The Claas tractor factory in Le Mans, France - referred to by the company as the “Future Factory” - has officially started operations following three years of modernisation.
The manufacturer says following a 40 million Euro investment, their new facility draws on state-of-the-art digital technologies, making it one of the most advanced tractor plants in the world.
Claas gave the go-ahead for this major investment in Le Mans back in 2017. They say the huge investments were primarily spent on a complete renewal of assembly equipment and digital transformation of the plant. This brings the total investment in Le Mans, the development centre in Vélizy and the test and validation centre in Trangé to around €80 million since the acquisition of Renault Agriculture in 2003.
“Our completely refurbished plant in Le Mans raises the bar for the production of premium and connected agricultural tractors”, said Thomas Böck, Chair of the CLAAS Group Executive Board. “We have therefore opened a new chapter in the continued growth of our global business.”
The modernisation of the plant, according to the company, creates entirely new opportunities for the manufacture of increasingly complex and individually configured tractors. This involved a complete rethink of many complex processes – especially in the area of in-house logistics.
The use of cutting-edge virtual reality technologies enabled digital simulation of all processes during the factory planning stage, even for tractor models that have not yet entered production. Innumerable options were acted out using 3D animations and VR goggles in order to play through all stages of assembly, from the powertrain to the finished and tested tractor. Any necessary structural changes were therefore identified early on.
Claas say that their employees are the main beneficiaries of the completely modernised plant. The new logistics infrastructure means workers have significantly more space at their ergonomically designed workplaces, as only parts that are immediately needed are delivered to the assembly line. Some of the workstations are even equipped with headsets so that employees can benefit from easier communication. In addition, bright colours and state-of-the-art LED lighting technology ensure a concentrated and pleasant working atmosphere that resembles natural lighting conditions.
At present, five tractor model series from 75 to 460 hp are produced in Le Mans. Together with the development centre in Vélizy near Paris and the test and validation centre in Trangé, around 1,000 people are employed in Le Mans. The locations cooperate closely with other development centres and plants, such as in Germany with Claas E-Systems in Dissen or with Claas Industrietechnik in Paderborn.