John Deere Shows Off Forestry Assembly Lines

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Company Hosts Trade Media to Its Headquarters and Manufacturing Plants

John Deere recently hosted representatives of forest industry trade magazines for an international press conference and tour of its extensive manufacturing facilities in the U.S.
The company invited trade magazine representatives from 11 countries (including the United Kingdom, Norway, France, Germany, Finland, Sweden, Russia, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the U.S.) to the event, which was hosted at its headquarters in Moline, Illinois and included two plant tours in Iowa.
Senior management from the John Deere Construction & Forestry Division welcomed the group, which toured the John Deere manufacturing plants in Iowa in Dubuque and Davenport, where the company recently completed its new forestry product manufacturing lines.
After the plant tours, the group visited a John Deere demonstration site in Coal Valley, Illinois. Some members of the group then traveled to Georgia, where John Deere dealer Metrac Equipment hosted them at a customer job site. For many of the trade magazine representatives from Europe, it was their first occasion to witness full-tree logging operations.
John Deere’s Construction & Forestry Division was established in the mid-1950s, when it was first called the Industrial Equipment Division. John Deere construction and forestry machinery now is distributed through a network of more than 500 dealer locations worldwide, and John Deere machines are manufactured at factories around the world.
John Deere’s other divisions manufacture machinery and equipment for agriculture, construction, homeowners, commercial lawn care, golf course and turf management, and engines and components. Last year sales increased 5% to $22 billion.
John Deere has 47,000 employees worldwide, with over 20,000 working outside North America. As Jim Schrempf, general manager of the Dubuque Works factory, told the group, “We are truly a global company, and forestry products are an important part of our business structure. Similar to our construction and agricultural product strategy, it’s our customer focus that makes the difference between us and our competitors.”
Sales for the construction and forestry division increased 30% in 2005, noted Esa Laensitalo, director of worldwide forestry sales & marketing. The construction and forestry division accounts for about one-fourth of the company’s sales. (The agriculture division remains the leading unit with about 48% of sales.)
This type of growth in forestry and construction is quite impressive, and part of it must be credited to the fact that John Deere is the only full line manufacturer of forestry equipment in the world, serving both the full-tree and cut-to-length segments of the industry.
By full line, consider that John Deere manufactures eight models of feller-bunchers (both rubber tired and track machines), seven cut-to-length harvesters (four rubber-tired models and three track machines), five forwarders, six skidders, seven loaders, stroke-boom delimbers, track timber harvesting machines, road building equipment, and its 1490D Energy Wood Bundler. With this type of product availability, it is no wonder that the company is having tremendous growth in this division.
Key John Deere management gave presentations at the Dubuque plant, reviewing the company’s history and growth. The company is almost as old as the U.S. Dating back to 1837, John Deere is the fifth oldest company in the U.S.
The Dubuque Works factory was the first John Deere factory built from scratch, opening in 1947. It was established originally to build the John Deere M tractor, which was especially popular with farmers, highway departments for mowing and small contractors for light construction. Later equipped with a tracked undercarriage, the M tractor became available as a crawler, which commenced the launch of the worldwide construction equipment division.
The Dubuque facility now manufactures knuckleboom loaders, track feller-bunchers and harvesters, crawler bulldozers, crawler loaders, backhoe loaders, and skid steer loaders. The 3.9 million square foot plant employs approximately 2,000 workers.
John Deere moved production of forestry equipment to its Dubuque and Davenport plants after closing its plant in Woodstock, Ontario, Canada in August. The move was in line with company-wide efforts to improve efficiency. An internal study showed the consolidation would reduce costs, improve product delivery times, and enable the company to expand.
Forestry machines at the Iowa facilities are built to order, and the group got a close look at Deere’s commitment to quality and efficiency as it toured the Dubuque forestry assembly lines. One impressive aspect of the manufacturing process is the real time computer access that enables immediate communication between assembly personnel and quality control engineers and management as the machines are being assembled. This synergistic dynamic allows the John Deere team to respond quickly to issues that might come up during assembly, helping to meet both quality control and production goals. Clusters of offices — called Process Centers — placed strategically throughout the plant enable ongoing interaction and communication between employees.
The demonstration site in Coal Valley, situated on 134 acres, has been in use by the Construction & Forestry Division for over 25 years. John Deere welcomes thousands of dealers, customers, and employees annually to visit the site for machine demos, training classes, machine testing and evaluation, competitions and ride-and-drive sessions. Much of the John Deere forestry line was demonstrated for the tour group, including skidders, rubber-tired and track fellers, rubber-tired and track CTL harvesters, and log loaders. After the demos, the tour broke into smaller groups that received complete walk-arounds of each machine with questions answered by John Deere staff.
At the company’s plant in Davenport, which has been operating since 1974, the group watched the assembly process for skidders, wheel feller-bunchers, disc saw felling heads, cabs and more. After this final plant tour, members of the tour group flew to Georgia to get a first hand look at a full-tree logging operation.
Both the Dubuque and Davenport Works factories have been registered to the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) standard ISO 9001 by the Quality Management institute in Canada and the Japanese Machinery & Metal Inspection Institute (JMI). This is the highest standard achievable for recognizing a company’s quality systems.
Products for worldwide forestry markets also are manufactured at John Deere facilities in Joensuu, Finland.
With the acquisition of Timberjack in 1999, the construction and forestry division’s product line consists of more than 100 models.
John Deere has realized the importance of developing strategic alliances and has partnered with Hitachi and Bell Equipment to strengthen its product offerings. In 1988, Deere-Hitachi Construction Machinery was formed. John Deere hydraulic excavators are produced by Deere-Hitachi Construction Machinery in Kernersville, N.C. and Mexico.
In 1998, Deere-Hitachi formed Deere-Hitachi Specialty Products (DHSP). In 1999, DHSP began shipping crawler based forestry machines out of its facility in Langley, British Columbia.
Also in 1999, the construction & forestry division formed a strategic alliance with Bell Equipment in South Africa. Under the agreement, John Deere has exclusive marketing rights to Bell manufactured articulated dump trucks in North, Central, and South America. John Deere and Bell expanded their strategic alliance, and in 2005 the first articulated dump truck rolled off the line at the Davenport factory.
John Deere’s commitment to forestry was quite evident to the people who participated in the tour, and the company clearly communicated that it intends to maintain a worldwide leadership position in forestry equipment.