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Krone BiG M 420 mower conditioner.

When Dr. Bernard Krone decided to develop the first BiG M in the early 1990s, he felt that mower-conditioners at the time were undersized for the productivity required by new self-propelled forage harvester models, which were increasing in size and capacity. That first BiG M has been refined over time, leading to today's Krone BiG M 420 mower conditioner, and the judges named it Agri Marketing magazine's 2015 Product of the Year.

"This product was created for commercial hay and forage producers who can benefit from the narrow transport width, the fast transport speed and cutting 30 to 32 feet of crop at one time with a single unit," says Laura Lines, Vice President, Marketing and Sales Support for Krone. "We are the only company currently producing this type of machine, but we continue to look at the market numbers and location of sales for self-propelled windrowers. And we believe that producers who run two or more windrowers can be more productive and save labor costs by changing to operating one BiG M.

"At Krone as a whole, but specifically with this product, we sell on efficiency and value. We need to be able to prove to potential customers how we can save them money in fuel consumption and labor costs with the BiG M."

Lines is very familiar with the hay and forage market. Before starting with Krone in 2014, she spent over ten years with AGCO where she worked with the Massey Ferguson and Hesston brands. "I spent the last five years there focusing on the hay, forage and biomass industry segments," she says.

Cliff Addison joined Krone in 1990 and is now Manager, Product Development for the company. He's been an integral part of the changes and improvements in the BiG M. "The first BiG M was introduced in the U.S. in 1998," he notes. "With the BiG M 420, we've improved machine efficiency overall with better flotation for a cleaner cut, easier transport and increased labor savings."

FEATURES LIKE NO OTHER

Lines and Addison are quick to point out the many features of the BiG M 420 that lead to its popularity with growers and custom harvesters.

Its three 10- or 11-ft individual mowers closely follow the ground contour. With less crop in each swath, drydown is faster resulting in retained crop nutrients. The mowers can operate individually or together, depending on crop and field requirements.

The swaths from the outside mowers can be merged to the center using augers, putting up to 32 feet of material in one swath. This size swath is perfect for high capacity forage harvesters.

"The BiG M 420 works efficiently in different conditions and crops because of the various mower adjustments and choice of three conditioner types--steel v-tines, steel rollers and rubber rollers," notes Lines.

"The operator can also make many adjustments from the cab, such as opening or closing the merging panels, mower flotation or adjusting the cutting height. This is especially important for operators going from field to field and changing crops or conditions regularly.

"In some fields where the crop has been blown down, the operator can cut back-and-forth across the field, adjusting the cutting height from the cab for each direction to make the cleanest cut on each pass."

Addison notes that the BiG M 420 has a very tight turning radius and allows the operator to turn on the headland for the next pass. "By allowing the operator to cut back-and-forth this way, it saves them fuel, time and money, resulting in increased efficiency," he says.

"And with its narrow 10-ft. transport width and 25 mph road speed, the BiG M is perfect for operators who spend time on narrow or winding roads, or have a long distance between fields. Plus, the weight is also evenly distributed from front to back, which is a departure from a traditional windrower. This makes operating on the road and in the field much more stable."

CUSTOMER FOCUS

According to Addison, many of the BiG M 420 features were developed from direct input from producers. "The merger feature was a result of direct feedback from producers to make the machine more efficient to chop behind," he says.

"Another suggestion was to remove the center gearbox on the CRi (roller version), so we had full-width conditioning. Plus we made a number of changes to improve reliability and ease-of-use."

Additional features developed specifically for the North American market include increased throughput and capacity, roller conditioner models, SafeCut cutterbar, high clearance for large windrows and ISOBUS ready guidance.

"As a company, we have always been very customer oriented," notes Addison. "In the first five years of selling the BiG M, I worked with another Krone Service Manager, Rob Wallander, to visit every BiG M customer more than once. We invited customers to service training to learn proper machine service, adjustments and troubleshooting.

"Research and development engineers in Spelle, Germany, scheduled trips to visit customers in various parts of North America to obtain their feedback. Krone continues to maintain this philosophy of after sales support, research and development for the North American market."

DEALER SUPPORT

The BiG M is sold through the Krone dealer network, with independent dealers located throughout North America. "We strive to really understand our customer, and we choose dealers that can provide the best support," tells Lines. "In turn, we must support our dealers with advanced training and timely promotions.

"Our dealers are specially trained to sell and service all Krone machines with support from Krone College, our internal training department. We offer specific training programs for service and sales professionals each year to make sure they are up-to-date on the latest information for these machines.

