Simba Great Plains has come through a period of enormous change. A takeover by Great Plains of the US has brought massive investment and access to a worldwide distribution system.
Chris Lyddon asked David Holmes, UK Sales Director of Simba Great Plains, how he sees the future of agricultural machinery and Simba’s part in it.
Simba , based at Sleaford in Lincolnshire, has always been associated primarily with seeding and cultivation and, up until the late 1990s, concentrated on both the UK and Export markets. The new millennium brought a new emphasis on designing machines for continued growth in export markets.
“In the last 18 months or so we’ve had a major upheaval within our company itself with the acquisition by Great Plains,” he said. “What that’s given us is a strong base to work from, a strong parent company behind us. The change was from Simba to Simba Great Plains and we are 100% owned by Great Plains who are based in Kansas.”
“It’s given us a major investment here at Sleaford, not only in refurbishments to existing facilities with new showroom and conference centre, but also in a new 34,000 square-foot factory,” he said. “We are returning to full line manufacturing back in Sleaford. Previously all our assemblies were externally sourced, 70 to 80% of them in the UK, and then they were shot blasted and assembled at Sleaford.”
“It has also given us investment in new products from the Simba brand,” he said. “We have launched another five products here this year.” He stressed the importance of satisfying farmer demand for new products. “We move forward by having new product,” he said. “If you don’t have new products that is when you become static and that’s when you find you have difficulties.”
“We have always been an innovative company, always looking at strengthening our R&D department. We have increased our design engineering department as well as other areas. The agricultural market sector, particularly in the UK and Western Europe, are looking all the time for further technology.”
Great Plains ownership also provides access to machines from the Great Plains product portfolio. ““Primarily for the UK we see that as being around primary and secondary cultivation and particularly their range of drills and planters,” he said.
“It has increased our product portfolio,” he said. “And also enabled us to expand our European and worldwide markets, with a stronger presence in conjunction with the Great Plains existing distribution network.”
“We have also been involved in the joint launch of the new Centurion European cultivator drill,” he said. “That is one of the largest investments that we have ever made as a company. It’s a major joint development between Simba and Great Plains engineering departments.”
“In the market sector that we are involved with, which is mainly cultivation, seeding and planting, farmers themselves are focusing heavily on rising cost of inputs,” he said. “With commodity prices holding at the moment the market is reasonably buoyant but there is a focus towards becoming more efficient particularly with the cost of establishment and increasing yields”
“35 to 40% of the cost of actually growing a crop is actually putting it in the ground,” he said. “Any savings they can make directly affects their margins and the end of the day profitability.”
“At the current time farmers are very focused on fuel,” he said. “It’s very high on their agenda when they are looking at new products.”
“Also timeliness and getting more done on time is very important from the economic side of things.”
“From the technical side, what farmers are coming to us and asking for information on is development and maintenance of soil structure,” he said. “As a farmer that is one of your biggest, if not the biggest, asset you’ve got.”
“They are looking for cultivation machinery to maintain and improve their soil structure and they are also looking for flexibility,” he said. “They don’t necessarily want to be tied down to one operating system.”
There was also concern about water retention. “It’s not only in Europe,” he said. “South America is one of many regions with concerns about availability of water.”
“Customers are also looking at erosion,” he said. “That comes down to the benefits of consolidation. How is it actually leaving the soil? Is it safe? Is it weatherproof? Is it giving good soil to seed contact?”
“We have always looked at the system rather than one particular product,” he said. “And that system has been based on improving establishment costs and improving efficiency. We are still seeing that continuing with many of our new products from the smaller end of the market at 3 m width which is still 60% of our products, right up to the higher end of the market at the 8 or 10 m cultivation systems behind the 500 or 600 hp tractors.”
“Great Plains are one of the world’s leaders in zero till seeding and we are seeing an increased level of inquiries for no till/zero till operations,” he said. “There are people that are already doing it. You have got to want it to work. It’s not something you are going to move into thinking it’s a quick fix to improve profits.”
“You’ve got to manage your soil structure, crop rotation and agronomy practices, when you move to no till operation” he said “There are many people, not only in the UK but particularly in Europe and other parts of the world who have been making this system work successfully and economically for many years.”
“As a business ourselves we have had a very good start 2012,” he said. “We have a very strong order book. We have increased capacity here at our Sleaford plant but also we have an extremely strong order book in the eight factories of Great Plains. The industry, as regards the arable sector, is very strong at the moment. We do see that as a direct association with commodity prices and customers looking to become more efficient with their operation”.