Dick Muhlbeier, RDO Product Specialist Supervisor based in the Northwest region, shares his insight on the latest Gen4 Displays from John Deere.
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Catch the full transcript here:
Tony Kramer: Hi, I'm Tony Kramer with RDO Equipment Company. Thanks for tuning in to another episode of the Agriculture Technology Podcast.
Welcome back to another episode of the podcast. This is episode number 137. Today, we're going to be talking about some updates and changes that have happened to the Gen4 platform of displays over the years. Before we dive into the show, please take a moment to subscribe to this podcast. If you haven't already, you can subscribe to the show on the many different podcasting apps that we're streaming this out too such as Apple's Podcast app.
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With that, let's get back to the show. I've got another return guest onto the show, Dick Muhlbeier, who is a product specialist supervisor out in our Northwestern stores in Washington, Oregon, Montana, and that region. Welcome back to the show, Dick. Just to remind our listeners a little bit, how you got started, tell us a little more about you and your background and how you got involved in this industry.
Dick Muhlbeier: Yes, thanks, Tony. Glad to be back for this podcast. I've worked for RDO for a little over 20 years. Started off as a technician out of our Pasco store. I went through the Walla Walla Community College Ag Tech Program there. I was a technician for a few years and then got started in precision ag early on in the John Deere Precision Ag days. Did some time working with precision ag, manage the region in the Northwest. Then moved into a store manager position for a couple of years.
Then as a precision ag, became more and more of our business out here and much more involved in our customer's operation. I moved back into precision ag in the precision ag supervisor or the product specialist supervisor role and have been doing that for the last probably five or six years now.
Tony: Awesome. See. You've got a lot of experience and time with the precision ag components and hardware and everything that's involved in precision ag. I would imagine with the time that you've spent dealing with precision ag, you've seen changes happen from the release of a product to maybe a few years down the road to even when that product is retired or discontinued.
I'm sure you're very accustomed to changes that happen and that is exactly what this episode is. Dick, you were on the show with us back in 2017, episode number 51. That episode, we talked about the Gen4 family of displays. Now, at that time, the 4640 Universal Display had just been released. Prior to that, we had a few years going back to 2014, we had the Gen4, 4600 CommandCenter in tractors.
Why I'm bringing you back on the show today, Dick, is to give an update. You and I both are aware that there's been a number of changes when it comes to this Gen4 platform, so I wanted to get this information out to our listeners so they can better understand what some of those changes are and what we've seen happen since 2017 and then even going back to 2014.
To get started, Gen4 family of displays took over that GS 3 or GreenStar 3 family of displays, it's now the Generation 4 family of displays. I made the comment about back in 2014, the tractors started coming with the 4600 CommandCenter. That was our first introduction into the Gen4 family. Now, Dick, I know you've got a little bit of information to share here. What types of machines are these Gen4 CommandCenter coming in 2021 and forward? Where are we at with that?
Dick: I think three years ago when we had this conversation, they were just in a select few machines from the factory, mainly seven hours, eight hours, nine hours, and then it was an option for the six hours. Now, it's pretty much standard equipment in all large frame and small frame tractors. It's also pretty much standard in our combines and our sprayers. About the only machines that it's not an option for right now is our windrowers and self-propelled forest harvesters, but we do have an option now of adding that 4640 Universal Display in those machines to utilize the Gen4 capabilities.
One of the other things is that there also is for those small frame and large frame tractors, there is an option of a 4200 display as well, which I believe was added after our conversation in 2017 also. That display is a lower-spec display where you have-- it's 8.4-inch display where you have auto-track documentation and data sync, and then have the option to add a section control upgrade to that as well.
They give you a couple of different options. Obviously, the 4600 is our premium display that has all of our premium capabilities and automation capabilities as well.
Tony: We'll get more into that and the changes that have come there, but as you mentioned, the machines that this display, the 4600, the 4200, the machines that these Gen4 displays are coming in is pretty much everything across the board, give or take a few machine platforms. It's definitely come across the board versus just the few tractors when we started.
Now, the other side of the Gen4 family of displays, of course, is our Universal Display. Many people were very familiar, a lot of use out of the 2630 display, the GS 3 2630. Back in 2017, when we first recorded on Gen4 displays, the 4640 was just released. Now, what has been changed with the 4640 since we last talked, Dick?
Dick: Yes. The 4640 Universal Display, when it first came out, there was a limitation as far as what machines could be put in, what machines that display could be put into, mainly, it was our Legacy Tractors are [unintelligible 00:07:36] Series, 10 Series, 20 Series tractors that utilize the CCD communication system in those machines. That limitation is now gone and the 4640 Universal Display is a great option for those older machines to replace the 2600s and 2630s, and that are being utilized in those machines.
