21 September 2001



Provide good service but

keep the operation lean is

the philosophy at tractor

importer D & S Machinery

Ltd as the Dublin-based

business gears up for

expansion with a new

franchise. Peter Hill reports

GOOD back-up and local representation. That is the key to selling tractors, reckons Michael Devane, managing director of independent importer D & S Machinery.

"Sure you need a good product with the right specification and appeal in the marketplace," he acknowledges. "But you could have the best tractor in the world and not be successful with it if you dont give it the right back up."

In his book, that means establishing a generous stock of spares with efficient delivery when parts are needed; a willingness to respond to customer queries and problems; and recruiting dealers with good local knowledge and a readiness to also back-up the product with local parts and service support.

Its a formula that has worked well for D & S Machinery which was a pretty low-key operation when it took on the Ursus import franchise in the late 1980s. For many, it was a surprise choice when the company was appointed Landini importer in 1991.

"Over that time, we have steadily built-up the business to the point where we are now, probably the third biggest importer of agricultural machinery in Ireland," says Mr Devane. "When we started with Landini, they were selling about 15 tractors a year; now, were doing between 300 and 350 a year."

Staying compact

Despite that growth, the company has remained a compact operation, with just six employees at the headquarter premises in Walkins-town, Dublin. This is where the main parts depot and administration offices are located. Pre-delivery and service work is carried out at the Landini dealership of D & S Machinerys co-director, Nicky Gore, in Duncormick, Co Wexford.

"Its an arrangement that works very well because it is no use adding fancy facilities and buildings, and employing lots of people, if all you do is increase your overheads," says Mr Devane. "We try to keep things simple and concentrate on doing the best job we can for our dealers and their customers. That is one of the reasons we handle only tractors – we dont get side-tracked by other machinery and implements."

All the same, things will have to be cranked up a bit following the companys appointment in July as McCormick distributor for all of Ireland.

"This is a very exciting prospect for us because it opens up a whole new customer base," says Mr Devane. "All the tractors in the McCormick range sold well here when they carried the Case name, but I understand Case dealers have been sitting on the fence about whether to handle them under their new name. Im confident farmers who have these tractors, and maybe some of those who dont, will welcome the news that the tractors will still be available and properly supported under the McCormick name."

Although a number of Landini dealers are keen to take on the new franchise, it seems the intention of Doncaster-based McCormick and D & S Machinery is to spread the net a little wider by building a separate network.

"For our part, we shall be appointing specialist service, parts and sales staff to look after the McCormick business," says Mr Devane.

McCormick Tractors Inter-national was created to take on the Case Doncaster plant after CNH Global, the merged Case-New Holland business, was ordered to sell it by European Commission competition authorities. The McCormick range includes all models built at the plant, including a Perkins-engined version of the Case MX Maxxum.

"I think choosing the McCormick name was a stroke of genius," says Mr Devane. "It may not be familiar to our younger farmers but Im sure they will know it has been used on tractors before. Our intention is, two years down the road, it will seem like the name never went away."

The process of introducing the new models would have begun at the National Ploughing Championships where the company had booked a bigger stand.

"We like the event and have always done well," says Mr Devane. "Its nice to see your customers there – even if they only come for the tea and biscuits rather than bringing an order for a new tractor!"

Tractor sales generally seem to be holding up well, he adds, having been only temporarily affected by the prospect of foot-and-mouth getting a foothold in Ireland. And with a continuing shortage of skilled labour prepared to work in agriculture, farmers are buying bigger tractors to boost productivity.

"Best sales are of 100-115hp tractors, Id say; it wasnt long ago that an 85hp machine was your bread-and-butter tractor but now its more like 110hp," Mr Devane observes. "But there is also some resistance to over-sophistication in the way of electronics and the like. Farmers and contractors want their machines to be productive but also reliable and easy to repair, so tend to be wary of anything with too much in the way of electronics." &#42

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