We cite another occasionally dynamic logistics environment
And if that isn’t counter-intuitive enough, let’s talk firstly about service parts for agricultural equipment…
One of the outstanding features of service parts logistics market for agricultural equipment is the profitability dimension. Despite the rise of contractors, farmers remain a significant buying group for agricultural equipment; and among that group of farmers there are a significant number that employ their equipment assets well past any depreciation date recognised by accountants or the taxman. We are often talking periods of many decades.
And the most profitable parts for agricultural equipment suppliers are? Underwritten by the financial world’s often limited vision in respect of reporting of long held assets, that is often found to be the older low stock-turn parts, those warehoused for many decades.
And why would those old parts be tucked away, and not have been offloaded to vintage machinery specialists in the meantime? Moreover, why would the regimen of expensing the storage and stock-keeping costs on those low stock-turn parts have been a little slack in the decades they were held?
Well, perhaps because senior ag equipment managers have known their business better than the usual horde of spreadsheet jockeys. Their reasoning is that a farmer (in Australia we call them cockies), is a highly brand allegiant specimen. And the one sure turn off of this customer group’s brand allegiance is a lack of after-sales support. But given the stock-turn scenario for both the parts and the finished goods, who would give a fig (says the high-turn consumer merchandiser mind)?
Well the response is that, while a cocky may have an older tractor – they may well have purchased 2-3 other significant pieces of high-value new machinery within the tractor’s life (by way of example).
Regular readers might also recall the scenario we discussed in the past in respect of GE - their aircraft engines, and the world’s fleet of both freighter & passenger aircraft. Specifically in respect of how GE induced market liquidity into freighter leases was justified by them wanting to keep more engines in the air (for service parts turnover purposes), and how by extension it afforded the whole goods (aircraft) producer additional significant new business sales. This dance goes on between whether equipment is owned or operated by contractors or cockies, how many hours it does a season, and how many seasons etc, etc.
And what about the agricultural equipment provider’s high-turn wear parts for the more contemporary equipment? Perhaps you are starting to see the point? This latter set of inventory has a completely different stock-turn dynamic to the former, and yet both business cases make perfect sense, and the parts are all observed being managed by the same service parts logistics group. Obviously, the logisticians have learned over time that there is a sound business case to be made for logistical solution streaming when it comes to agricultural equipment after-market parts that are being stocked and supplied by the major equipment manufacturers.
Most serious logisticians’ interest is piqued by encounters with the service parts logistics business (given the opportunity), and none more-so than those serving the agricultural equipment sector. Not only do you have demand scenarios that are heavily influenced by weather, seasonal timing, & market price changes for produce/stock; but, moreover, all these factors combine unevenly within the same regional geography due to the different crops or stock of the various farmer customer groups.
Forecasting the near-future demand for both parts and finished goods in the above mentioned industry is fraught. In finished goods, we are talking high capital items with very long production lead times. Long range weather forecasting is just as inaccurate as long range soft commodity forecasts. The new equipment manufacturer also has to order rims, tyres and balance weights that are appropriate to the various accessories and row widths employed on different types of farming operations in different regions.
Further, just as the sowing or harvest season is about to kick in, the “last-minute-Charlie” cocky floods the parts order books for both wear parts & regular maintenance parts, as they attempt to “bring their equipment up” for the few weeks it is employed per year. If it is a bad season, and they have no crop – there is no order.
Our point here is? We cite a dynamic environment – there is no place for the one size fits-all solution here; and there are different biases in the warehouse-versus-transport equation that have to be accommodated within the one enterprise. The resultant deployed bias takes specific account of the nature of the particular stock-keeping unit, and tactical responses are configured in accordance with what is optimal for the micro-market condition of the day.
We are not done yet with the agricultural equipment industry, but will leave the discussion of production-run, transportation, & inventory issues for another day.