There also is options to replace that 2630 display that came standard on some of our R-Series Sprayers that originally came with 2630s on the armrest. There is now a kit from Deere that you can replace that 2630 with the 4640 Universal Display on the armrest and it looks like it should be there from the factory.
Tony: The functionality, as well as the compatibility, has really increased tenfold when we talk 4640 displays. Now, I know another thing and I don't know that it was available when we first talked, but there's another universal display out there that isn't super common, but it's another solution. Do you want to talk to our listeners a little bit about the 4240 display?
Dick: Yes. The 4240 display, I do not think that it was available at the time when we talked last time. The 4240, it is a universal display, it's a smaller screen, so 8.4-inch display, and it is open-station ready. If you have a tractor that does not have a cab where you have a, let's say, an ATU on it or just need it for documentation or to run a sprayer or something like that, this is a great option for those machines. It is the lower-spec display so it doesn't have all of the premium functionality that the 4640 would have, but you do get auto-track documentation.
If you have a JDLink connection in that machine, you get data syncs, so the data wirelessly flows automatically to the Operations Center. Then you do have the option to add such control to that display as well. Like I said, if you got a open-station tractor that you run on maybe an ATU and a rate controller and you need that weatherproof or weather tight display that it may get wet because of the open-station conditions, this would be a great option.
Tony: I know you guys out in the Pacific Northwest, as well as our other counterparts down in California and Arizona. I know open-station tractors, the orchards, the vineyards, things like that, or farms of that sort, open-station tractors are pretty popular. That 4240 is another solution if you don't quite need that 4640, or you need, like you said, that open-station functionality of dustproof water-resistant, not necessarily waterproof. It's another great solution that the Gen4 family of displays now has. The last piece of the Gen4 displays that really hasn't changed much, of course, is the Extended Monitor. That's still there. Do you want to talk a little bit about that, Dick?
Dick: Yes. Like you said, the Extended Monitor remains unchanged. It is compatible with both the 4600 display and the 4640 display. Really, that's for the operators that want a little bit more screen real estate. Say we're running rate controllers with SeedStar and our machine functions, all on one display, that might get a little bit cluttered. We can add that Extended Monitor to the corner post and put some of those functions over on that Extended Monitor to just, like I said, add a little bit more screen real estate to the cab.
Tony: That brings us through some of the updates of the Gen4 family of displays as far as hardware goes. Now I want to talk just a little bit about the changes that have happened of the inner workings of the Gen4 display. Now, the user interface per se hasn't really changed much. It's been the same from the beginning. One of the things that's changed that I really want you to key in on, Dick, is the changes that have come in activations and subscriptions. Now, this is both 4600, 4640s. There's been a lot of changes, a lot of additions, and a lot of cool stuff has come out since 2017. Why don't you talk to us about that, Dick, all of the changes that we've seen with the subscriptions and activations and the functionality of these displays?
Dick: We'll go ahead and I'll start off with the subscription for the 4640 display. Different from the 4600 display, the 4640 display is a subscription model. When it first came out, it was 100% subscription model. That included AutoTrac and all the other premium subscriptions as well. That has now changed and AutoTrac is now on base. When you buy a 4640 display, it comes with AutoTrac in base. Now, from there, if you wanted to add some premium functionality to it or automation functionality, there are one-year subscriptions to add that functionality.
That's another thing that changed back in 2017 is that there was an option for a five year. The five year, there was not a lot of take rate on the five years subscription. That's no longer available from Deere. Also, they're adding functionality to this subscription all the time. The one-year subscription actually fits better for a lot of people because as they add functionality, we're able to get that functionality almost instantaneously now with that one-year subscription.
Tony: That was one of the big changes I know is of course adding AutoTrac to base. You can buy that 4640, have AutoTrac on it, and not have to pay any other money unless you want some of that more, like you said, premium functionality, and then of course, getting rid of that five-year subscription. It's all based on a one-year. It's made things a lot easier when it comes to the 4640. Now, talking those subscriptions, the premium, and the automation, and all of the functionality that we have, what are some of the changes that we've seen there over the last couple of years?
Dick: This is really where things have changed a lot with the Gen4 display. Earlier when we were talking about some of the limitations to the Gen4 display where maybe some of the compatibility and some of the functionality wasn't quite up to what the 2630 was back in 2017, that is no longer the case, for sure. The 4640, the Gen4 displays are probably more capable now than the 2630, for sure, and for sure, will be into the future. Currently, right now, we have a Premium 3.0. When you upgrade to a Premium 3.0, you get Section Control, AutoTrac RowSense, and In-Field Data Sharing, all of that one bundle, that packaged subscription or activation bundle.
