Machinery News

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German training investment in UK technicians

Official opening of Grimme’s Technicom training facility

Customers and UK dealers attended the official opening of Grimme’s Technicom training facility. David Williams reports. 
The new Technicom training facility is part of the new visitors’ centre, with space for the largest products in the Grimme range. 
Grimme’s UK headquarters at Swineshead in Lincolnshire has benefitted from significant investment aimed at ensuring the company and its dealers have the best-prepared technicians in the business, and that its customers know how to get the best from their machines.
The new training and visitor centre has been developed in an area that was previously an open-plan showroom but the new development includes offices and presentation areas, its three rooms named after products from the company’s product range. Further development of the site has included a covered display area for used machines which were previously stored outside, and a larger parts store and machine preparation area. 
Further investment has been made in the Swineshead UK headquarters including a used machinery display area, a larger parts store and a new machine preparation area where machines with a bespoke specification can be produced.
Grimme invests heavily in staff and dealer training and the Grimme Academy provides a formal training programme that combines work experience with technical knowledge.
The company works with Brooksby Melton College to provide training to a Level 3 or 4 qualification, and students attend on a 3-4 week block release programme, several times a year. The course and qualification doesn’t focus solely on Grimme products as a more rounded experience is considered more valuable. Knowledge of tractors and their systems is deemed essential to allow students to fully understand how implements work with them for optimum performance.

“All of our dealers have the opportunity to enrol staff on the training course, and the structured learning is considered a significant benefit to employees,” explained Grimme UK after sales manager Russell Lister.
New Grimme employees spend a year at the company learning the basics before being enrolled on the course. “This means they can decide if they enjoy working within the industry,” said Russell, “and they can progress to Level 3 in their final year or, if they want to continue to a business management qualification, can continue an extra year to achieve Level 4. Currently we have eight students working to Level 2, one to Level 3 and two in their final year of a Level 4 qualification, and half are from dealers, with the remainder from Grimme UK.
“This investment in our training facilities is long overdue, as quality training is so important to the industry. The training centre previously didn’t reflect our market-leading brand and the new facility helps guarantee our future,” he said. 

Russell pointed out that the breadth of training provided reflects the culture at Grimme UK, explaining that everyone works as a team and becomes involved in all departments, helping out where needed for the benefit of customers. “We are determined that the courses includes as much practical experience as possible, and from this season the students will be growing their own potato crop at the college. The seed is supplied by McCain and Grimme products are used for all tasks from field preparation and planting to harvesting.
We want future engineers who are technically in touch with the industry and who have experienced the whole growing process, including basics such as where to walk in the field, where to drive and how to handle the fragile crop correctly. They are working with Soilessentials too, so they understand the principles of soil analysis and structure and can identify with issues faced by growers in the future.”
At the open day managing director Franz Grimme said that investment in the new training centre was essential to ensure adequate training is available for machine operators as well as dealer and manufacturer staff. “In Germany increased training demand and investment has enabled users to make the most of the technology available on modern machines.
We used to need big hammers to repair agricultural equipment but it is different today and there is a greater need for knowledge, especially when we consider increasingly important developments such as TIM (Tractor Implement Management), now available on our harvesters. Our designers work hard to provide top performing equipment and the important support we provide through dealers is all based on the Grimme philosophy that our relationship with customers is a partnership,” he explained.

Kent dealer Bell Agricultural representatives were at the event. Having represented the brand for about eight years the dealer looks after approximately 15 trailed and two self-propelled harvesters, as well as a large number of planters; mainly GB215s and GL32Bs. Potato growers in the area include salad and seed producers although most are main-crop and there is a mix of contract and free market production. “The Grimme franchise sits very well alongside our John Deere machines and tends to appeal to the same professional users,” explained technician Simon Boughton. The brand is known for its build quality, strength and reliability and we are able to provide users with very high standards of back-up through the service we receive from Grimme, which is exceptional. It is great to see the company making such a big investment in training which inspires confidence in us and which we can pass on to our customers.”
Simon is pictured (right) with Derek Isted from the company’s parts department. “I find all the Grimme staff very approachable and keen to provide any advice or help that we need,” added Derek. “The service is excellent and we have even had Grimme staff meet us halfway along the road to handover parts to get users working again as soon as possible on a Sunday. That kind of dedication to back-up makes my life easier and it is reassuring to know that when something does go wrong, someone is trying their hardest to help us. It is a very good team.” 

