CLAAS is celebrating the completion of a three-year refurbishment of its tractor factory in Le Mans, France. The €40 million project has seen the complete renewal of assembly and logistics equipment and processes to improve the efficiency and ergonomics of the plant.
The factory is now recognised as one of most modern vehicle manufacturing sites in Europe, with the French Government recently bestowing it with a Vitrine Industrie du Futur (Industry of the Future) award.
The Le Mans factory produces more than 10,000 tractors each year, with throughput scheduled to increase to 13,000 as global sales increase.
CLAAS Harvest Centre General Manager – Product, Tim Needham, says the refurbishment of the Le Mans factory raises the bar for quality. “The Le Mans assembly line is at the cutting edge of technology and it sends a very strong message to our customers about the quality of our tractors,” he says.
“It creates entirely new opportunities for the manufacture of increasingly complex and individually configured tractors. Le Mans is the home of five CLAAS tractor series spanning 75 to 460 hp. At any one time, there might be 20 different models on the assembly line, each incorporating hundreds of different options. It is no exaggeration to say each assembly is unique.”
The modernisation project was developed using state-of-the-art technologies, including virtual reality to simulate complex processes throughout every stage of assembly. A fleet of 40 automated guided vehicles, each with a maximum lift of 20 tonnes, transport the tractors between each assembly station.
A new logistics infrastructure delivers parts along the assembly line as they are needed, freeing up space at each of the ergonomically-designed workstations. In addition, bright colours and LED lighting technology provide a pleasant working environment that resembles natural lighting conditions.
CLAAS has invested more than €80 million in its tractor development, manufacturing and testing facilities in France since its acquisition of Renault Agriculture in 2003. The three facilities work closely with other development centres and plants, including CLAAS Industrietechnik in Paderborn, which manufactures the continuously variable transmissions for the ARION 600/500 series and the crawler assemblies for the AXION 900 TERRA TRAC series.
CLAAS has been manufacturing forage balers in Metz, France, since 1958 and now employs more than 2,200 people in the country.
Visitors can undertake virtual factory tour via the CLAAS website.