With apologies to one of the more protective copyright holders out there, the song, (which was intended as a parody of the party culture and turned into a party song itself) fits the repair bill directly. If we don’t stop it, soon nothing will be fixable locally or without great cost of our capital.
Technology is changing our consumption habits. I have clients show me videos of problems that 15 years ago they would have never dreamed of capturing on video and the multiple ways to communicate with one another expand every day.
It isn’t just new apps to snap, tweet, and toc that are evolving. It’s the machines the Ag industry relies upon. The manufacturers know that the operations are getting more efficient and need less iron to cover the same number of acres, so they are looking for revenue streams wherever they can. Repairing those machines is a prime target.
First, printers. Most printers are designed with “bricking” technology that shuts them down after so many sheets run through them, full stop. The “jail break” to make these perfectly functioning machines continue to work past a programing que requires violations of federal copy right protections. Combine this self-imposed wear date with requirements (calibration pages) that are designed to waste ink (which if you consider the price you pay for the volume you get it might be cheaper to print in blood) and create more purchases. One company has reported said they sell ink, and the printers are just a deliver system. Other manufactures simply chose cheaper materials that will wear out forcing a replacement purchase earlier. That’s why everybody has a basement fridge from 1970s and nobody has a basement fridge from the 2000s.
Next, pay to play. BMW is experimenting with selling cars with all the bells and whistles on every frame, and then requiring you to pay for the extras you want. Heated seats, back up camera, defogger swipe your credit card. Can’t pay, freeze away. Same can be done to farm equipment: Didn’t want to pay for the big motor, that’s fine, we will govern down your out put to the base model. It isn’t really a new concept; luxury cars have had hard to acquire tools to fix them for years for the same reason.
Finally, ag equipment. We have heard the story about John Deere shutting off equipment remotely when it was looked in Ukraine. We have heard the fights about trying to keep operators from being able to fix their own equipment.
What happens in response. Farm operators buying eastern European hacking kits to avoid built in restrictions on software. Hackers attacking corporate servers to “jail break” codes to trick the computers on the equipment into thinking they are at an authorized dealer to make repairs.
What happens next? When you bid on that used tractor in 2030, not only are you going to kick the tires, look at the wear points, but also you are going to want to plug in what ever comes after cell phones and check to see if the operating system has been tampered with. Consider the danger of a full throttle tractor when the operator intended to be moving slowly through a pen of cattle. You didn’t want that PTO to actually work, did you? Sorry, your credit card was expired and it’s a holiday in north Africa where our service center is located, find another tractor to unload feed with.
Right to repair legislation is some states are gaining traction (pun not intended but I will take it). New York will require sellers to provide access and resources for owners to repair their own equipment. Ag is not alone in this fight. Hospitals have similar issues repairing equipment that it has to have ready to perform at the drop of hat. Maybe once a more vocal sector of the economy than the rugged individualism of Ag is impacted more change will be on the horizon.