With droughts and competition increasing challenges for sellers of agricultural equipment, manufacturer Kuhn Krause is relying more on the Internet and electronic ordering to operate more efficiently and provide customers with faster service, the company says. .

Kuhn Krause has a history in cultivating a market for farm equipment going back nearly two centuries, with its roots in Joseph Kuhn’s development of produce-weighing machines in 1828 and Henry Krause’s development in 1916 of a one-way disc plow designed to help farmers till land more quickly. Now with manufacturing and distribution facilities in Kansas, Wisconsin and other states, Kuhn Krause has been cultivating electronic ordering over the past few years to help improve the accuracy and speed of servicing its dealer network. That means signing annual contracts and processing orders for 350 dealers across the United States and Canada that sell its 2,000 models of farm machines for tilling fields and harvesting hay and other crops.

In the past, taking an order often required an exchange of faxes between a dealer and Kuhn Krause, as they negotiated terms and captured the necessary approvals and signatures. By the end of that process, order information and signatures would often be faded and difficult to read, marketing manager Curt Davis says. “We’d tried to interpret what someone wrote down—is it a 5 or an s?; we didn’t know,” he adds.

Kuhn Krause addressed that issue several years ago by deploying Adobe Systems Inc.’s Internet or cloud-hosted EchoSign application (since renamed eSign) for electronically signing and exchanging documents. Instead of personnel at both Kuhn Krause and a dealer having to fax forms several times to get approvals and signatures, Kuhn Krause reps and dealers used EchoSign to e-mail a single electronic document that each party could review and sign electronically. Electronic signatures can take several forms, including physically signing an electronic screen with a stylus pen, entering a code number, or entering an authorized e-mail address.

“Now our orders are 99% electronic,” marketing manager Curt Davis says. As a result, he adds, what used to take days or weeks to sign up new dealers, sign annual contracts or place orders for equipment now are done within a day or even within minutes.

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“Using EchoSign, there was no question about what the order said,” Davis says. “It was signed off by the dealer and came into our order system cleanly.” As a result, he adds, Kuhn Krause cut to an hour from two days or more the time required to approve and sign order documents, process an order and issue the customer a receipt. “We were also able to manage and track orders much more efficiently, and eliminated lost orders,” he adds.

In addition, the electronic signature system also enabled Adobe to sign up a new dealer with signed contract forms within a day instead of within up to two weeks.

Kuhn Krause in 2012 also started letting its dealers place orders through an extranet—an extension of its corporate network accessible via the Internet—a process that enables dealers to complete their orders online without using the eSign system. The extranet’s main advantage, he adds, is that it lets dealers easily browse among other products they may want to order.  

But the company continues to use the eSign system for processing documents when signing up new dealers to its network and when signing dealers’ annual contracts.

Adobe makes eSign available at no extra charges as part of a subscription to its Acrobat DC with Document Cloud services, which starts at $14.99 per month.

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Kuhn Krause is part of France-based Kuhn Group, a unit of Switzerland’s Bucher Industries AG.

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