Well-maintained equipment and inventories keep Danell Bros. in the field

When you have 14 forage harvesters and 18 self-propelled windrowers - not to mention five rakes and 40 trucks - how do you minimize downtime? And how do you keep track of the inventory you need for maintenance and repairs?

"Every chopper comes in approximately every eight days," explains Justin Danell of Danell Bros., Hanford, CA. "They come into the shop at night to get major service work done. Then on a daily basis we take care of blowing out air filters and greasing the machines and that kind of stuff in the field at night or first thing in the morning."

Danell and four family members head up the custom harvesting portion of the 30-year-old family business owned by his dad, Mike, and uncle, Danny. The operation encompasses a 2,800-cow dairy, parts and equipment sales and custom forage harvesting. They raise about 350 acres of alfalfa and custom harvest over a million tons of forages annually, never traveling more than about 45 miles from their shop.

During harvest, the Danells run a four-man night crew in their chopper shop. Each night, two choppers are sent in for scheduled maintenance. The night crew resets the knives, replaces any worn parts, and services each machine.

"In the morning the machine's ready to go," Justin says. "We try to keep our downtime during the day as minimal as possible. All of the daily servicing is done either early in the morning or late at night after the crews shut down."

The Danells have another shop with a five-man night crew to maintain their trucks, but windrowers are serviced exclusively in the field.

"Good scheduled maintenance will prevent a lot of breakdowns. You're never going to be able to prevent them all, but if you maintain the machines the way they're supposed to be, you can cut down on them," says Danell.

Maintaining all of that machinery creates the need for a large parts inventory. And on top of all that, the Danells whip up a few parts for their choppers themselves. Those parts, Danell says, "make the machines run a little more reliably - high-wear parts that last longer, that kind of thing."

So how do they keep track of what's in stock, what's been put onto the machines and what needs to be reordered?

"For parts, we use MAS 90. It's actually an accounting program that has a really good inventory section and that's the only part of it we use." >From Sage Software of Irvine, CA, it's a multifunction program that's geared toward midsize companies.

"As our guys take parts out of our inventory, they write down the part numbers and quantity they took. That's entered into our computer system every day to keep the inventory updated. Then when we're done inventorying for the day we can print out a reorder sheet that tells us what parts we're low on, what we need to reorder and how many. We're not having to rely on someone to remember what we've used or didn't use."

They make certain chopper and windrower parts in their own machine shop, which has two lathes and a milling machine. A full-time machinist runs the equipment. Most of that inventory is for their own use, but they also retail some of their excess.

"Obviously, most of it's for ourselves; that's what it's there for," Danell says. "But selling some parts reduces the cost of our own parts."

For more information on the Danells' custom parts for Claas or New Holland equipment, check out their Web site at www.danellbros.com.

While programs like MAS 90 may be appropriate for larger businesses, like the Danell Bros., others are available for more moderately sized operators.

Agmach$ is one such program. Written by Raymond Huhnke, Oklahoma State University extension specialist, it can be tailored to an individual business situation. One function it offers is a calculation of the annual cost of owning and operating a particular piece of equipment.

The software is free and can be downloaded from the Internet at www.dasnr.ok state.edu/agmach. Or contact Huhnke at 405-744-5425.

Another option, Auto-Do-It, is designed specifically for keeping track of machine maintenance, repairs, costs, etc. It even has an automatic reminder that will notify you when a machine is due for scheduled maintenance. A planned upgrade later this year will add an inventory management function as well. It's from Champion Software, North Liberty, IA.

Pricing is dependent on the version you choose and number of machines you keep track of. The personal version handles up to five machines; the deluxeversion, from five to 10; and the fleet version, from 10 to an unlimited number. Details and a demo are available online at www.autodoit.com or by calling 800-750-7638.