Claas has invested over €40 million during the last fours years in its Le Mans plant in northwest France.
This new plant has now been officially opened and has upped the manufacturing capacity of the factory to 13,000 units annually.
The money was primarily spent on two main areas of the manufacturing process. There has been a complete renewal of assembly equipment and, in addition, there has been what the company describes as a "digital transformation of the plant".
Modernisation of the factory has created new opportunities for the manufacture of tractors which are increasingly complex, and much more frequently configured to an individual customer's requirements.
The planning necessitated a complete rethink of the many complex processes that go into assembling a modern tractor.
During the design stage great use was made of virtual reality technology which enabled simulation of all processes involved in putting together a machine, even for models that have not yet entered production.
One of the major innovations is the introduction of automated guided vehicles (AGV), which make a significant contribution to the automation of production.
There are 40 of these robots, which transport the tractors from the first to the last assembly station.
They are are capable of moving up to 20t at a time. This capacity ensures that they will prove sufficient for all current ranges, as well as for future higher performance models.
The individual workstations have also been redesigned with the employees comfort in mind. Dr. Martin von Hoyningen-Huene, head of the CLAAS tractor unit explains:
“Besides efficiency, the work conditions were our main priority in designing the new manufacturing facility. We have achieved a substantial improvement in workflows and ergonomics, which will help to increase the concentration and motivation of our staff."
At present, five tractor model series, ranging from 75 to 460hp are produced in Le Mans.
Together with the development centre in Velizy, near Paris, and the test and validation centre in Trangé, around 1,000 people are employed in Le Mans.
The total investment in Le Mans, along with the two facilities in Velizy and Trangé, now stands at around €80 million since the acquisition of Renault Agriculture in 2003.