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August 9, 2023

From field to market: the vital role of time-critical logistics during harvest season

During the peak harvesting season in the agricultural sector, the importance of time-critical logistics comes to the forefront. Harvest is a long-awaited yet challenging time for farmers. Operating with precision and efficiency is essential to ensure maximum, high-quality yield, and maximum profits.

Keeping machinery in full working order is vital to the harvesting process, and due to the additional pressure machinery is placed under during this time, access to critical spare parts is key.

Spare parts logistics in Agriculture

Few industries are as dependent on the timely distribution of spare parts as the agricultural sector. For farmers, broken-down machinery can bring productivity to a standstill and severely impact profitability. Manufacturers need a logistics solution that allows for fast and convenient distribution to farmers, stockists, and dealers, in order to maintain market and a constant production flow.

Amidst these demands, there are crucial factors to consider. For instance, the cost of unplanned downtime in manufacturing can be staggering, with figures soaring up to 235,000 EUR (260,000 USD) per hour (Aberdeen Research). Additionally, Total Client Value holds immense importance. Timely maintenance of machinery and equipment not only ensures operational efficiency but also nurtures customer loyalty, leading to repeat orders and an increased market share. In this challenging landscape, the link between efficient logistics, minimised downtime, and overall business success is more apparent than ever.


What are the challenges faced during harvest?

Timing is critical during harvest. Farmers must be poised to harvest crops when optimum weather, humidity and temperature conditions align. If key machinery or equipment fails during this time, this window of opportunity can be missed.

The harvesting process relies on a broad range of agricultural machinery, including:

  • Forage/silage harvesters
  • Combine harvesters
  • Towing tractors
  • Telehandlers
  • Rough or all-terrain forklifts

Technological advancements in agricultural machinery mean that these pieces of equipment are increasingly reliant on complex systems and moving parts. The result is that they are more effective and resilient, but failures are harder to resolve due to difficulties in accessing spare parts and qualified service engineers.

Furthermore, harvesting activities place additional stress on agricultural equipment due to around-the-clock usage and unfavourable weather conditions. Failures will happen, and cost minimisation depends on rapid and immediate access to spare parts and servicing.

Once the optimal harvest time has passed, the potential yield for crops begins to drop, daily. According to the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) machinery on average accounts for 25–30% of the farm’s wheat-growing cost.


Impact on agricultural manufacturers

This complex set of challenges places an enormous on agricultural machinery manufacturers during harvest time.

Suppliers experience a significant increase in demand for spare parts and servicing, and the consequences of are higher than at any other time during the agricultural year. If farmers are forced to delay harvest due to machine downtime, the overall yield will be lower, and the quality of the crops will be diminished. This can result in crippling financial losses.

Manufacturers – in the face of complex peak-season logistical challenges – must ensure on-time, on-location delivery of spare parts, without fail. The entire agricultural industry depends on it.


What’s the difference between time-critical and express distribution?

In traditional express distribution, a precise delivery time isn’t specified. As a result, recipients are bound by a “possible” delivery window, often spanning 12 hours or more. A time-critical logistics service lets you specify an arrival time and offers greater flexibility when choosing a drop-off location.

This makes time-critical logistics vital to any industry that relies on the continuous flow and timely distribution of critical spare parts, especially during peak times when demand is higher and malfunctioning machinery leads to spiralling costs.


Time-critical logistics solve harvest distribution challenges

Time-critical logistics offers service features that solve the major spare parts distribution challenges associated with harvest-time demand, as outlined above. Some examples:

  • By-night logistics – Time-critical logistics features by-night distribution. By-night logistics avoids many of the obstacles associated with traditional express distribution by collecting late at night and delivering prior to breakfast time the following day. This means that farmers and service engineers can request and receive spare parts according to their schedule.
  • Flexible final mile options – Flexible final-mile delivery is central to time-critical distribution services. It allows for critical spare parts to be delivered to convenient Pick-Up, Drop Off (PUDO) locations, remote sites, and engineer vehicles. This means less time spent collecting distributed parts and reduced downtime overall.
  • Intra-dealer logistics – The ability to move spare parts from one dealer to another, results in less peak-time strain for manufacturing facilities and central warehouse operations, and reduced delivery times. This is known as intra-dealer logistics and is not available via most conventional express delivery services.
  • Advanced customer service – Industry-specific, time critical-logistics offers a degree of expertise and customer service not accessible with most mainstream providers. Dealing with a logistics partner that specialises in agricultural spare part distribution guarantees the best possible service for you, your end customers, and dealers, during peak times.
  • Multimodal – Time-critical logistics services utilise multimodal freight to all for absolute flexibility and the shortest possible delivery time frame. A combination of road and air lanes allows for last-minute route changes in the face of potential obstacles, to make sure spare parts always arrive on location, on time.


Time-critical logistics: crucial to the agricultural supply chain

Logistical efficiency is vital to the ongoing health of the agricultural supply chain, especially during harvest time. Manufacturers must be able to keep up with equipment and spare parts requests, and dealers and service engineers must be able to keep up with repairs demand.

To learn more about the role of time-critical logistics in agriculture, get in touch with our team.

See how we can tailor a solution to your business requirements for critical service logistics