tour de force
AF Analyst George Youngs contacted New Holland to learn more about their new T6.180 methane tractor. Rather than discuss it over the phone AF was given and invitation to tour the NH plant in Basildon.
Shiny happy tractors
In front of the 60 year old production plant we were greeted in the very smart Customer Centre, with 10 or so brand new tractors and a forage harvester neatly lined up for perusal.
Our visit to NH Basildon had been eagerly anticipated, ever since Dawn Wightman, the Brands Communication Coordinator at New Holland, had first invited us down in July. We were able to get a close look at everything from the 75hp T4 right up to a T7 340HD with standard and Blue Power models on parade.
We then headed over to the production plant and were introduced to Florence Rivoal, Logistics Manufacturing Analyst, who showed us round the manufacturing process. They make 90-120 tractors per day, working 5 single day shifts a week. There are 500 staff at the plant, and 1,200 across the whole site which also includes the Iveco UK headquarters.
Entering the production area, the first thing we noticed was how quiet and calm it is. Parts and pre-assembled modules arrive from all over Europe and arrive just-in-time for assembly and testing.
There is no batch production with every tractor made to order, and there is no ‘standard’ specification so nearly every machine is unique. There are a huge variety of options, from control functions, telematics, transmission, internal comfort features, long and short wheelbase and so on. If Starbucks have 8,700 variety options for their coffee, NH must have several hundred thousand for their tractors!
The chassis arrives and is checked and attached to the overhead line and then moves around the plant. The hoses, transmission, engine, cooling and exhaust system are added as it travels around the plant. It is then painted and the cab, manufactured on site, is added and then through the roof the seat is installed. The cab is now a very important part of the tractor, as fewer farm workers are spending a lot more time driving tractors than in the past. Comfort seats are standard, and the Blue Power models have additional driver-friendly features.
The part-built tractor is then charged with oil and lube, before the bonnet is fitted, and finally the wheels and tyres are added.
It’s a tractor, but as Florence explained, it doesn’t know it is yet! It is rolled into the next bay and here the software is uploaded to run the systems, manage telematics and the satellite location equipment. Now it knows it is a tractor and once the air conditioning is charged is ready for final checks and delivery.
Lean and mean
The factory operates the ubiquitous lean six sigma manufacturing methodology. Developed by Motorola in the 1980s, the aim of six sigma is to develop long term quality controls which bring defect levels to below 3.4 errors per million opportunities. This works for NH as they catch faults on site where they can be quickly remedied, and it works for the customer who is saved the disappointment of receiving a faulty machine. It obviously works for the NH brand too, as a reputation for reliability can easily be lost.
‘Just-in-time’, which was developed by Toyota, is a method of reducing stocks and waste to close to zero. Tier 1 suppliers who provide all parts and assemblies direct to Toyota, and their suppliers (tier 2 & 3) are responsible for their own stocks and control. They are fully integrated into the manufacturing planning systems, and are often co-located with the production plant. In this way the suppliers receive the production plan at the same time as the manufacturer and are then responsible for making sure that the correct part is on the production line, in the right location, in the correct order. NH is only invoiced for the part at the point it is delivered, which is when it is fitted, and so holds zero stock AND cannot over-order creating waste!
You can too
New Holland are very keen that anyone who would like to visit the Basildon plant is able to. They are happy to host groups of up to 16, so if you have a team of staff, a local farmers club, or a group of neighbours who would like to go, they are happy to oblige. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.