Eric Raby has been moved within CLAAS to become its new senior vice president of the Americas. He joined CLAAS of America in 2015 and has been the president and general manager, sales, for CLAAS of America. In addition to his responsibilities at CLAAS of America, Raby will assume leadership for sales in Brazil and Argentina, as well as importer markets throughout Latin America. Progressive Farmer talked with him at this year's Farm Progress Show.
PF: How has COVID affected your relationship with your farmer-customers?
Raby: We had to look at the constraints we were facing on deliveries, because agriculture didn't stop. We had to work through a few situations where we were going to be a week or two late on delivery, and we had to let the farmer use his equipment for a little bit longer.
For example, we were running a little behind on forage head deliveries. What we were able to do is work with the dealer and the customer, who can either use that trade-in or use another machine. And, then we would work with the dealer afterwards to help offset some of the cost of parts to refurbish it.
PF: Tell us about your ability to secure components.
Raby: We've branched out to other suppliers. It's not to completely get rid of the ones we have, but we need to disperse our risk. There are things like rubber, certain sizes of tires, we had a shortage for a period on rubber floor mats for tractors. That didn't keep us from shipping tractors. But, we said, "Hey, we owe you a floor mat when they come in." But I think we're learning good lessons that we don't want to forget.
We need to look further out. Normally, we plan at least 12 months in advance [for parts and components]. Now, we're looking at 18. And, in some cases, 24 months to secure the components needed for production.
PF: CLAAS has opened the new CLAAS Academy training facility in Omaha, Nebraska. What is its function?
Raby: Finding employees is an issue, not only for the factory, but it's also an issue for our dealers -- hiring trained field technicians.
The CLAAS Academy is a 20,000-square-foot facility for dealer service technicians, and eventually, we'll do some customer training there. We also have an apprentice program.
And, it's specifically looking for kids that are coming out of high school or vo-tech school. We will enroll them in our program, and they learn about our business. They will learn about how machine tools work, they will learn about the manufacturing process. And, they are, in fact, employees of CLAAS. When they finish the apprentice program, we'll send them out to various places throughout our channels.
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