Rugeley, Staffordshire farmer, James Daw, grows 340ha (850 acres) of potatoes for processing manly for the chip and crisp market. Trading as WB Daw & Son, he has been working with Grimme and Soilessentials for the past three years developing a growing regime using yield mapping to tailor inputs to match the potential crop. “I was updating my harvester and wanted to move to a tracked version and also wanted a yield mapping system for my potato crop which would record precise records for an area, just as we have become used to on our combine harvester,” he explained. “We invest #2,000-plus per acre growing our potato crop and marketable yield is the key to achieving maximum returns. The new harvester is fitted with yield recording and mapping software and we have implemented a programme of planting with variable spacing to suit soil types during the past two years and follow that up with tailored irrigation and variable rate fertiliser application. Yield maps obtained during cereal harvesting can be overlaid and compared with potato yield maps to spot similarities and to work out how to optimise growing conditions.”
Results so far are looking promising including a more uniform crop with a greater proportion of saleable yield and the planter is equipped with section control by row, which means that when working against a diagonal headland there is less double planting and reduced unplanted area. James said the reduced seed wastage in the field was evident when, at the end of planting, he had 7t of seed left over. 
Monitoring the crop has included overflying with drones to measure the canopy but James said one of the biggest challenges is working out during the season how best to use all the information; “We have used RTK for ridging up for three or four seasons, and are now using technology to achieve variable tuber spacing and fertiliser and pesticide application,” he said. “We plan all our A-B lines in advance and send them to the tractor and the applicator maps are loaded into the planter box through a new CCI terminal, similar to that now available commercially from Grimme, but with additional software to control planting rate.”
Two identical tractor and planter combinations are being used for planting this year. In previous years tractors of another brand were used, which offered adjustable hydraulic oil flow, but it was impossible to have separate flow rates for different circuits. This meant that when the micro granule application equipment rate was adjusted to match the planting rate, the applicator fan speed would alter, affecting accurate placement. Deutz Fahr has supplied two tractors capable of maintaining constant oil flow to the applicator fan for constant air velocity but which, at the same time, can provide independently variable hydraulic flow rates to the planter and metering systems, so this should no longer be an issue. 

Chris Powell trades as CC Powell Ltd and is based at Turriff, Aberdeenshire. He has represented the Grimme brand for five years as an independent dealer although before that he supplied the products as a Grimme-owned retail outlet. He specialises in potato and root crop machinery and looks after customers in Aberdeenshire, Ross-shire and Morayshire and the brands represented include Chafer sprayers, Greencrop Irrigation and Horstine. 
“We look after approximately 30 large producers and about 20 growers supplying smaller markets such as farm shops,” he explained. “Our customers are producing a valuable high-end crop and a premium product has to be grown and handled with premium care. In our area weather windows for field operations are scarce, so we have to have machinery which operates at 110 per cent. We sell a mix of trailed and self-propelled harvesters including many second-hand self-propelled. Most of the machines are trailed though and in our area customers tend to purchase and own them outright rather than using finance. 
“We have five technicians, one of which is on Grimme’s apprentice scheme. It works very well as he is focussing his training on our key products and he is fully-trained and up-to-date on recent developments including the latest hydraulic system and wiring diagrams. Technology is moving fast and when he is away on his block training he is working on the same machines as us, but also0 the latest versions, so when we receive the first deliveries of a new model, he already has experience on it. The Grimme training is good in that it includes other machinery too, so he has a general understanding of all the machines in use. If I take on another suitable candidate in future, I would definitely use the scheme again,” he added. 

A new Horstine opener, capable of applying up to three different products to different positions relative to the potatoes will work in almost any conditions. Developed in conjunction with Grimme, key features of the design include its ability to maintain an even soil flow even at high speeds, so the nutrients and pesticides end up precisely where needed. The company pointed out that openers capable of applying nutrients while planting have been available for 20 years or more, but that working rates of 10kph are now expected, rather than 4kph previously.
The new openers, capable of applying solid fertiliser, are available now, while versions for use with liquid fertilisers will be available in the near future. 

The Technicom training facility is based on a similar design concept to that which has proved successful at Grimme’s headquarters in Germany. Pictured at the open day are (l-r) Chris Powell, Mrs Christine Grimme, Russell Lister, Russell Button and Mark Addinall. 

Visitors to the open day were able to inspect the new facilities and meet Grimme UK staff as well as members of the Grimme family. Pictured (l-r) are; Jan Soltau, Alan Witham, Franz Grimme, Lee Bright and Stephen Witham. The Withams are contractors based in Norfolk and trade as SW Witham & Sons. They have owned and operated Grimme Rexor self-propelled beet harvesters since 2010, updating the machines each year. Approximately 3,000 acres of beet are lifted annually. “The beet yields this season were the highest for many years and we put a vast amount of crop through our machine. Even during the five years we have been running Grimme harvesters, we have seen an improvement and the machine is as close to perfect now as it is possible to get. It is comfortable, the steering is good and everything is well laid out making it superb to operate; explained Alan. 
“Our customers like the machine as the Oppel wheel lifting means that even when the soil is hard and dry we can get almost all the taproot out and onto the heap, and we have recently ordered our fifth machine to be with us for the coming 2015/16 season,” he added. “The back-up from Grimme is superb and we find all the staff approachable, including Mr Grimme who is always keen to hear our views on his company’s machines.”

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