.) and help derive a baseline report, along with areas needing improvement.
“It depends on the region, age, and model of the machine, but let’s say you can save 50 engine hours a year on a sprayer with more efficient management,” says Tom Wolf, co-founder of Sprayers101.com. “If each hour is worth $300, that translates to $15,000 in retained value on that sprayer.”
Wolf uses the example of a farmer with 1,000 acres of herbicide to spray, but heavy rains prevent the timely application of the last 100 acres, which would have taken an hour to finish. Five days later, the farmer gets back into the field to finish spraying, but by then, invasive weeds could have stolen 2-3 bushels per acre of soybean yield, says Wolf.
“Assuming $10 per bushel across 100 acres, the economic loss could be upwards of $3,000. So how much was that hour worth?” Wolf says.
A 2019 study on sprayer productivity compared the size, average price, and chemical load times of two brands of sprayers, each equipped with modern pulsing nozzle technology and guidance.
Results found that the price difference of 100 acres per hour of productivity for a 1,200-gallon, 120-foot boom sprayer ($385,000) loaded in 15 minutes was almost a third higher than an 800-gallon, 90-foot boom machine ($292,000) loaded in 5 minutes.
More Revenue, Less Equipment
As operations adopt regenerative ag practices, the opportunity to independently sell or lease obsolete equipment could also increase. Growers who invest in strip-till and no-till often “park the plow” once they get comfortable with the practices, with some selling their inventory of deep tillage equipment.
A handy digital record of annual operating hours, fuel consumption, and machine performance are useful data sets for farmers looking to independently sell or buy used equipment – especially in a tight retail market where demand outpaces supply.
“Telematic data is valuable when selling equipment,” says Mike Willers, Go-to-Market Director with Razor Tracking. “With tech-savvy farmers transitioning into farm management roles, they will be looking for advanced opportunities to rent out or lease equipment.”
Creating an accurate, detailed history of working and idle time can incentivize farmers to part with unused equipment that has life left on another operation – and focus on maximizing the uptime of the most valuable machinery in their operation.
“Using technology to extend life of equipment is going to increase to help farmers chip away at that $300 per hour cost,” Willers says.
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