Saturday, November 16, 2013
Late last night, Pat and I returned from Moline, Illinois, where we experienced a ‘Gold Key’ visit at John Deere’s Harvester Works. After spending Thursday night in downtown Moline, we visited the John Deere Pavilion, a place with many special exhibits about the company and its products and its customers.
Next door was (of course) the John Deere Store, and we bought some Christmas gifts (especially for our granddaughter Ella).
Next, we drove out to southeast Moline to the World Headquarters of JD. The building and setting are spectacular. There was even a special parking reserved for ‘Gold Key’ visitors.
We were warmly greeted by Lee Fluck, a retired Deere employee. We were served a delicious pork chop (Pat says the best one ever) meal, complete with Dutch apple pie dessert. Then Lee took us on a tour of the 50-year-old, Eero Saarinen-designed building. It sits across a tree lined valley, looking south to the Rock River. The halls were lined with beautiful artwork. In the interior of the west building, is a beautiful garden with trees and flowers. It must be a great place to work.
Next we drove to the Harvester Works, on the banks of the Mississippi River in Moline.
We were welcomed by David, and he explained the details of our tour. We were shown a movie about the history of the Harvester Works, which opened for work at this site in a tent in 1912. The first combine was produced in 1927. They generate their own steam, from coal and natural gas, and can generate their own electricity in case of a power outage… their electric generating facility could power a city of 40,000 people! There are 2900 employees at this factory.
We were introduced to Chuck Ullrick, who took over the tour duties. We boarded a special golf-cart like vehicle, and drove through many parts of the factory. It has 71 acres under roof!
We saw the incoming bare sheets of steel, and the computer controlled laser cutting systems. Chuck said there were 700+ folks doing welding. An interesting spot was the expansive paint system. There are 13 tanks where large assemblies are immersed in cleaners, rinse agents, and finally a primer paint. Next, the conveyors move these assemblies to a room where robot arms apply the unique and trademark John Deere green paint. The paint is baked on, and then those assemblies move toward the final assembly line. In the U-shaped final assembly line, the 40-some stations there transform the components into a John Deere combine. It’s like a large river that has many tributaries flowing into it. We saw the internal threshing body, the literal core of the machine, receive its back axle, grain tank, engine, and cab. At station 22, I entered the cab with a very pleasant lady named Deborah, and we started the engine for the first time.
After that station, the combines receive some temporary wheels and then are removed from the conveyor–they are driven under their own power for the remaining assembly stations. Next, they receive the unload auger, the feeder house, residue disposal system (chopper or spreader), all the side panels, and yellow-stripe decals and numbers. We saw where the machines are loaded out for railroad or trucks.
One feature we toured was the new cab-assembly area. JD now assembles their own cabs, rather than purchase pre-made cabs from a next-door manufacturer. It was really neat to see those frames become a cab!
We saw the 3 assembly lines where headers were built. We saw many flex-draper headers and corn headers coming together.
At the end of the day, we returned to the Gold Key room where Chuck offered us some gifts, and a photo certificate. Lastly, he presented us with the Gold Key.
We said our good-byes, and headed home. What a pleasant experience, and a real treat to see your very own new machine in the process of being ‘born’. It should arrive here next month.