Yesterday, I whet on a tour with the Wichita Chapter of APICS of the Agco Plant in Hesston, KS. Located an hour north of Wichita, they manufacture farm machinery that is sold all over the world. The plant originally made powered hay equipment. Here is one of their museum pieces SN 7 made in 1955 a wind rower, which cut and raked the hay for the baler. This combined two operations into one.
This one has been fully restored and they enter it in local parades.
APICS provides education and certification in resource allocation for industry. They work in Production and Inventory Management. It is always great to see professionals sharing and learning from one another.
The AGCO Tour was a great tour. They had 3 guides and each group was about 10. They used a wireless system with each of us wearing a receiver to listen over the noise. I really appreciated that. Our tour guide had worked for AGCO for 47 years before retiring. He now volunteers to return to conduct these tours. They give the tours regularly. They are expecting a group from Europe next week. Most of their tours are related to sales and service of their equipment. When you have a plant with this level of expertise, it pays to give tours and put your best foot forward.
The plant has 8 buildings, covering 17 acres under roof. The have 1,650 employees, including office, technical, engineering and production staff. Some areas work 3 shifts. They manufacture Gleaner and Massey Ferguson Combines, large square and round balers, and other hay processing equipment.
Our guide emphasized that if it was made from metal, it was made here, on site. If it was made from rubber or plastic, it came elsewhere. The metal exceptions were fasteners such as nuts, bolts and screws and the engines for the machinery. The engines are made in an AGCO plant located in Finland. Remember, their distribution is world wide, so this company makes machinery that goes all over.
The CNC and laser cutting processes, the robotic welders and the paint areas were all shown. The assembly areas and sub-assembly areas were shown as well. It was fascinating to hear the obvious pride of our guide telling about what was made here and there, in this cell or that area.
I was pleasantly surprised to be shown as much of the plant as we were. It was all open and clean, accessible, and actually pleasant to walk through. I have toured other plants over the years, small machine shops to large plants. My last tour was a number of years ago. The difference 20+ years, and the effect of professional management and leadership makes, is very striking.
Our guide emphasized the ISO 9000 quality control certification the plant had attained. This process, from the limited information provided, seems to be quite the thing. We observed the areas reserved for parts that did not meet the engineering specifications. There always seemed to be one or two part there, but never many. It demonstrated that those production staff, take their jobs seriously and are not shy about meeting their production and quality goals. I would have wondered if I had not seen some parts being set aside. No process works perfectly on every piece. Part of my job, as a HERS Rater, involves some quality control. It is nice to see people working, checking their work and sending some back to meet a specification.
The last stop on the tour was their education building. They conduct training on all aspects of maintenance and repair of the equipment manufactured at this plant and other AGCO plants. One of the things they do at this building, is to tear down machines that fail in use. Another part of their Quality Control.
I understand their not wanting pictures taken within the plant. So, I was limited to taking a few of the group at the end. The picture above is the APICS group presenting a plaque to 2 of our 3 guides in Thanks for the Tour. Below is the group turning in their head sets and safety glasses.