FTMTA News 30th March 2020

Farm Machinery Industry Operating As An Essential Service Under Government Guidelines

The various strands of the Irish farm machinery industry remain operational in support of our farming customers in line with Government guidelines on essential services.

Manufacturing

Based on the updated “List of essential service providers under new public health guidelines” issued by Government on Saturday evening agricultural machinery manufacturing can continue. The list of manufacturing activities that can continue includes the following wording:

  • the manufacture of products necessary for the supply chain of essential services; computer, electronic and optical products including semi-conductors; electrical equipment, machinery and other equipment (including agricultural and forestry machinery); medical devices; and medical and dental equipment and supplies.

Agricultural machinery manufacturing can continue due to its role in the supply chain for agriculture. Obviously all operations must be conducted in line with recommended physical distancing and public health guidelines.

Dealerships and distributors

The updated “List of essential service providers under new public health guidelines” released by Government to add detail to the announcement made by the Taoiseach on Friday evening does allow dealer and distribution businesses within our trade to maintain a level of operation in relation to supply of parts, service / repair operations and delivery of machinery.

The following section which relates to parts, service and installation / delivery of machines is included in the updated list:

Repair and installation of Machinery and Equipment 

  • the supply, repair and installation of machinery and equipment and industrial machinery and equipment for essential services.                                       

The agriculture sector (our customers) are categorised as an essential service in an earlier part of the same list so the supply of parts and service by us to them is now also an essential service

This is not carte blanche to open the whole business as normal – that is definitely not the case. The restrictions on us as a retail business remain in place and for that reason all businesses in the trade to be careful how we deal with any increased flexibility.

The wording in the updated list allows us some scope in relation to service, parts and delivery of machines but still in a behind closed doors fashion:

The business must remain closed to the public and the gates should be kept closed with a notice placed on them advising that while the supply of parts and service is possible it is subject to restrictions and giving a contact number to make arrangements – effectively a by appointment situation.

The supply of parts will still have to happen in a restricted fashion. Parts orders to be taken by phone or online where possible. In the situation where the customer is not sure what exact part is required that can be dealt at the counter by arrangement and within the social distancing and hygiene framework.

Delivery of parts should still be possible by courier but it will take longer than normal probably.

The farmer customer is less restricted than most sectors and are allowed to go about their farming business and that would include travelling to your premises for collections. Handle that in accordance with social distancing – give the customer a time to call and leave the parts out.

Service / repair on farm is not an issue and can continue. Some jobs will need to go to workshops – so be it but please do not allow the customer into the workshop. If it has not already been done, I suggest splitting the workshop into teams either in different and separated ends of the workshop or on opposite shifts. Take receipt of the machine in the yard and sanitise all surfaces that will be worked on. Return of the machine should be done in the same way. All service operation whether inhouse or at the customer location must be carried out within physical distancing parameters.

Never have two customers collecting at the same time – that is not social distancing. Customers should not leave their vehicle until instructed to do so and parts for collection can be left out.

It is a busy time of the year and there are machines in yards that are sold and due to go out. Delivery is allowed and the above scenario of the customer calling to collect under strict guidelines would also apply.

Most Irish parts suppliers and many Irish manufacturers will be continuing to ship, as will many international suppliers, and although deliveries may take a little longer the supply chain will continue to operate. Deliveries coming into the business either from domestic suppliers or from overseas can continue to be received within the best practise social distancing recommendations – interaction with driver should be at a distance and kept to a minimum, ideally they do not need to leave the cab.

In summary, the business is closed to the public and that needs to be obvious. The customer will give you little thanks for bending the rules for him if a future infection is later traced back to that interaction. We are in this together and people have to follow the restrictions, This is not a drill – this is a real emergency, the greatest that we will ever face hopefully!

FTMTA have issued a template of a letter for member staff to show to Gardai if stopped on the way to or from work This letter identifies that the staff member is working within an essential service as outlined in the Government list of such activities. This letter should be completed for all staff required to attend for work and given it to them as soon as possible.

Please keep yourselves, your families, your staff and your customers safe.

Be a part of a stronger, professional, farm machinery industry – join the Farm Tractor and Machinery Trade Association – contact FTMTA at              045 409309 or membership@ftmta.ie for details.

 

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