Really, the In-Field Data Sharing was a huge improvement over anything that the 2630 was capable of doing. Basically, that will allow you to have multiple machines in the field that will see each other's coverage maps. Let's say, for instance, you have two sprayers in the field and you're running Section Control, the two sprayers will be able to see where the others have sprayed and shut off on the other machine's coverage, and then also be able to share their guidance lines almost instantaneously between the two machines.
Tony: When you talk Premium 3.0, that's really the main activation and/or subscription, depending on what machine you're talking about or which display you're working with. That Premium 3.0 is really the activation or subscription that most people are going to run. Like you said, you get Section Control, you get the AutoTrac RowSense and the In-Field Data Sharing, which covers most of your bases. Now, there's the other level which we've had in the past but not near as much functionality as we have today. Talk to us a little bit about automation.
Dick: The Automation 4.0 activation, this is where things to me, being in the industry for as long as I have, this is where things really get exciting for me. Basically, the Automation 4.0 adds almost exactly what the title is, some automation functions to the display. I'm going to start with AutoTrac Implement Guidance. If anyone ever tried iGuide back in the Gen 3 2630 days, that's a passive implement guidance software that moves the tractor off of the guidance line to keep the implement where it needs to be.
Those growers that are running in hilly conditions may be varying soil conditions where the implement moves around a fair amount, which is adding a receiver on the implement, the tractor moves off the line to keep the implement online. If you tried it back in the 2630 days, there's a good chance that maybe it didn't live up to your expectations. I would really encourage you to try the Gen4 AutoTrac Implement Guidance again because they have made a ton of improvements to that.
We deal with a lot of hills and a lot of varying terrain out here in the Northwest, and everybody that we have tried this AutoTrac Implement Guidance out with has absolutely loved it. Basically, once you demo it, they don't want to run without it. It works fantastic. Another feature that is in that Automation 4.0 is the AutoTrac Turn Automation. Again, there's another functionality that was in the 2630 with iTEC Pro activation, and the same story there. If you ever tried that back in the 2630 days, you probably found that it was a little bit cumbersome to set up, took a lot of time, a lot of effort to get it right.
Basically, just like the AutoTrac Implement Guidance, they went back to the drawing board with AutoTrac Turn Automation and really redesigned that whole workflow to make it much, much more simpler to set up and to get right, and same thing, another one of those features where if somebody has tried it in the past, maybe didn't like it so much with the 2630, tries it with a Gen4 and absolutely loves it.
Then Gen4 Machine Sync is another Automation 4.0 feature. Basically, that's your combine grain cart communication where the grain cart can pull under the combine and unload on the go and basically have the combine control the grain cart tractor from the cab of the combine so that we don't have any more where the grain spilling over the grain cart, or anything like that. It's all basically they're synced together in automated fashion.
Then a new one that just got released is AutoPath. Now AutoPath, that's a automation feature where you record your planting data. There's a receiver on the planter and it records exactly where the planter planted its rows. Then when you come back for the subsequent passes, it automatically generates your line, not based on where the original AB line was but your lines for every pass going forward throughout the year is based on exactly where that planter went.
If, for instance you had to go around an obstacle in the field or the planter drifted off a little ways, those lines will be remembered and you will follow that exact path for every pass throughout the year, whether that's spraying or harvesting or cultivation or whatever you have to do for the rest of the year. Again, that AutoTrac 4.0 subscription is really a neat subscription and there's a lot of functionality packed into that automation 4.0.
Tony: Like you said, moving forward, this automation activation or subscription, now we're moving into the world of autonomous farming or semi-autonomous farming. The AutoPath you talked about, we actually, our most recent episode, Episode 136 had Ben Hilde on the show and he talked more in depth about AutoPath. If you're curious about that, go back and listen to Episode 136 where Ben can inform you a little bit more about what it takes for AutoPath.
Now the last thing or one of the last things that I want to question you on Dick, it's something that's brand new, just coming out here this spring. I don't even know if it's officially released yet, but it is coming. This is a really cool feature when it comes to making life easier for the machine operator. There is an awesome connection between the Operations Center, setup files, properly documenting stuff. Tell our listeners a little bit about Work Planner.
Dick: Work Planner was actually released in the 20-3 software update and then most recently with the most current Operations Center update. Work Planner basically is where you plan work in the Operations Center and send it to the display. It combines our setup file, our jobs and crop planner all into one workflow. If you ever played around in the Operations Center with the crop planner and the jobs functionality, there was no connection out to the display. It was just an onboard planning tool in the Operations Center and then you would have to separately set up a setup file to send it to display. With this Work Planner, basically, like I said, it combines everything into one.
