Every three minutes a John Deere tractor rolls off the production line in Mannheim, Germany. On the modern, 380m-long final assembly line, it takes just under 4.5 hours to assemble a turnkey tractor from around 30,000 individual parts. Up to 147 medium-sized tractors of the 6M and 6R series are produced daily, all of which are pre-ordered by their future owners.
Our customers also follow this production process with interest. Prior to Corona some 20,000 visitors from Germany and abroad came to the largest John Deere factory outside the USA. On peak days, up to 250 people visited the factory in Mannheim and the cab factory in Bruchsal, says Heiner Ehmer, our director of the John Deere Forum. “We have a total of 11 factory guides with whom we can cover seven languages in order to welcome our guests into the world of our tractor factory.”
Mannheim is one of 70 John Deere factories in 19 countries. The production methods and quality management are the same for all locations.
How tractor assembly works at John Deere
1. Frame production
A tractor’s life begins with frame production. The robot needs about three minutes to assemble a frame. Nine basic types are produced. A unique selling point of Mannheim tractors is the steel bridge frame. It ensures high stability and enables easy installation of various components.
2. Transmission production
We attach great importance to manufacturing all main components ourselves. For this reason, the company has its own transmission production facilities in Mannheim and in the Spanish plant in Getafe, among others. Synchronous and powershift transmissions as well as the double clutch transmission (Direct Drive) are specially produced in Mannheim. All variants run along a 250m-long assembly line, at the end of which all functions of the transmission are tested. The brakes, 3-point hitch and hydraulic systems are also assembled in this area.
3. Gear production
The Mannheim plant produces around 350,000 gears annually for the tractor models built here. Components like housings, shafts and axles also belong to the transmission. Everything is produced with the help of 45 machine groups with more than 300 production machines.
4. The heart
Gradually the ‚skeleton‘ of our Deere fills out. When the frame is connected to the rear axle transmission unit, the engine with the radiator and the emission control system is next to be put in place. The heart of the tractors comes from our engine plant in Saran, France. Around 100,000 engines of between 95 and 250hp (four or six cylinders) are built there every year.
5. The wedding
Weddings are part of our daily routine in final assembly. In technical jargon, this means when the cab is joined to the chassis. About 40 bonds between the driver’s cab and the engine or transmission ensure a permanent connection. As John Deere’s cab and tractor production are synchronised, the cabs only arrive shortly before from our factory in Bruchsal, just under 50km away. In total, more than 30,000 cabs are built there every year (2017: 30,000 units).
6. Our ECOS test system
All electronics are programmed before the tractor is ready for operation. As manual testing is no longer possible due to the complexity and scope of today’s electrical and electronic systems, we have introduced a test system (ECOS) which currently tests around 200 functions on the tractor.
7. The first test run
The tractor is started for the first time just before it passes through the function test cab. This is where, among other things, calibration of the brakes and steering, as well as input of the engine management program, takes place. After the test, the wheels are mounted. When the tractor is ready to drive, the electronic park lock is tested on a ramp. It is in this area that our Deere also receives its front weights and other fairing parts.
8. Tyre fitting
Every 45 seconds a tyre is automatically mounted on a steel rim – with the first tyre-fitting system in Europe. A total of 540 different tyres and 120 rims are available. For wheels on tractors with driving speeds of 50km/hr, what is known as ‚matching‘ takes place. This means that the markings for the highest and lowest points on the rims and tyres are brought together so that the tyres run round evenly.
9. The driving and load test
A special feature in the tractor industry is our online test. Every tenth tractor undergoes a practical driving and load test for 30 minutes. The measured data is directly evaluated in terms of performance, consumption and functions. This is one of the reasons why our John Deere tractors run so reliably.
10. On the way to the customer
Every week Ro-Ro (Roll-on, Roll-off) ships transport around 360 John Deere tractors from the Rhine port of Mannheim to Rotterdam or Antwerp. From there, the tractors go to their respective destination port. Every week a deep-sea vessel travels to the USA, for example. Up to 50% of Mannheim’s tractors are shipped, the other half being transported mainly by truck within Europe.