Pics: Kubota brings the ‘factory’ to farmers…here in Ireland
Manufacturers often bring small groups of customers – farmers and agricultural contractors – as well as dealers to their factories.
The idea is to generate goodwill on the part of buyers, but also to glean information and feedback on how products and components are faring out in the field – well away from controlled laboratory conditions.
Kubota, like other major manufacturers, does this on occasion. However, it also does the reverse. Instead of bringing Muhammad to the mountain, in this case, the mountain must travel.
This week, the factory (aka the mountain) is here in Ireland to meet a sample of dealers and end-users. AgriLand called in to see a so-called KIP (Kubota Insight Program) event – at its stop in Clarkes of Cavan.
KIP involves engineers – some from the R&D department and others from after-sales – from the factories coming to countries like Ireland. The grassroots feedback then goes back to the design office and the production line; that’s the intent behind the project.
At the event in Cavan, we caught up with Kevin Pryce – Kubota’s area sales manager for Ireland. We asked him how Kubota is faring and what’s in the pipeline.
“Kubota took over the distribution of agricultural tractors here in 2012 – from the previous importer. Since then, the focus has been on building a network of dealers around the country,” he explained.
“There are about 120 people working over in Kubota’s UK base – eight of whom are solely dedicated to agricultural products. We now have over 50 dealers across the UK; we have seven here in Ireland at the moment.
We’d like to increase that number; we’re talking to prospective new dealers all the time.
He added: “The thing is; people sometimes think that it all comes down to price. But the reality is; having the right distribution channels – having the right dealers in place – is probably the most important thing.”
Kubota has been something of an enigma in the tractor business. It only launched its larger, contractor-spec tractors a few short years ago. According to Pryce, the confirmed 2015 (AEA) figures show that it already has a 6.7% share of the UK tractor market.
A decade ago, Kubota – while a major player in the grounds-care and compact industries – had practically no footprint in this sector.
Pryce added: “The target – for Kubota here in Europe – is to get a 10% share of the agricultural tractor market by 2019.”
Since Kubota’s take-over of the Kverneland conglomerate back in 2012, the Japanese giant has had access to a plethora of machinery, in its bid to offer the elusive ‘full line‘ – the veritable holy grail for manufacturers of modern agricultural equipment.
While the grassland and forage equipment is already available in Kubota’s own livery in the UK, it will realistically be the near future before such kit is pushed out here – in the Irish market. No firm timeline has been given with regard to tillage machinery. However, Pryce did say that it’s a matter of “when rather than if”.
Pryce claims that Kubota is well positioned to grow its market share in Ireland. He explained: “We already have tractors that cover 95% of the market – in terms of size and specification.
“The larger M7001 range [130-170hp] is built in France; the factory started producing tractors in 2014.
“The other tractors, including the M5001 [95-113hp] and MGX III [104-143hp] line-ups, are built in Japan. Interestingly, some of the final assembly on these units – those destined for UK and Ireland – is undertaken in Thame [Kubota’s UK headquarters].”
Gary Walsh was also on hand at the event in Cavan. He is Kubota’s Irish territory service manager; he lives in Carlow.
He explained: “We’re making progress all the time; it’s about getting the dealer network right and making sure we have the back-up in place.
“We’re serious about getting into the contractor and larger farmer markets. For example, we already have an M7151 on stand-by – in case an existing customer’s tractor is out of action for any reason. That tractor is not tied to any individual dealer; it can go anywhere in the country and be up and running within 48 hours.”
We also spoke to Hashimodo Tahiro – one of the engineers over from Japan as part of the KIP event. He outlined what they hope to achieve this week: “We want dealers and customers to know how to correctly maintain the tractors – and to learn from their experience,” he said.
“It’s about connecting with farmers to boost satisfaction and, also, to carry out some testing on tractors that are already here.”
“We were in Poland last week; we are meeting customers in many different countries.”
Pryce added: “We’re well set up for next year; the product is ready. For example, many of our tractors have already been updated to ensure they comply with – what we call in the industry – the ‘mother regs‘ [EU ‘Mother’ Regulation 167/2013 – type-approval of agricultural vehicles].
“Not all manufacturers are so well positioned; tractors that don’t comply won’t be permitted to be sold in the EU – and people need to ensure that what they are buying is fully approved for sale here into the future.
Kubota, ironically having only come into the agricultural sector in relatively recent times, is ahead of the game.