Seed World

3 Reasons There’s No Substitute for an In-Person Demo


Erich Engel is an optical sorter technician with Nexeed. He went to Manitoba’s Red River College for electronic engineering technology. Having grown up around agriculture his whole life, working with colour sorter technology was a natural fit. He envisions colour sorters expanding beyond just agriculture and into areas like mining and recycling. Bob Salnykov is an optical sorter technician with Nexeed. With more than 10 years of experience in seed production operations and maintenance, his background is in electrical engineering. He worked on his first colour sorter in 2009 and continues to be amazed at how advanced they are becoming.

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You might have noticed it’s next to impossible to buy a new car online. Sure, you can now use the internet to look at specs and decide what car you want, but in most cases, you still have to go to a dealership (or the salesperson can bring the car to you) to do a test drive, sign paperwork, and take care of all the particulars.

The reasons for this are many, but a major one is the simple fact that most people want to sit in a car and drive it before they commit to buying. Colour sorters are the same. No matter how much the internet takes over our lives, there is no substitute for an old-fashioned in-person demo. Why?

Demos factor in the human element. We once did a demo using a generic sample of brown flax with cleavers and canola. We intended to show the customer how easily everything could be separated. One of the features of our machines is the front and back can rotate open, exposing the window. As soon as we rotated the cabinet back, the customer was sold.

Why? The biggest problem they had with their old machine was the access to the window was through a tiny port. Debris would build up on the windows and they always had to reach in and scrape everything off. You never know what someone might be sold on. This was a feature we took for granted but was a revelation to this particular customer. The individuality of the customer really shines during an in-person demo sessions and is an integral part of the process. We learn from them.

That said, they also learn from us. When they visit us, they get a better understanding of the scale and depth of what we do. They see how many people work at the office, the professional yet relaxed culture we have, the huge investment in spare parts we keep on the shelves, and the demo lab itself which is an asset for our customers to use to help understand what optical sorters can (and sometimes cannot) do for them. It really makes clear to them the benefits of owning the technology.

A demo allows the customer to touch their asset. Touch connects us to an object like nothing else. When you don’t experience something physically, it’s harder to really feel a commitment to it. It’s why, during the pandemic, so many people working from home find it hard to be engaged with their work. They’re used to physically being in an office, where they feel like they are part of a wider group working toward a common goal.

The software used on our colour sorters provides the best customer experience possible and playing around with it shows the customer how user friendly is really is. It’s based a graphical user interface (GUI), similar to the Windows operating system versus an obsolete one like DOS, if you remember the days when that operating system was the foundation of every computer’s software system. Remember when you first used a Windows-based system, how it felt to control a computer by clicking on graphics as opposed to entering archaic text commands? That’s what it feels like to do a hands-on demo.

You realize how a computer has the upper hand over the human eye. The sorter and its cameras see things in terms of pixels and precise colours. Meanwhile, the human eye isn’t nearly as precise, but our brains are wired specifically to see differences between objects and then rationalize the decision we make. When you look at a handful of wheat and barley you might think one is red and the other yellow, when in fact there are a lot more differences — including texture. What you think you see is much different than what the computer sees. It’s something that simply can’t be conveyed virtually. Seeing is believing.

All that said, there is a surprising amount that can be conveyed with a virtual demo. We always enjoy providing online demos, test report tools, and having clients send samples to our lab for analysis. There is a lot we can do for people who can’t take part in an in-person demo. The bottom line is convenience for the customer, and that can be provided in a myriad of ways to suit the situation — and the potential buyer themselves.