Like the automotive industry, is the tractor industry also going through an evolution in terms of better technology, more powerful and fuel efficient engines?
Yes, it is. We are looking at introducing electronics in terms of auto-tracking devices. Besides, as emission norms change, there could also be electronic engines. The future of the agricultural machinery market in India will continue to be influenced by expansions in the agricultural sector. Plus, there are expectations for a raise in demand for more technologically developed tractors with self-sufficient features. The tractor industry will go through an evolution, but whether the evolution will happen as fast as it has happened with the cars is still a question. That’s because these are value-conscious customers and they want to make sure that the value is delivered to them before they start moving to the next level of technology.
What have been the key drivers of the tractor industry’s growth? How have different regions/states performed?
The agricultural tractors market has been seeing numerous technological inventions. We have seen good monsoons in the last few years, which has been a significant contributor to the growth of the tractor industry. Apart from that, there have been favourable government policies, both in the central and state level, which have helped the industry to progress. Rural finance and better price for crops are some of the other positive indicators towards the development of tractor growth. In addition, government programmes, especially the subsidy programmes, have been very well received in the rural market. The growth has particularly been good in the states of Telangana, UP and MP, while Maharashtra and Rajasthan have been stable. Punjab has been reasonably strong, whereas Gujarat has not been that strong.
How is farm mechanisation progressing in the country?
Farm mechanisation will boost demand in the global tractor market. Using data derived from farm mechanisation will help farmers to utilise actionable farm insights that can possibly protect labour costs and harvest great efficiency in the global market. Mechanisation has varied in the value chain. About 85% of land is mechanised for land preparation. Good mechanisation is coming in for plants like, wheat, jowar, lentils, etc. The mechanisation for crops like, sugarcane harvesters is less than 5%, while for cotton, it’s almost zero. As for things like, spraying, de-weeding, etc, the mechanisation is again, almost zero. Post-harvest, which includes residue management, the mechanisation is less than 5%.
If we take the states into consideration, there are geographical differences. The mechanisation has been quite strong in Punjab and Haryana, and especially strong in some of the southern states. On the other hand, UP and Rajasthan have not fared highly in this aspect.
Do you witness rampancy of spurious parts just like the way other vehicle manufacturers witness?
It’s a problem to contend with but we have our own dealers, who provide parts to the customers. We try to control this and it’s safe to say that we have been fairly successful. However, as we grow more in this country, we have to be more careful at the same time. Therefore, one has to make sure that parts are available to the customers. If they are not available, then they will go to the nearer distributor. Hence, one needs to make sure that the parts are available with each of the dealer branches.
What are the R&D activities being conducted at John Deere in order to meet the emerging challenges in the market?
We have more than 150 engineers, who help in designing our tractors. Our engineers meet customers to understand what they need and the new applications emerging, based on which the products are designed. We also go to customers, who are leading in technology adoption; we get inputs from them on what is changing in the industry, which further helps us in producing and designing products that our customers can utilise.
How are digitisation technologies progressing in the tractor manufacturing industry? How is the progress in your company?
Digitisation is gaining momentum at a pace second to none and is disrupting the traditional farming sector at last. There is a widespread assortment of advances, which look to considerably transform the way we grow and distribute food. Digitisation is coming along in the tractor manufacturing industry. Connected suppliers are something we are working on. In terms of product development, digitisation is very strong. Additionally, on the supplier side, it is starting to emerge and is still in its initial stages.
What kind of productivity improvement tools are used in your factories, such as, lean, kaizen, Six Sigma, etc?
We use all of these tools. Six Sigma is widely deployed across all manufacturing units. In fact, our company is one of the top companies where Six Sigma is practiced.