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AGCO’s swather factory hits a milestone

Hesston factory builds its 100,000th swather

“Ladies and gentlemen I present to you the 100,000th swather,” said Kyle Kitt, AGCO’s marketing manager, as he stood on stage in an auditorium at the brand’s Hesston, Kansas, combine and hay equipment manufacturing plant in late March.

From then on, it was a little like a rock concert. Music played and lights flashed as the curtain pulled back to reveal the milestone machine. The WR9870 on stage was the 100,000th swather to be built in that facility. Now part of AGCO, it has been turning out haying equipment since 1955 when the equipment was branded only as Hesston.

It’s a name that is familiar to all Canadian farmers. Under AGCO ownership, the equipment has been wearing the “Hesston by Massey Ferguson” label since the two brands merged in 2006.

“This is a great day for us as AGCO employees,” said Bill Hurley, vice president of sales for North America. We can definitely say we’ve arrived. 100,000 swathers; that’s something no other manufacturer can say. Not just manufacturers in the United States and North America, but anywhere else in the world.”

“Anytime you’re celebrating 100,000 of anything, that’s a pretty big milestone,” added Robert Crain, AGCO’s senior vice president and general manager for North and South America.

Unveiled to a group of visitors and its purchaser during a special ceremony, the 100,000th swather to be built at AGCO’s Hesston, Kansas, manufacturing facility was centre stage at the facility’s auditorium.

Unveiled to a group of visitors and its purchaser during a special ceremony, the 100,000th swather to be built at AGCO’s Hesston, Kansas, manufacturing facility was centre stage at the facility’s auditorium.
photo: Scott Garvey

There will be six “special edition” machines built to celebrate the milestone. But number one of six is the official 100,000th machine. And its new owners, the family behind Moo Mountain Milk dairy farm of Idaho, were on hand to see the presentation and take possession of their swather.

The milestone also coincides with the 70th anniversary of operations at the Hesston plant. In all, the Hesston factory turns out a combined total of about 42 machines of all types each day. And many of the components for those machines are fabricated right from flat steel on site, a process that is common in agricultural assembly plants but differs a lot from automotive plants that often only handle component assembly.

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“Half of all parts are made here from scratch,” said Robert Cieko, vice president of manufacturing at Hesston, as he guided a group through the plant’s assembly area. “We’ve been making windrowers here at this site for 60 years. We are definitely committed to two things: reliability and quality hay products. Without those two things we would not have existed for 70 years.”

Typically at events like this, it is management executives and marketing staff that represent the brand to visitors and the media, and those people were certainly front and centre at this unveiling. But there was one other group present that figured prominently in the festivities that many visitors didn’t expect to see: the crew of factory workers who actually built the swather. In fact, those employees formed a kind of reception line to shake hands and thank visitors and the buyers of the milestone machine.

“People (plant staff) are always curious about who buys the products,” said Cieko. “It’s beneficial for employees to see who really pays their paycheque, and that is the customer.”

For a video look at the 100,000th swather reveal, watch the e-QuipTV episode, “Team building at AGCO” at Grainews.ca.

About the author

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Scott Garvey

Scott Garvey is a freelance writer and video producer. He is also the former machinery editor at Grainews.

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