July 2, 2020
8 insightful answers in less
than 8 minutes
Internet of Business’ IoB 8×8 Series is designed to reveal more about the people who have helped shape IoB’s live event and digital content over the years, picking the key industry brains who have dedicated
time to educating peers.
Matt Wong, Director of Product Strategy – Fuse Technologies, AGCO believes ‘IoT is the catalyst for that society and workplace transformation’. He explains how it has already transformed AGCO’s customer offerings and AGCO’s own digital transformation.
IoB: For those that don’t know, what’s the background of AGCO’s Fuse Smart Farming products?
A: AGCO is one of the world’s largest, pure agriculture and farming equipment manufacturers, with well-known brands that have a deep history and brand following, such as Fendt, Massey Ferguson, Hesston, White, and Precision Planting. Leveraging our portfolio of brands and global products, Fuse is AGCO’s smart farming approach that leverages precision farming technologies, digital tools, and partnerships across the crop cycle.
IoB: When, how and why did AGCO turn from a traditional agricultural equipment manufacturer to a smart farming solutions provider?
M: Some of AGCO’s companies actually pioneered quite a few of the precision ag technologies, such as the Massey Ferguson yield monitor and Challenger auto-steering system. As the company has grown over the last 10 years, AGCO has significantly increased its R&D spend in Fuse technologies and acquired Precision Planting in 2018.
IoB: How has the farming community received AGCO’s Fuse products? Is there an understanding of IoT and how to manage data? To ask the classic question, what are the main opportunities IoT brings for farmers and what are the barriers to adoption?
M: In general, farmers appreciate well-designed and integrated technologies on our machines, such as the GPS guidance systems and terminals [control screens]. In heavily automated combines e.g. our IDEAL, the machine, and agronomic [crop] data is used to optimize the harvesting operation automatically once the operator sets it up. That adoption is obviously high and almost seamless in the background. In other cases, those same machines and agronomic data are needed by the farmers to make other decisions later on in the crop cycle, such as nutrient management and seed selection, and the data has to be cleansed and shared with other software. That process is not as straightforward, and adoption is slowed. We view IoT as a capability to make data available and valuable, but ultimately, crops are grown based on science and agronomy. When we can combine the agronomy, data, and seamless user experience, we can really help our customers improve their profitability and adoption is easy.
IoB: What does your own partner ecosystem look like; how do you work with other technology providers to deliver customers’ digital transformation?
M: Fortunately, in recent years, most agriculture equipment OEMs have come around to the more open approach and our view that farmers will have a mixed fleet; farmers have a need to do business with their preferred ag service providers, so different parties’ data has to work together. Because of this reality, AGCO, along with 15 other OEMs created DKE in Europe, with Agrirouter as a common data-sharing platform. We also have a data exchange tool in North America, Agro Link, which provides data conversion and exchange with most major software and OEM connections. But most exciting of all, AGCO initiated our digital customer experience project in 2019 and we are rolling those digital transformations out to our customers now, including an e-commerce and customer experience portal.
“..different parties’ data has to work together.”
IoB: And how about within AGCO itself, which connected technologies have helped you with your internal digital transformation, and what new ones are you exploring?
M: AGCO partnered with AWS as our data analytics platform within our digital customer experience initiative. While it took a little while to grow our internal capability, we are starting to see the results of data analytics driving business decisions and creating value. IoT or machine data is a significant driver of valuable data that allows us to better serve our customers and positively impact our business.
“IoT or machine data is a significant driver of valuable data that allows us to better serve our customers and positively impact our business.”
IoB: How did you manage data from the beginning and how has your strategy changed? What have been the main challenges faced?
M: We’ve come a long way. I think one of the biggest game-changers has been taking charge of how the data is coming in and managing that ourselves rather than relying on a 3rd party. We want to make sure the customer is getting the best productivity, reliability, and ease of use possible. We saw that some of the early solutions needed to work more seamlessly to really drive adoption, so we pulled the connectivity components further into product design and installed them in the factory. Secondly, when you first get data the question is what to do with it. Like many others, we thought the whole point of IoT was just to get this data in front of the customer and that they would find this value, but that only works for certain segments who have the capacity to analyze it themselves. We have since been able to trace key gaps in the customer experience through the data and use it to be proactive when data trends show us something is likely to occur. Lastly, we had to move from the traditional manufacturing mindset to that of software development, which required a big culture shift. The shift got us to where we are today, with 2-week sprint agile development, and both a live stream and data lake feeding multiple applications and analytics projects.
“We saw that some of the early solutions needed to work more seamlessly to really drive adoption, so we pulled the connectivity components further into product design and installed them in the factory.”
IoB: Which new technologies do you see transforming how equipment manufacturers produce and reach customers? And, in your opinion, what information and which steps are needed before these technologies can be fully taken advantage of?
M: I think the easy answer is 5G, or another technology that can enable full and fast connectivity, but as a global company with mostly rural operating locations, we know this is going to take time. However, the rise of data analytics platforms, such as AWS, Azure, Google Studio, and all the IT consulting firms out there, is greatly increasing our customers’ IT and data analytics capabilities. Instead of AGCO trying to develop software that can do everything for every type of customer, I believe we’re going to see those platforms making it easier and more appealing for our customers to engage with their own data to enhance their business. I think data proficiency will increase greatly as the desired skillset for manufacturers and may very well soon be as common and essential as Excel and PowerPoint in any business. IoT is the catalyst for that society and workplace transformation.
Matt Wong joined AGCO in 2015 and currently has responsibility for the AGCO Fuse or Precision Ag Technology team in North America. Prior to AGCO, he spent 11 years with Caterpillar Power Systems division in various product support and distribution development roles. Matt holds an MBA, bachelors and master’s degree in Electronic Materials Science & Engineering from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Hear more from Matt at the Internet of Manufacturing virtual event, scheduled from September 28 – 30, 2020.