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Kent depot opening impresses visitors

A new purpose-built depot near Ashford, Kent has been opened by Agco main dealer RW Crawford

A new purpose-built depot near Ashford, Kent has been opened by Agco main dealer RW Crawford which has its headquarters in Essex. An open day in late June was well attended and supported by customers and suppliers. Farmers Guide machinery editor David Williams reports.RW Crawford has opened a new branch in Charing, Kent, from which it will provide sales, service and after-sales support for its ranges of Fendt and Challenger tractors and sprayers, and many implement franchises.Crawfords has been looking after customers south of the Thames from its Essex headquarters since 2005 when it was awarded the Challenger tracked tractor and sprayer franchise for Kent as well as Essex, but since 2010 when the range of Fendt tractors joined its offering for both counties, its owners have been keen to establish a new base in Kent from which to offer a full sales, parts and service facility.Since identifying a suitable site in 2010, completing the planning process and construction of the new buildings has taken almost three years and in late June new and existing customers were invited to inspect the new premises, to meet the main suppliers and find out about the ranges of products and services on offer.  “We were delighted with the attendance and the reaction from customers,” commented branch manager Carl Goff. “The weather on the day was probably the best of the year so far, and that certainly encouraged people to stay longer and socialise. It did mean that some farmers who had intended to visit were busy making hay though. Overall we estimate that between 850 and 900 people came along which was a superb response.”An open day in late June was well-attended as existing and prospective customers visited to find out about the products and services on offer.Carl said that the period between acquiring the site and having it up and running this June had seemed a very long time; “We have been selling Challenger products in the county since 2005, and providing back-up to users from our Essex branch, and since 2010 with the Fendt range too. Customers have invested in our products and trusted that we will provide the high standard of service they require, despite us not having a base in Kent until now, and they have proved extremely loyal. Now we have the new depot, it will make things easier for us and for customers, and we anticipate that many more farmers in the area will be keen to try the products we have available, including the small and mid-size Fendt tractors that are so well suited to livestock and mixed farms.”On display at the open day was a cross-section of models and sizes of tractor on offer as well as a wide range of implements of all sizes and for all types of farm. “We are well-known in Kent for our larger machinery, but we were keen to display smaller tractors and implements too. Many of the products we have available in the Twose range are ideally suited to smaller arable and livestock farms and we were delighted that at the open day we took quite a few orders, including some from new customers,” he said.Because the new depot was purpose built, there is good access from the main road and lots of hard standing in the yard. Two large workshop bays provide space for the biggest machinery and there are two floors of offices for sales and service support. A spacious showroom has a wide selection of sundry items and parts displayed.Work on the new showroom was still in progress at the time of the open day, but a selection of service items and farm sundries provided a taste of what would be on offer during the following weeks. Since March this year Crawfords has been a dealer for Caterpillar agricultural telescopic handlers and wheeled loaders for all of Kent and south Essex. “When we started talking about Crawfords taking on the Caterpillar range the new depot was being discussed, but nowhere near finished,” explained Caterpillar UK importer Finning area sales manager Rob Davis. “The Kent branch represents significant investment in the area and customers will be reassured that the dealer intends to stay and is capable of providing the high standard of service required. In the first four months since taking on the brand seven telescopic handlers have been sold; two TH336Cs and five TH407Cs, customers including mixed and arable farms in both Essex and Kent. It’s been a very good start.
“We have new products due out which we believe will be popular with users in the area served by Crawfords, including an agricultural version of the 924 wheeled loader which is currently undergoing testing. It has programmable engine and transmission control software designed for agricultural applications and we are hoping that it will be ready for release later this year. There is also a new super compact telescopic handler, capable of lifting 2t to 5m and we have further agricultural models due for release in 2015 which will extend the range to cover more agricultural applications.
“The new wheeled loader has features and performance which we believe will suit many users in Crawford’s trading area, appealing to larger Kent farms as well as to those running AD plants, and contractors,” he said.
