Anyone buying a CR Series combine can make the trip to Grand Island, Nebraska, and be the first one to start their own machine
There’s a lot more interest now (from customers who want to see their combine being built),” says Jim Moellenbernadt, the marketing specialist manager who oversees the customer drive-off program for New Holland combines at CNH’s Grand Island, Nebraska, assembly plant. “We’ve actually done a lot more (customer visits) this year because of the later spring. Farmers should be in the fields, but because of the weather they can’t be.”
New Holland, like all the other major brands, offers farmers who buy one of its rotary combines the chance to be a VIP for the day; they can see their own machine being built and get an exclusive tour through the Grand Island plant, where nearly all the CR Series combines bound for North American farms are assembled.
Through their local dealer, farmers can arrange to be at the factory on the day their combine rolls off the line. According to Moellenberndt, the brand wants that experience to be well worth the trip. So customers aren’t restricted to just standing on the sidelines and watching, they actually get involved in the process.
“We like to have (the customer) there before the engine is started for the first time,” he says “He’ll be the one to turn the key and start the engine for the first time. Then he gets to sit in the seat with the technician as it goes through its dyno checks. He’ll also have the opportunity then to watch the final check at the end of the line and drive the combine off the end of the line. If the combine has GPS on it, he actually goes out and drives the combine to set the A-B lines with the operator.”
“We’re currently in the process of promoting this program,” says Mike Kizis, cash crop marketing specialist at NH. “We want people to come and do it. We’re making it easier for our customers and dealers to arrange these visits.”
Taking the tour
Any combine customer who visits the plant will also leave with a good understanding of how combines are built. The customer, and anyone who arrives with him, will get a personal tour guide to show them around the entire facility. “We have a tour guide who takes just this customer and anyone who comes with him,” says Moellenberndt. “They’ll get a complete plant tour; it’s about two hours.”
And NH wants their customers to get up close and personal with the people working on the assembly line. “They’ll get a chance to go into the individual areas and talk to the operators that are putting these combines together,” he adds.
“The opportunity to tour our plant is very unique, because you can go right up to the line and talk to the workers,” says Kizis. “You can go right up and see things. We don’t stage you in a lane and make you watch from afar. At Grand Island we want you to bring your camera and we want you to talk to the employees.”
“There are a lot of employees that will actually go over and thank the customer and shake his hand,” adds Moellenberndt. “That’s kind of a nice special touch that happens at the Grand Island plant.”
And Moellenberndt says whenever possible the plant staff will try and accomodate special requests. “We had one customer that had several people from the plant sign the side sheet of the combine,” he explains. “Then, they had that side sheet clear coated to preserve those signatures.”
Would staff do that again if other customers requested it? “Sure,” says Moellenberndt.
While NH doesn’t charge combine customers anything to visit the plant, travel costs and arrangements will be the farmer’s responsibility — unless the dealer decides to pick up the tab. NH will, however, provide you with some tips to help make the trip go smoothly. And, they have arranged special room rates with a couple of hotels near the plant to help farmers keep costs down. “We have hotels both at Grand Island and up at Racine that we work with that have special rates,” he says.
If you buy one of NH’s CX Series conventional models, though, they are built in Belgium. Seeing those combines built involves a lot more effort, but it is possible. “It isn’t that they can’t go to Belgium to see the CX being made, it’s just that it’s a long way to go for a four-hour tour,” says Moellenberndt.
Each year NH arranges for tour groups from North America to travel to its Belgium plant and take part in a two-day arranged visit, but it isn’t part of the drive-off program where customers can see their own machines being built. “We usually offer tours in Belgium during the January, February time frame,” Moellenberndt adds. “If we have a customer that is in that tour that happens to be there at that time (when their machine is on the line), they can see their combine being built.”
“We’ve done the Belgium tour now every year for 19 years,” explains Kizis.” †