2022 FELLOW AWARD

From where Janasek sits, Deere makes an impact

It was early in Clayton Janasek’s 25-year career that he learned the value of face-to-face customer interaction. After all, it was his fingerprints on the transmissions and drivetrains that often determined a working day’s outcome.

Clayton Janasek
Clayton Janasek

Those talks were revealing and began with what the customer was feeling sitting in the cab, operating a John Deere tractor or loader or motor grader. Power, confidence, and productivity were key, and the operator knew immediately, sitting in that seat, if the job was going to be done efficiently.

So Janasek did what any smart engineer would do, he became one with the customer. That meant getting in the seat – repeatedly – and learning to operate all the equipment he touched at John Deere Coffeyville Works in Kansas. This perspective allowed him to recognize when the job was being done right and when it wasn’t.

He describes those meetings as “the moment of truth.”

“The vehicle gives you that correlation between results you see on your simulation screen and the actual experience,” Janasek, senior staff engineer, said.

It also provided clarity around his responsibilities. “What I work on,” he said, “is the link between the operator’s desire and the ground.”

This unique perspective has driven Janasek to develop some of the most innovative advancements for John Deere, including transmissions with event-based shifting (EBS). It also led him to earn the 2022 John Deere Drivetrain Control Fellow Award.

While Janasek called the honor and recognition humbling, he said much of the credit for his success comes from the culture and trust Deere places in employees to innovate solutions.

“In a place like Coffeyville, you will have the opportunity to learn about so many things,” he said. “Coffeyville’s a hidden gem because we get to touch every single aspect – from concept to production to field support and customer visits. And everything in between.”

Those opportunities, he said, can push comfort zones and stimulate growth. The interaction with customers and the ability to go to the field or job site creates a foundation for a wider sphere of influence as employees advance their careers. In the end, he said, connecting the customer to the problem puts a face to the work.

And Janasek – known as an inspiring teacher and impactful mentor – said John Deere’s culture supports the idea that it’s not so much about where your desk is but more about where your feet are.

A dream come true

As a young boy growing up on a farm, working in agriculture and on equipment is all he ever dreamed about. His curiosity to “see inside the machine” became a reality as computer simulation created a link between the math and its physical manifestation.

“I take the squiggly lines of simulation and turn them into a practical, efficient experience for our customers,” Janasek said.

An example of that is EBS, a product so revolutionary and effective that not only have customers adopted the technology at a near 100 percent rate but a top competitor once used the terminology in its own marketing materials.

“EBS allows the machine and the operator to do the task they need to get done in the most efficient way. It makes the drivetrain more responsive to the operator’s desires while maintaining the power to the ground,” Janasek said. “Each time the operator pushes the shift lever, EBS changes gears seamlessly without pausing the pushing force, lugging the engine, or taking so long that the operator wonders when it’s going to happen. The fact that someone else used our terminology is flattering and a little bit humorous. I’m quite sure they hadn’t done exactly what we’d done because our methodologies at the time were patent protected.”

EBS also falls into what Janasek calls “purpose-driven innovation.”

“Working at Deere gives us the opportunity to impact so many people around the world,” he said. “It’s not only our end customers but our customers’ customers. If you start thinking about how that spreads across the population it can be very satisfying. For me thinking about that aspect of it, it makes John Deere a very desirable place to work.”

That description makes it sound like the product is a career-defining legacy.

Not exactly.

“I take the greatest pride in mentoring other employees that have wanted to learn what I know and apply it to their projects,” Janasek said. “Building personal relationships and trying to understand people, learning to communicate with them, what makes them click, can be a breakthrough moment. I’ve learned that in meeting with customers and teaching others. It’s a rewarding way to come together and solve problems and it’s a good way to tie a job to a purpose.”

And by now we know those interactions can happen standing in a field, on the job site, and most certainly sitting in the cab.

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