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Deutz-Fahr Land boasts most modern tractor factory

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After around three years of planning and construction time, the new tractor factory, DEUTZ-FAHR Land, started producing high performance tractors from 130 HP on schedule in January 2017. The 6 series, 7 series and 9 Series tractors are manufactured for the worldwide market, as DEUTZ-FAHR now has the most modern tractor factory.
A plot of 150,000 square metres, adjacent to the existing premises, was purchased for implementing the project. The L-shaped building, with a covered area of 42,000 square metres, revolutionises tractor manufacturing through the use of state-of-the-art technology in areas such as assembly. painting and hydraulics, electronics and chassis testing for quality assurance, setting new benchmarks for efficiency, productivity, and quality in manufacturing. Together with the new customer centre DEUTZ-FAHR Arena, the overall investment of 90 million euros is the single largest individual investment in the company’s history.

Precise planning before construction
Planning for the new factory began in 2013 and it was coordinated by experts in agricultural technology. To ensure success, it was crucial for the new processes to run through a “live” simulation first. At the so-called Design Laboratory – a training workshop set up specifically for this purpose – each workstation was developed together with experienced employees, tested on the product to be built, documented and then implemented at the new factory with support from employees. This provided optimum solutions and an immediate training plan, while achieving a high level of acceptance among employees for their new working environment.
In line with the target of building the most modern production facilities for tractors, the following planning philosophies were implemented:
Line back planning philosophy: The production line is the starting point of the planning process – all delivery processes are planned “backwards” to the point of origin. This means that all upstream organisational units adapt their processes to the production plan.
In-line quality principle: Product quality has to be ensured during the entire production process. Accordingly, quality checks are integrated along the entire line to ensure maximum quality for the individual manufacturing steps.
Form follows function: The form of the infrastructure follows the functions defined by the specified processes.
Smart production: The organisational areas of production and logistics work together to allow not only ‘just-in-time’, but also ‘just-in-sequence’ production.
Workplace standardisation: Standards for processes and equipment (tools, equipment, etc.) are the basis for ensuring efficient and high quality work procedures.

Perfectly synchronised factory logistics
A warehouse with 4,000 storage locations for large parts, and a small parts facility with 25,000 locations were integrated for supplying the production process. Logistics use proven elements of lean production, e.g. continuous movement of materials on trolleys, use of route trains, e-kanban goods call-off directly from the line and continuous visual management. Where material flows can be bundled economically, targeted automation was introduced: The backbone is an automatic small parts storage system for handling the standard small load carriers. It is designed as a shuttle warehouse which dynamically adapts to the throughputs varying throughout the day and the ongoing production process.
Pre-assembly and order picking zones for add-on parts – the so-called supermarkets – are located immediately next to the assembly lines in a herringbone pattern, ensuring customised production and avoiding long paths and searches as well as extended waiting times and the corresponding safety stock levels.
Within the production process, the design of assembly line technology is one of the fundamental challenges. It not only has to be extremely robust and account for the complicated installation situation, but also allow ‘just-in-sequence’ manufacturing, i.e. components are only delivered at the moment when they have to be installed on the line.
DEUTZ-FAHR has developed innovative solutions for this: the assembly line is designed as an apron conveyor, with worker travel conveyors on both sides. Both move in parallel at the same speed, facilitating the installation of parts on the tractor body, while substantially reducing the daily walking distance, and ensuring constant production quality.

Quality in the entire process
In addition to the individual quality checks at each installation step, in-line hydraulic testing and a pneumatic test take place at the end of powertrain production. Up to three powertrains can simultaneously be tested there for full functioning and tightness at a hydraulic operating pressure of 220 bar. Only when this thorough check is completed, can tractors move to the paint shop and then to final assembly.
After final assembly, the computer-controlled final acceptance of the completed tractor takes place. All functions of all installed components are tested individually for each tractor, while engine and transmission are run through different speeds and load conditions. The front axle and the front axle suspension are tested in the final phase, which is unique in tractor manufacturing.

Painting the powertrains to state-of-the-art standards
With an investment volume of 20 million euros, it is the largest individual investment within the factory. Here, the powertrains move through a mostly automated painting process which ensures the highest level of quality.
After manual masking (protecting selected components through targeted covering and closing off), the powertrains are cleaned by robots to remove oil, grease and contaminants. To shorten the first drying process before priming, the numerous cavities and recesses are blown out with special arms with seven joints and adjustable air nozzles. Then, two employees apply the primer. The subsequent top coat is applied by special paint robots. This process guarantees that all powertrains pass the standardised salt water spray test up to 720 hours without signs of corrosion. As a comparison: car manufacturers usually work with 240 hours in the salt spray test.

Combined heat and power plant for power supply
DEUTZ-FAHR Land has its own power supply. The combined heat and power plant generates the heat required for drying in the paint shop as well as the electricity for the entire production process. Production is designed so efficiently that the excess heat is used for heating the workshops and any electricity that is not needed is fed into the public grid.
 
Focus on work ergonomics
In addition to energy efficiency, work ergonomics is also a focus at the new factory. The consistent use of electric screwdrivers and wrenches, the provision of parts within direct reach of the workers, the use of lifting devices and specially developed load suspension equipment all facilitate the assembly of heavy components and ensure a high level of health and safety with constant product quality.

Ready for the future
With the new factory, DEUTZ-FAHR sets a milestone in manufacturing technology and reinforces its role as a global player in agriculture mechanisation. Lodovico Bussolati, SDF CEO, said: “The new factory is playing a crucial role in reinforcing the DEUTZ-FAHR brand in the global market. The new manufacturing plant together with our modern and innovative tractor range will speed up the growth of DEUTZ-FAHR.”
In turn, Andrea Paganelli, Industrial Executive Director, said: “Thanks to the passionate involvement of all relevant parties, be it external or internal, we now have the most modern tractor production plant”.

The interview is also available in our print edition of Business Arena.

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