The new depot is in a great location close to the motorway, and has excellent facilities. The area offers considerable potential for the dealer and the Caterpillar franchise fits in very well with what Crawfords is doing, and its range of top quality brands,” he added. Crawfords has had the Twose franchise for many years, and now represents the manufacturer in Essex, Hertfordshire and Kent. Area sales manager for the south-east Lee Brooker is pictured (left) with Crawford’s area sales manager Nunzio Rio. “Cambridge breaker rolls, hedgecutters, front presses and toppers all sell well through the dealer and we are delighted to see this new branch open in Kent with a team of young enthusiastic staff and we wish them all the very best. If any dealer is going to do well here, it is going to be Crawfords,” said Lee.Knight products on show included the new Bednar cultivators which were launched by the company at Cereals earlier in the month. “The Bednar family farms in Czechoslovakia and Knight is now the official UK importer,” explained Knight area sales manager for the east of England Jason Weston. “The range includes disc-based cultivators from 4.0-12.0m, stubble tine cultivators from 3.0-7.5m and seedbed preparators from 4.0-18.0m.  The products are available now and we will be running an extensive demonstration campaign, products including 5.0 and 10.0m Swifterdiscs, a 4.0m Fenix and 6.0m Swifter Concept seedbed preparator. We have had a lot of interest from visitors at the open day keen to book demonstrations. There is a very large range available from the manufacturer but we believe these three models will be in most demand in the UK, and in this area, which we believe the new branch is very well placed to serve.”Rob Davis discusses features of the Caterpillar with Guy Eckley (centre) and Scott Matthews, both of Eckley Farms, Staplehurst, Kent. Guy said that he had known Carl Goff for several years and had come along to the open day as a potential customer, to meet the rest of the Crawford team.The latest Mzuri Pro-Til 3T drill was on display, Crawfords having taken on the brand in 2012 and already sold several machines. “There was a lot of interest in our range at Cereals,” commented Mzuri technician James Lee, “and again at the open day. We have a growing list of farmers keen to have demonstrations and will be running a series of demonstration days with dealers around the country.”
The Mzuri range now includes Pro-Til 3.0m mounted and 3.0 and 4.0m trailed models, and Zip-Til mounted drills up to 4.8m. The Zip-Til is a low-disturbance direct-drill still under test for the coming season, but is expected to be available to purchase for 2014.Crawfords has joined with RTK service provider LH-Agro to provide guidance signals across its trading area. LH-Agro is a distributor for Topcon products and had a stand at the open day. Pictured are members of the LH-Agro team; managing director Richard Reed (left) with area representative Rob Thurkettle.
“We are always looking for new host sites to improve the signal available,” commented Rob. “The nearest to Crawford’s new branch is approximately 10.5km distant and while the dealer’s new depot is in a fantastic location for customers, it is a bit low for a mast so we are keen to find a suitable higher site somewhere nearby.
“There have been a lot of enquiries for GPS products at the event, mainly from existing customers keen to increase the versatility of their equipment. We have a new X-links software package which allows variable rate application through almost all third party controllers such as Amazone and Knight through the standard Topcon X30 screen. The X-links software costs just 695, including all future updates,” he said.Crawfords has been a dealer for Amazone products in Essex since 2003, the range of sprayers and spreaders proving particularly popular in both mounted and trailed formats. A Cayena drill will be available for demonstrations during the coming season. “The dealer staff have been promoting the products ever since the opening date of the new depot was confirmed,” said Amazone territory manager for the east and south-east Rupert Batho (right).” Now, with replacement parts held on site it is very convenient for users in the county. The new premises is very impressive and designed for the purpose. A lot of thought has been put into it with a decent-size workshop and a useful showroom. It is an ideal site.”Krone has been represented by Crawfords in Essex since 2003 and product support specialist for the south east Gary Pettett explained that Wes Crawford has been keen to supply the brand in Kent too for several years. “As soon as details of the site were finalised we confirmed that we were happy for the dealer to represent the brand in Kent. We have already got several demonstrations planned during the coming weeks including a set of triple mowers. The mowers, rakes and tedders displayed are all sold and now with the depot open there will be parts held in stock available quickly to customers. The sales already achieved are an excellent indication that the dealer will do very well with the brand in the county and with the full range of products available, we see considerable potential for sales of Comprima and Big Pack balers plus forage harvesters and self-propelled mowers too.”
Krone territory manager Iain Faulds (left), with Gary Pettett.Pictured with products from the Horstine and Chafer ranges are Chafer Horstine commercial manager Rob Starkey (left) with Crawford area sales manager Nunzio Rio. Rob explained that the company had seen considerable demand for Horstine granular application and seeding equipment as well as Chafer liquid fertiliser application products, and that in recent months equipment to get oilseed rape off to a good start incorporating fertiliser and slug protection had been a priority for many growers. “Chafer Quickstart applies liquid fertiliser in a band next to the seed, just where it is needed, and allows reduced amounts of fertiliser to be applied, saving money,” he said. “The Quickstart system can be carried on the rear linkage if a trailed implement is used, but if the rear linkage is already in use, then it can be fitted on the front, even if weights are fitted. We have had it available for several years but with recent difficult seasons for establishing the crop, we have seen a surge in interest and demand.” Quickstart is priced from 8,000 and includes the automatic rate control system, a manifold kit, and all tubes and nozzles.
Also on display from the company was the Horstine Air Stream granular fertiliser applicator, available with 1,600 or 2,200 litre hoppers. A hydraulic-driven fan and metering unit, with electronic control feeds fertiliser through to up to six outlets for band application.
Recently updated to allow Avadex and micro-fertiliser application was the Horstine Twin Air which has traditionally been used for applying slug pellets and seed. Different rotors are fitted for metering the micro-granules. The Twin Air has a split hopper, with separate metering units for each section, and while as standard it has one hydraulic drive to the two, an option is available to drive the two units separately for extra control and flexibility.Pictured discussing front end loaders and attachments with ALO area sales manager for the south, Julian Foster, are John (left) and Mike Wilson of MK Wilson, farmers from Smarden, Kent. “We have dealt with Crawfords previously,” said Mike, “and the service was excellent. We have taken the opportunity to come along to the open day to meet the team here and to see what products and services are on offer.”
