Machinery dealers are facing a number of challenges over the next decade, including the ability to source and retain good staff, coping with shifts in technology and margin squeeze.
Hosting the dealer panel at the Tractor and Machinery Association conference, TMA chairman Paul Barry said dealers needed to consider diversification rather than single brand mentality as part of maintaining a future proof business.
"If you are a new brand or a new idea coming into agriculture today and you needed a distribution network, where do you go if you can't go here?" he said.
Claas Harvest Centre general manager retail Landpower James Laidlaw said in future proofing dealerships it was important to engage with farmers and other stakeholders in the region to find out what they wanted or needed going forward.
"If we know what they are trying to achieve in their business going forward, we are better equipped to service them and provide a solution," he said.
"We are trying to employ local people, so while there may be a supporting head office behind the local branch, the customer is always dealing with someone locally orientated, involved in the community and able to have a real rapport with the customer."
Afgri Equipment operations director Gollie Coetzee said technology such as telematics and remote diagnosis had a role to play in the future, particularly in terms of machinery efficiency.
"Customers still like to have their parts nearby, their technician nearby, so for the next five years I don't see a huge change," he said.
"But going forward, with the lack of technicians and the skilled labour [situation] in WA being problematic, I think the distances we are going to have to travel to support the customers is going to change."
Mr Coetzee said finding and retaining skilled labour was an on-going problem in WA, particularly in the small agricultural service towns.
"Our typical technician is aged 40, his kids can't continue to go to the local schools as they only go to year 8 or year 10, so then they want to move with their kids to the bigger centre," he said.
Mr Laidlaw said while there was no substitute for experience, working with younger staff and teaming them with more experienced mentors worked well.
"We try to empower them and include them in decision making," he said.
Kentan Machinery owner and principal Kent Ireland said workplace health and safety had to be a priority in in all businesses.
"The job is never done, once you put all the processes in place you need to then have weekly maintenance," he said.
"We just want to keep everyone safe."
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