"Our training department has grown in the last year to include additional trainers and individuals who develop training modules. In the winter months we offer classes at our training centers in both Memphis, TN and Reno, NV. Year-round, we have online training available for those who cannot attend in-person."

Krone also supports dealers through a partnership with its finance company, Krone Finance. "We offer several options for purchasing or leasing a BiG M," says Lines. "With the trend moving toward leasing, we recently released a lease program that offers an incredibly affordable lease payment.

"By pairing the lease program with our manufacturer's extended warranty, operators have the peace of mind that comes with knowing their machine is covered. It's a great option for commercial operators who are concerned with uptime and knowing the cost of ownership up front."

REACHING THE MARKETPLACE

According to Lines, Krone is a nimble company that is able to take full advantages of changes in the marketplace. "When it comes to marketing communications, we plan on a twelve to eighteen month rolling calendar with help from our agency, Clutch+, a division of Broadhead + Co.," she says. "During the end of the calendar year, we run our DealMaker promotion, and we run special financing and lease deals throughout the rest of the year.

"We also always leave room for promotions or programs to fit the current state of the market.

"For example, we are closely watching what is happening in Washington, DC, again this year with legislation that will allow farmers to depreciate equipment faster (through Section 179 of the tax code). We know this will be beneficial to producers who would like to invest in capital purchases but need an extra incentive to do so."

Lines says that the company uses a mix of national and regional print advertising, as well as direct marketing to individual producers. "We also rely on help from our dealer network to promote the products and promotions in their local area, since they are the experts in their geography."

"Because this machine is so unique and advanced," she continues, "many times our dealers will schedule an on-farm demonstration with a potential customer. Once on-site, the dealer and our field-based product manager can showcase the value of adding this machine to their operation.

"They will assess the producer's needs and offer real-life solutions, such as replacing two or three self-propelled windrowers with one BiG M. During the demonstration, the producer will experience first-hand the efficiency the BiG M can offer to their operation, which then can be calculated into an overall monetary savings."

For campaign development, Krone's product marketing manager works with Marketing Communications Manager, Kristine Walker, to develop programs for products on an annual and quarterly basis. "Kristine then involves our agency partner to develop a creative brief and establish metrics to measure the success of the campaign," says Lines. "She'll follow the project through execution with Clutch+ and report back on the metrics post-campaign.

"We rely on the expertise of Clutch+ in the agriculture segment, and it's great to brainstorm new and innovative ideas with them. They, like us, are at a size that allows them to be very flexible and highly customer-focused."

WHAT'S NEXT?

As sales continue to increase year over year since its release, the BiG M 420 has been a great addition to the Krone hay and forage lineup. It's a success Krone engineers are building on.

"Our product engineers have been hard at work, taking the comments and suggestions from North American producers," says Addison.

"These suggestions are being incorporated into the development of the next generation of BiG M models to be released in the near future."

Lines continues, "We are consistently striving to provide our end users with a great experience from the time they are first exposed to the Krone brand all the way through the purchase and use of our innovative hay and forage products.

"Our passion is the hay and forage industry, and we want to share our expertise with the men and women who devote their lives to feeding the world through their operations."

CUSTOMER VIEWPOINT

Triple M Custom Farming, owned by Garrett, Nathan, and Nicholas Mussi of Stockton, CA, bales 8,000 acres of com stalks, wheat straw, and rice straw and 5,000 acres of alfalfa. Their most recent addition to their equipment fleet is a BiG M 420 self-propelled mower conditioner.

"The main reason we purchased the BiG M 420 was to update our rotary swather. When our salesman mentioned that we should demo a BiG M 420, we were interested in what it could offer, but did not think we could justify such a machine. Our biggest concern about the BiG M 420 was the quality of cut and the productivity. After a few passes in the field we agreed that we couldn't afford not to buy the BiG M 420 over another rotary swather," explains Mussi.

"The BiG M 420 has exceeded all of our expectations," says Mussi. "It has cut our alfalfa fields cleaner than any other machine, and the speed at which it cuts high tonnage forage crops is unbelievable. The merging function outperforms all other 'mergers' on any self-propelled rotary swather."

"The BiG M has changed our operation substantially. We can now cut 40 acres of alfalfa in an hour with the BiG M, compared to our sickle machines that cut seven acres an hour, and we can cut 12 foot Sudan grass at 8 mph! This allows us to cut as much with one BiG M 420 and operator as we did with five sickle machines and five operators."

by Mike Gustafson, Deer's Landing, guswriter@yahoo.com
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Title Annotation:2015 PRODUCT OF THE YEAR
Author:Gustafson, Mike
Publication:Agri Marketing
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Nov 1, 2015
Words:1894
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