A purpose-designed depot on a greenfield site in central Essex will enable an expanding agricultural machinery dealer to continue offering the quality of service behind its success. David Williams was at the official opening.
Main Agco dealer RW Crawford Ltd has traded since 1980 when founder Bob Crawford started buying and selling used machinery. In 2001, he became the Massey Ferguson dealer for Essex, joined by Challenger in 2003 for Essex and in 2005 for Kent and East Sussex. In 2010 Fendt was taken on for Essex and Kent with all customers looked after from the existing Woodham Ferrers, Essex depot. It was determined that a dedicated Kent branch was needed to ensure best possible customer service and significant investment in a green-field site resulted in the new depot opening in 2013, which was quickly outgrown necessitating an extension just two years later.
Isuzu and Valtra were both taken on in 2014, the popular pick-up trucks currently represented in Kent by the dealer, and Valtra joining Massey Ferguson in Essex, and Fendt and Challenger across the whole trading area, with Challenger incorporated within the Fendt brand in late 2017.
Major franchises complementing the Agco brands include Caterpillar, Krone and Amazone along with Spearhead, Cherry Products and HM Trailers and a host of smaller manufacturers are also represented.
“We have always recognised that customers have a choice of brand and dealer,” commented managing director Wes Crawford. “Since the company was started by my father it has increased considerably in size and the area served, but we have ensured it retains its family feel and continues to offer efficient, personal service.”
The strategy has been successful and the business has grown, maximising its market share across its trading area. The original Woodham Ferrers premises with separate sales and service buildings was outgrown many years ago, but Crawford’s team ensured customers received the service they required while planning negotiations and construction took place over several years at an improved location in mid-Essex.
Fit for the future
The new premises at Writtle, just west of Chelmsford and adjacent to Writtle University College is in easy reach of major roads allowing great access from anywhere in the county and plenty of yard and covered space is available to satisfy current needs and accommodate continued growth. A six-bay workshop with each bay large enough for the biggest machines and a dedicated stores area and large showroom will help the team optimise efficiency and provide excellent customer service.
“Previously, servicing large machines meant shuffling them around to make room for those being worked on at the time,” pointed out service manager Shaun Baker. “The new workshop is fantastic, plenty of space, much better to work in and it allows us to operate more efficiently providing even better service.”
The Essex business relocated to Writtle in mid-June and an ambitious open day in early July provided an opportunity for customers and suppliers to look around and spend time with the dealer team.
“We estimate in excess of 1,000 people attended the open day, including more than 400 visitors before 5pm,” said Wes. “The event was held just in time, a few days before the early harvest and it attracted a mix of current and prospect customers.
“We believe our tie-in with Writtle College will help attract young people to the industry and look forward to the relationship developing, especially in terms of agricultural engineering. We have worked closely with local Young Farmers organisations in recent years to support agriculture in Kent and Essex and we see the Writtle partnership extending this link,” he added.
Wes said the support shown to his team by customers and suppliers at the opening event was very much appreciated. “Our sales staff received many enquiries for products from all brands as well as orders placed on the day,” he said. “The new site allows room for future business growth over the next 20 years at least, and we are certain our customers will enjoy even better service from the new facilities.”
Local to Writtle is HM Trailers and director Grant Perry is pictured at the open day with a root crop trailer fitted with adjustable tyre inflation. “A single-line system is a cost-effective solution, available for approximately £3,900,” he explained. “Twin line has the advantage that if one tyre is punctured the others maintain their set operating pressure, so for those travelling long distances by road that is worth the additional investment. We have seen increased demand for both systems, some fitted to new trailers and others retrofitted and those hiring trailers from us can specify it as an option too.
“It’s exciting seeing RW Crawford so well supported here at the open day but not surprising as the dealer has a great reputation. It’s not often a business has the opportunity to build everything from scratch and I am sure Essex farmers will appreciate this investment in the industry. The central location is ideal and we expect to benefit as trailer sales increase along with the dealer’s other product lines,” he added.
Tama UAT manufactures a wide range of net, wrap and twine sold under the company’s own brand name and also badged for baler manufacturers. Regional technical and area sales manager Jonathan Coleclough was at the open day and explained his company was enjoying a busy season, partly due to the extreme operating conditions of this year’s grass harvest. “Very low moisture content creates challenging baling conditions for grass and straw as the crop is thin and brittle. Users want bale weights equivalent to their previous years’ averages but to achieve that the density has to be much higher, putting extra demand on bale packaging. More hay bales have been made this year, partly because the weather has allowed it, but also because of high demand due to the long harsh winter we experienced.
“We offer four main categories of twine from Type 86 for low density large square bales to HD Extra with extra strength for high density bales. RW Crawford has supplied our twine to users previously but with Agco’s entry into round baler manufacturing we expect the dealer to supply large quantities of Massey Ferguson and Fendt-branded net wrap in future. One of the benefits of selecting Tama products is our back-up, and we have a specialist team available in the UK to visit users on-farm and help them get the best from our range,” he said.
Pictured with Krone products displayed are (l-r) Wes Crawford, Krone UK sales support manager Ian Faulds and territory manager Eddie Caulfield.
Members of the Amazone team at the event were busy helping dealer staff with customer enquiries. Pictured (l-r) area sales manager Rupert Batho; Carl Vidler – who is one of the dealer’s engineers specialising in Amazone products; dealer service specialist Bill Harris and Amazone dealer development and key account specialist Louise Skinner. “My role is relatively new, and I joined Amazone in February this year,” explained Louise. “My objective is to work with dealers improving systems allowing us to work more closely, and by becoming more proactive we will benefit customers by tackling any issues more quickly and making us easier to deal with.
“Crawford’s new depot is a fantastic investment and it is reassuring for the whole industry. Customers will enjoy knowing they should receive even better service and anyone seeing this will be impressed. It’s very positive.”
Bill commented that Amazone is extremely popular with the dealer’s customers. “It’s well made, well engineered and offers advanced engineering concepts and great performance,” he said. “Features such as AmaSelect nozzle selection have been specified on at least four of the Panteras we have sold and although it seems a complex system, it’s actually very reliable which means customers aren’t scared of the technology.”
With the Valtras displayed are (l-r) Nunzio Rio, Andy Miller, RW Crawford marketing manager Hannah Kelsey and Valtra national sales manager Mark Broom.
“Over the years several dealers have represented Valtra within RW Crawford’s current trading area but this dealer is proving very successful,” said Andy. “There is no doubt the Crawford team is totally tuned in to the products it supplies and farmers and contractors have faith in the specialists who look after them so well. This ambitious new depot is the next stage in the dealer’s development and I look forward to seeing how the trading area continues to develop for them in the coming years. Looking at the range of Agco franchises available through the team, there is something to suit every user type and preference. An awareness that success in this industry is closely linked to service provided and back-up available is very noticeable, and ensures great customer loyalty to the team.”
Three generations of the Crawford family enjoyed the successful open evening. Founder Bob Crawford, managing director Wes Crawford, daughter Lois and niece Isobel.