All combines rolling out of the Hesston, Kansas, assembly plant will now get more powder coating and must pass a stricter testing regime
The main goal of AGCO is to be the industry leader in providing top quality hay and harvesting products to farmers,” said Bill Hurley, vice-president of field sales at AGCO. He was addressing a crowd assembled for the ribbon cutting ceremony at the updated paint facility inside the company’s Hesston, Kansas, manufacturing plant, which builds all of AGCO’s North American combines and most of its haying equipment. “The Hesston facility plays a significant, significant role in that,” he added.
The plant’s painting area was just given a U.S.$45.6 million upgrade, which has turned it into one of the most sate-of-the-art facilties in any ag equipment factory anywhere, according to AGCO management.
The now ultra-modern painting area in the Hesston plant is enormous, with over 200,000 square feet devoted to it. All combines (including Gleaner, Massey Ferguson and Challenger brands) and some of AGCO’s haying equipment will get their colour coats there, using what the company says is the most modern application technique in the industry.
The new process
The new process requires components to cycle through 17 dip tanks, each large enough to hold a standard-sized pickup truck. The first 16 contain chemicals that just clean the components preparing them for their top coat. The 17th is for an E-coating of primer, which uses an electro-static charge to ensure all the component surfaces are adquately covered.
“This paint centre is a major building block for AGCO,” said Hans-Bernd Veltmaat, senior vice-president. “With this paint centre we are in the same league as Daimler, BMW, Lexus and so on.”
For the colour coat, AGCO will now apply powder coating to virtually all components rather than standard liquid paint, which significantly improves the durability of their finishes. Only sections that are too large to fit into the curing oven (which is required for the powder coating process) are given standard liquid paint coatings. That’s now just a small percentage of the overall machine, a reversal of the traditional paint-to-powder coat ratio on new machines.
“For the first time in the combine industry we do not apply a liquid coat (of paint),” explained Veltmaat. “We apply to almost all parts, a powder coat. So we can say this paint shop is the most modern in all of the United States. And we’re proud of that.”
The combine assembly line has also implemented a new testing regimen, requiring all combines to pass a 100-point inspection and a simulated harvesting test in a dyno room before moving out the door. “There is no combine leaving this factory, which has not passed this test,” said Vetmaat.
The upgrades to the plant are part of AGCO’s long-term goal of making all its machines No. 1 in perceived quality. Martin Richenhagen, AGCO’s chairman and CEO, first revealed that strategy to the media at the grand reopening of the company’s Jackson, Minnesota, tractor assembly plant in 2012.
“We have to become (at AGCO) a culture of total quality,” said Robert Crain, senior vice president and general manager for North America at the paint shop grand opening ceremony. “That’s our next great stride as a company. That’s the reason we made this investment. Our plan right now is to develop innovative, market-leading — not just competitive — market-leading products.” †