Machinery Milestone

September 8, 2010 11:07 AM

Illinois farmer Greg Briggs will harvest his crop this fall with a new combine—one that marks a milestone for John Deere. Briggs’s 9870 model combine rolled off the assembly line on May 7, 2010, as the 500,000th combine the company has made.

“We’ve been making John Deere products at this factory for almost 100 years and self-propelled combines for more than 60 years,” says Dennis Muszalski, factory manager of John Deere Harvester Works. “Reaching this milestone is a very proud day for all the employees.”

Briggs farms 4,000 acres near Cisco, Ill. His father bought the farm’s first John Deere combine, a 55 model, which replaced their Minneapolis-Moline harvester. Since then, the Briggs family has run John Deere combines. Today, the operation includes Briggs’s father, Roger, and his brother Randall.

The record-marking machine was bought at Sloan Implement Company.

“We’re lucky to have a good customer to present the Gold Key to for this machine,” says Tom Sloan, CEO of Sloan Implement.

The special 9870 has a plaque attached to its front indicating its place in John Deere history, and Briggs got to tighten its bolts after a factory tour.

This past summer, the combine was on display at the John Deere Pavilion and made the trip to the John Deere Classic golf tournament. Briggs took delivery of the machine at the beginning of September.

Harvest history. The East Moline, Ill., factory was built in 1910 to produce binders. John Deere opened Harvester Works at the facility in 1912 to manufacture horse-drawn grain binders, mowers, rakes and corn binders. The company’s first combine was introduced in 1927, bringing together the two operations of harvesting and threshing. In 1947, John Deere built its first self-propelled combine.

Today, there are 20,000 parts in a combine. With customers ordering combines tailored to their individual needs that makes for 3 million possibilities for a unique machine. At Harvester Works, it takes 17 days to build a machine from sheet metal to final product. With a 4-million-sq.-ft. plant, there are almost 90 acres under roof. The overhead handling track for the paint system measures 9 miles, and the paint cycle runs 24/7.

With ratcheted-up combine demand, Harvester Works has added a second shift to the factory to increase production. The highest build cycle for the factory runs from April to September.

The combines that come off the line at Harvester Works head to 35 countries, with 80% of the production for domestic customers and 20% going abroad. The average life cycle of a John Deere combine spans five owners.

As an added customer relations effort, John Deere introduced the Gold Key Program in East Moline in 1995 and has expanded it to other factories. Harvester Works will conduct 1,000 tours in 2010.

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