John commented that he very much looks forward to receiving Farmers Guide every month and finds it a great read, enjoying the editorial and the adverts; “We are arable farmers and find the arable content very useful for us. We also find the website useful, in particular the weather forecast which provides a breakdown hour by hour.”Essex manufacturer HM Trailers is now represented in Essex and Kent by Crawfords, the dealer having taken on the brand for Kent in March this year. “We had no presence in Kent previously, but are already seeing considerable interest from customers in the area. Farmers and contractors are looking for high specification trailers and we are offering a full range now from low loaders to grain trailers, and there is growing demand for dual-purpose trailers, extending their uses,” explained HM Trailers general manager Peter Doyle. “Sixteen tonne grain trailers remain the most popular but we also manufacture quite a few smaller 6t tippers and drop-side trailers for stable yards. We are busy on everything at present, and it is generally at least eight weeks now from order to delivery.”Austin Contract Services (ACS) is based at Sittingbourne, Kent and its main activities include spreading sewage sludge, compost, paper sludge, lime and haulage and it operates in an area from Kent across to Wiltshire and into Essex. Four Fendt tractors are operated; a 939, two 828s and a 724 and with demand for its specialist services increasing rapidly, company owner Charlie Austin (pictured with his new black Fendt 939), expects to increase his fleet by two to three more tractors and spreaders next year. “We have been providing a spreading service for approximately 15 years and we started using Fendt last year, replacing a previous brand. The decision to move to Fendt was entirely down to the dealer; we had believed for years that Fendt would be too expensive an option, but when we found we had a dealer setting up in Kent, we investigated and we could see the figures actually would stack up. We are on different farms every day in four or five counties and for us the back-up and warranty are essential.
“We took delivery of our first Fendt in July last year and were immediately impressed; fuel consumption was very obviously lower than we had been used to, the operators liked them and found them less tiring to drive. We use Bunning spreaders behind, and we like the fleet to look smart, and all our machinery is finished in red and black,” he added.
Charlie’s spreaders are all fitted with Griffith Elder weighing systems and equipped with automatic application control and the tractors fitted with automatic steering to ensure accurate application. The new 939 on display at the open day will be working with a 23m3 spreader.
“My main reason for coming along was to see the new premises and I am very impressed. It is the first new dealer to set up in the county for quite a while and seeing this level of investment gives me as a customer a lot of reassurance,” he said.Hugh Balcomb farms at Romney Marsh, Kent. He operates a Challenger 865C which was new in 2012 as well as a 765C which was bought in 2011, and he has also purchased a 6m Keeble Progress cultivator from the dealer which was new in 2012.
“I was recommended by a friend to try a Challenger when I took on some extra land and we have got on very well with it,” he said. “We used a large conventional tractor with dual wheels before and we struggled to achieve the working depth we needed. We had an older Challenger 65E previously which served us well, but we needed more power and the difference when we compared the old 65E with the 865 really impressed us. It was like chalk and cheese. We later replaced the 65E with a 765 and we now use the larger 865 to prepare land with the Keeble Progressive and the 765 is used for some early cultivations and drilling.
“Why do we get on so well with Crawfords? It is best summed up as providing service with a smile. We have had faith in Bob Crawford and his company to look after our needs and we have been happy to invest in machinery and the service package from the dealer. Bob and his staff give us confidence and even operating from Essex, have always got to us more quickly in the event of a problem than more local dealers.”
Hugh Balcomb is pictured (left) with Crawford’s managing director Bob Crawford.Pictured (l-r) are Fendt area sales manager for the south east Will Greenway, Agco Challenger area sales manager Steve Sampson and Crawford’s Kent branch manager Carl Goff with some of the Fendt and Challenger products on display.
“Having spent the day talking with many potential customers at the open day, they are definitely very pleased with what they have seen, and reassured by the level of investment here,” commented Will. “The dealer has built its reputation over the years on the service and back-up it offers and while it was providing excellent support to Kent farmers previously from Essex, now with the new branch that will be even better. It is an excellent location with good access to major trunk roads and will serve the area very well.
“At the open day there was considerable interest in the new 500 series tractors, and in the smaller 300 series too. The 700s and 900s are well-established in the area and users are quite familiar with them, but the smaller models will suit a lot of users, particularly those with smaller arable as well as mixed and livestock farms. Now the new depot is open, farmers can call in when it is convenient for them to look and find out about the range,” he added. “As well as Fendt and Challenger the dealer has a wide range of top quality implement brands which complement the tractors well and we see the investment by the dealer as being very good for us. Service and support is key with any agricultural product.”Crawford’s Kent depot management team (l-r) Bob Crawford, Wes Crawford and Carl Goff.

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