Breakdown – a word no farmer ever wants to hear, especially not during the harvest. When things get serious, Marten Höper and his colleagues from CLAAS service can step in and put agricultural machinery back into working order. In an interview on the use of modern technology on the remotest fields, the value of experience, and some me­m­orable assignments, the passion this service technician has for his profession quickly becomes clear.

Florian Lehmann

Marten Höper originally wanted to become a farmer, but ended up choosing another profession. Höper has pursued his deeply rooted passion for agricultural machinery at CLAAS since 2014, firstly as a machinery technician, then while studying agricultural engineering on a dual study course, and now as a service technician for CLAAS Service & Parts GmbH.

Mr. Höper, what happens when a CLAAS machine decides to go on strike?
There are three different levels at CLAAS: Local dealers are always the first port of call. If they cannot solve the issue, they contact national support. Here at international customer service, we are the third level of assistance. More often than not we look into the issue remotely. One brand-new innovation currently being tested in this area is the concept of a “ghost technician,” where service technicians can assist remotely using an app on their on-site colleagues’ smartphones. The smartphone camera gives us access to photos and videos and allows us to provide specific, practical assistance on how to proceed. If the issue remains unresolved, this is when things get exciting: We have to pack our bags and hit the road.

What do you make sure you always have with you before you leave?
The right tools, but also my laptop with the diagnosis software on it and the correct interface cable to read the machine’s parameters. What do the temperature or engine speed sensors say? Which parts have had a failure? The digital repair manuals, circuit diagrams, and cable plans are also extremely important. With the newer models, remote service allows me to determine the exact position of the machine, get an initial diagnosis of its status, and find out which spare parts I am likely to need, ensuring I am well prepared before arriving on site.

So, with your bags packed you then travel to customers all over the world?
Exactly. One assignment took me to Romania, for instance, where the transmission on an ATOS tractor overheated so much it broke several other components – washers, bearings, shafts. The problem was that the transmission was still overheating even after the local dealer had apparently repaired it on multiple occasions. You need to have an in-depth knowledge and understanding of the whole system. The expertise available in smaller workshops may be of a high quality, but there simply won’t be experts available for 20 different pieces of agricultural machinery. That’s why they send me out there.

When I arrived at the customer’s farm, the trans­mission was in pieces on the sandy floor of an old pigsty. I put it back together immediately and took a close look at the part. I quickly discovered that something was moving that shouldn’t have been moving. The clue to solving the puzzle came from the exploded-view drawing, where a one-millimeter-­thick washer was missing underneath a gearwheel. Replacing the washer solved the problem.

You also work with pilot series machines that are being tested. This is a completely different type of work, isn’t it?
Pilot series machines are really exciting. They are ­assigned to a select group of customers and remain under close monitoring. After all, despite all of the testing we do, the machines have not been field-tested in all conditions. The findings need to be reported back to development and production as soon as possible. That’s why we take care of these machines, as sometimes they will suffer unexpected issues. If something happens you have to be able to improvise to resolve the problem quickly. This is where expe­rience is vital.

What do you mean exactly?
Case in point: we found that one pilot series model, the AXION TERRA TRAC, needed filling up with fuel several times a day despite having two 300-liter tanks. We looked at the situation and noticed that the engine wasn’t drawing any fuel out of one of the tanks. There was a vacuum in one of the pipes. We thought about how we could change the pipe routing, and promptly rectified the problem. We always pass on these quick fixes to the technical development team, together with a detailed report. Our colleagues analyze the issue in detail and in this particular case our solution was implemented into the regular series model almost unchanged. That was cool!

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