Sustainability on the Prairie

Farmers have always struggled against drought, late thaws, and early freezes. But more recently, two other concerns have emerged: growing populations and environmental sustainability.

Better Yields with Less Disruption

“Farmers are stewards of the ground,” says Linda Salem, chief operating officer at Great Plains Manufacturing—an agricultural equipment company based in central Kansas. “Not only do they want to provide a good crop and a good food supply for the world, they also want to take care of the ground they’re tilling, because we’re not making any more ground.”

Salem says to keep the land viable for future generations, farmers must place the seeds without overworking the soil, and apply nutrients carefully so that they use less fertilizer. That leads to less runoff and waste.

“That’s better for the environment, less costly for the farmer, less costly for the customer, and healthier for the ground overall,” she says.

Great Plains has dedicated itself to building innovative solutions to address these challenges. Among its recent innovations are no-till drills that plant rows of seed with precise depth control and spacing. Vertical tillage systems enhance root growth by preventing soil compaction. And monitoring systems within the tractors track nutrients, plantings, and spacing to help optimize planning year after year.

“It’s not enough to just make what you had yesterday a little bit better,” says Salem. “The products that are selling the best for us today aren’t the products that were keeping the doors open 10 years ago.”

Better Product Development Results PTC Creo and Windchill

Twenty years ago, the company could not have even created the products that it offers today, says Randy Jones, engineering system administrator.

That’s because the company wasn’t yet using PTC products. He says, “We decided that the 2D software wasn’t cutting it for us, so we were looking around for 3D software. At that time, we decided to go with PTC.”

“It was a big deal, it was a big investment, and Roy [Great Plains’ owner] was very nervous. He asked me, are you sure this is going to work?” says Jones. “And from then on, it’s been a rocket ride.”

The company has gone from 6 seats of PTC 3D software in 1995 to a total of 40 seats of PTC Creo and 70 seats of PTC Windchill.

Jones cites several advantages of using PTC products at Great Plains. With the software, engineers can manage large assemblies, create and quickly prototype injection-molded parts, and communicate better with the rest of the company.

“Before PTC Creo, we had several cases where we showed a prototype to the sales department, and they said ‘Yes, we like it,’” says Jones. “So we went out and built it, and they said ‘No, we don’t like it,’ because they couldn’t visualize it in the 2D software.  Now with the 3D software, when you show an idea to somebody from the sales or marketing department, they know exactly what they’re looking at.”

You could say that it’s led to a more sustainable approach to product development as products are designed faster and with less wasted effort.

Meet the Team at Great Plains

Find out more about how Salem, Jones, and the team at Great Plains Manufacturing effectively use PTC software to keep innovating products that help farmers keep feeding the world, in the video below.

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