On our first company visit in Germany, we ironically went to visit the John Deere Factory in Mannheim. John Deere is an American born corporation dedicated to integrity, quality, commitment, and innovation in manufacturing agricultural, construction, and forestry machinery as well as diesel engines, drivetrains, and other heavy duty equipment. Of course, most people recognize the brand for their bright green and yellow lawn maintenance equipment. Do not be fooled, these colors are in fact a staple to their brand as we saw the whole factory building completely surrounded in that same green and yellow colors.
John Deere was founded in 1837 in small town Grand Detour, Illinois by a man named, wait for it, John Deere. Yes, John Deere himself invented the polished-steel plow and went on to build, by hand, nine more plows until partnering with Leonard Andrus and opening their first factory in Moline, Illinois. Fast forward 179 years and the company is now sitting on net sales and revenues of about $36.2 billion.
Being in Germany, I always inquire of how the company responded to the World War II crisis they faced around the 1940’s. Around these dates, John Deere faced “Limitation orders” by the government which meant they could not mass-produce farming equipment for civilians. Instead, John Deere began manufacturing military tractors, ammunition, aircraft parts, and cargo to assist the U.S. in their efforts in the war. Around these same years, the company saw 4,500 employees including their very own president and the son of John Deere, Charles Deere, accept their commission in the U.S. Army to serve their country in Europe.
At the factory, we were able to observe the completely innovated construction and lawn care equipment on display for all to see. We learned about each tractor and the detail that goes into manufacturing and delivering the product, in a timely matter, to the customer.
Although born in America, John Deere manufactures equipment throughout Europe and even specially customizes each tractor with concern to the geographic region the “big green tractor” will eventually be delivered to. Considering this was our first company visit, we finally were able to witness how much of a global impact an American company has around the world.
Having this opportunity that was unlike any other, we had the chance to walk through the manufacturing facilities and watch each nut and bolt be tightened on the beginning framework and continue down the supply chain to the last test-driving farmer maneuvering the 215 horsepower machine capable of pulling up to 12,000 pounds.
What I found most interesting was their commitment to customer assurance. To properly test how each tractor would feel to all sizes of farmers around the world, they actually hire farmers from different countries to personally come to their factory in Mannheim and put it to the ultimate test in the field. I found this important because John Deere takes that extra step in the supply chain to guarantee quality with the help of their experienced customers.
For a factory that delivers a brand new tractor hot off the production line every 3 minutes and ships these tractors to over 100 countries, it is clear John Deere still holds true to their original core values and dedication to integrity, quality, commitment, and innovation.