Making a difference for customers fuels career satisfaction
24 Jan 2019
Technology continues to answer the increasingly complex questions posed by agriculture today, but for Tim Slater, who has been around the industry his whole life, it's the simple solutions, often devised with the least resources, that still intrigue him.
Tim is the Product Manager for Hay and Harvest for Case IH Australia/New Zealand, a company he started working for fresh out of university 18 years ago. From a graduate position in logistics, he then moved into the service side of the business where he assumed responsibility for a number of varied product ranges before settling on combines, fronts, and cotton harvesters.
He left Case IH for a brief period before being offered a technical training role with Case IH's parent company CNH industrial, a position that would take him around the world and demonstrate that while agriculture may look a bit different depending on where you are, the motivation for farmers is the same: find the best solution for maximising efficiency and productivity.
"It was a great learning experience because what you find is there's so many different ways people go about solving a problem, and some of the most ingenious solutions I've seen have come from the least amount of resources," Tim said.
"There are a lot of smart people around the world who think very differently to solve the same problems, and the best solution is not necessarily the one that costs the most money and involves the best piece of engineering; sometimes the simplest stuff works the best."
Tim has worked in parts of the world including China, South Africa, Kazakhstan, Russia, Ukraine and the Pacific, and his career at Case IH has been equally diverse, returning to the company's St Mary's, Sydney, headquarters in 2010 after his training stint, and taking on the role of product specialist for precision farming and guidance, at a time when the business was starting to expand in that direction.
His current product manager role began in 2013, responsible for hay and harvest equipment including balers and Case IH's Axial-Flow combines, the machine that revolutionised harvesting just over 40 years ago.
The revolution in ag equipment has continued full-throttle since then, and Tim still marvels at the changes within the industry in a relatively short period of time.
"It really is that ability to make a difference, that's what I enjoy. Driving a product to where it works for us as a market, and ultimately providing efficient solutions to farmers" - Tim Slater, Case IH
"If I look at growing up on the farm through the early to mid-80s and what we had then, to where we are today, that's 30-plus years of innovation. We've seen incredible change come through,
from combine seeders to air seeders, through to precision planting, and the evolution in tractors, from 200hp up to 400hp and now 600hp tractors," Tim said.
"But what's more amazing is our market has gone through these advances in 30 years – I've been to places where they go through that in five. They go from what we had in the 80s to what we have now in one machine jump, not four."
Tim gets a great deal of satisfaction out of his seat on a Case IH global steering committee, providing customer feedback and input into product updates and new features.
"Australia is not the biggest market in the world, but for its size we have significant input into product features, what we want to develop, and where the product is heading. We work closely with global platforms to ensure new products are designed to satisfy the increasing need for performance and productivity enhancements for Australian farmers," Tim said.
"A good example is the pivoting spout we now have on combine harvesters. I can remember a number of years ago, back when I was in the service side of the business, the previous product manager and I sitting down and talking about that - there were a lot of napkins with drawings all over them - but that's one idea we can see on all Case IH machines today."
Tim grew up around agriculture in south-western NSW, working on a property from a young age, and he still enjoys getting back into the paddock during the harvest season, which is something he ensures he does every year. Whether it's chatting with farmers, operating a harvester or behind the wheel of a truck, any relevant insights can be fed back into a customer-driven product development process, meaning Case IH product offerings reflect the requirements of the market place.
It all benefits Tim in his product manager role, making him appreciate the importance of listening to customers and helping them with their efficiency and productivity goals.
"It really is that ability to make a difference, that's what I enjoy. Driving a product to where it works for us as a market, and ultimately providing efficient solutions to farmers."
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