Basically, the plan is sent to the machines via wireless data transfer or USB and then when the machine receives that Work Planner file, they have everything that they need to know for that job. When the machine enters the field, the operator is alerted that there's planned work available for this field. They accept that notification and it fills everything in for them. It fills in the setup data, the field data, the varieties, and when 21-1 software is available, it will actually enter in the planned rates into the controllers on the implement.
Completely, almost eliminating any errors that an operator might have out in the field so that the farm manager or the owner can set up these jobs as far as varieties and rates and those sort of things, send it to the machines, and the operator just has to select, basically accept that job and the owner and the farm manager knows that that display is documenting and recording correctly and we're planting the correct rates. We're applying the correct fertilizer. All that stuff is happening without basically any interaction other than accepting that job from the operator.
Tony: I am super excited about that, Dick. The one thing I love about it most is no longer will we have variety one for all of our corn hybrids. We can plan ahead of time, we can make sure the proper hybrids are getting in there. Like you said, the proper planting rates, if there's prescriptions attached to that field, everything will be done and all the operator has to do is essentially accept that work plan. It's going to make life a lot easier for the operators. It's going to make life a lot less stressful for some of the farm managers or what have you. It's going to make life simple when it comes to proper documentation and proper data.
Now, with your time in this industry, Dick, and the amount of time you've spent watching and working with precision ag, I got to ask you, where do you see Gen4 going from here?
Dick: That's a good question. I don't know where I see the Gen4 and really the Work Planner is probably the first step in this direction. It's like dipping the toe in the water in this direction, but I see the Gen4 moving in the direction of basically being in a seamless extension of the Operations Center.
Just like the Work Planner where things are set up remotely off board in the Operations Center and that information, that plan, that work that the owner or the farm manager's done just flows to the display and seamlessly flows back to the Operations Center, that's a really cool to think about from a farm management standpoint, from a farm that is maybe not necessarily an owner operator, but an owner farm manager type situation with a lot of operators out in the field, being able to monitor that stuff from the Operations Center on the desktop, the web or the Operations Center mobile, being able to do that stuff on the go, make changes on the go, and no longer having to create a setup file for one little minor change, those sort of things. That's really exciting direction to think about for the capabilities of the Gen4 display.
Tony: Absolutely. Everything we talked about here today on this episode, Gen4, it's come a long way since it was first released. There's so much awesome functionality out there, so many capabilities of the Gen4 platform. Doesn't matter if you're a mom and pop, son or daughter, or you're a large operation with farm managers and many, many operators, Gen4, it's a fit for every single operation no matter the size.
Now, all of this stuff we talked about here today, Dick, if somebody is curious, they want to learn more about these changes, where can they go? Who can they talk to about Gen4?
Dick: Obviously, you can stop by any one of our RDO equipment locations, talk to your RDO equipment account manager or product specialist, and then, or visit rdoequipment.com for more information. Then if you have a question and you don't necessarily need an answer right away, maybe to talk to somebody, we also have email that you can email a question to is firstname.lastname@example.org. They will be able to answer your question there, or if not, be able to get to somebody that can.
Tony: I just want to thank you, Dick, for taking the time once again, to sit down with me and talk about all of these awesome updates. 2017, I feel like we were just talking about Gen4 displays, but I look back in my list of recorded episodes, Episode 51, 2017 is when we first talked about them and there all of this stuff we talked about today, there's obviously so many changes, so many updates and so much awesome functionality and features that came with it. Thanks again for sitting down and chatting with me, Dick.
Dick: Thanks, Tony. When I was thinking about this too and the changes with the Gen4 displays since 2017 is like a if you've ever been on a weight loss journey, losing some weight over a long period of time, you see yourself in the mirror every day, you probably don't notice the changes that's happened over six months, but then you see some body at the grocery store that hasn't seen me for a year and they go, "Wow, you've lost a lot of weight." That was me reviewing some of these things, some of these changes to the Operations Center in preparation for this conversation. We live and work this Gen4 Operations Center display, but until you sit back and look at all the changes over just a short three-year period, you look at yourself and you go, "Wow, there's a lot of changes."
Tony: Absolutely. I like that analogy of a weight loss journey and stuff you see every day. Now you take a look at it three years apart, although we're working with it every day, it seems like there's so much there, so absolutely, that is an awesome way to put it.
Tony: Thanks again for tuning in to another episode. If you have questions about the technology and products discussed or have ideas about future episodes, please leave them in the comments below. You can also subscribe to RDO's videos YouTube channel and be in the know about each episode or tune in on any streaming service.