Exclusive: Talk from the top at AGCO

Continued dealer and farmer technical support and protection of its staff are the top priorities at AGCO during the Corona virus (Covid-19) outbreak. Other priorities include spare parts availability now that spring work has started says Torsten Dehner, who took on the role of senior vice-president and general manager of AGCO EME (Europe/Middle East) earlier this year. 

by Steven Vale

15 Apr 2020

Like other major tractor and farm equipment manufacturers, AGCO has been massively affected by the Corona virus situation, although Mr Dehner confirms that all its North American assembly locations, including the tracked tractor plant at Jackson and the Hesston Massey Fergsuon and Fendt large square baler facility, are all still operative.

It is a different story in EME, which with 20 production and distribution sites in 14 different countries, 12,000 staff and a 2019 turnover of $5.3 billion, is a crucial region for AGCO.

Mr Dehner is normally a weekly commuter to the office in Schaffhausen in Switzerland. Now though, and like other senior company executives and thousands of AGCO employees, he currently works from his home office.

Torsten Dehner is senior vice-president & general manager of AGCO EME (Europe/Middle East).

He confirms that grassland machines are still being made at the company’s German sites (rakes, tedders, round balers, trailed wrappers), but production at all other AGCO sites in Europe is temporarily suspended.

This includes the Fendt plant at Marktoberdorf, Germany, which shut down on March 25; the Massey Ferguson facility in Beauvais, France, which closed on March 17 and the Valtra plant at Suolahti, Finland, where assembly operations were suspended on March 27.

The combine plant at Breganze, Italy, closed on March 16, and the short-time work at the Katana self-propelled forager facility at Hohenmolsen, in Germany, started just before Easter.

I asked Mr Dehner why AGCO can continue to make grassland machines and not tractors and combines? “Grassland products are not as complex as a tractor with fewer electronics and parts,” he said. “There are so many different components and options on a tractor, combine and self-propelled forager that it is impossible to stock them all in large quantities.”

All the tractor production lines have been stopped just like they would during a factory shutdown for the summer recess. The time is now being used to sanitise the facilities and routine maintenance that would normally have been done during the summer.

He is confident that production will ramp up quickly again when the plants are allowed to re-start. However, this depends on the ability to ensure workers safety as well as suppliers being able to deliver parts and components and he added that it is currently impossible to predict lead-in times for new orders.

All European tractor and combine assembly plants are closed, but the spare parts warehouses remain open, some working on a 24/7 multishift policy to ensure dealers and customers get the parts they need. This includes the main spare parts warehouse at Ennery, in France. “The continued supply of spare parts to our dealers and customers is mission critical and levels are where they need to be at this important time of the year,” he added.

The main spare parts warehouse at Ennery, in France, is operating a 24/7 multishift policy to ensure dealers and customers get the parts they need.

The R&D teams continue to work on their projects, albeit with most of the engineers working from home, and while no production sites are open to build prototypes and pre-series machines, we are promised some fascinating new products in the future.

The show circuit to launch them is currently in turmoil, the latest casualty being the postponement of the French SIMA show from November 2020 to February 2021, and the challenge for AGCO’s marketing department is to adapt and find new additional ways to promote new tractors and machines in these unprecedented times.

Looking ahead, Mr Dehner added that AGCO and its dealers still have inventories of new tractors and machines. The good news for anyone waiting for a new Fendt or Massey Ferguson combine is that production at Breganze started early this year and most of the machines for this season had already left the assembly line before production was suspended and some have already been shipped.

Finally, Mr Dehner stressed that things are changing so quickly and what is up to date on the virus front could be out of date tomorrow. “We have to be flexible to adapt to the changing environment. It is all about sticking together. Even with the required social distancing, we are all closer than ever as one single team with our dealers and customers. We have it in our hands and I believe that if we continue to be adaptive and creative together with our partners in the supply and distribution networks then we can achieve a lot navigating through these unprecedented times together.”

Ending on an upbeat note, he believes that the reputation of farmers is growing again and there is now a higher appreciation of the farming community. “Farmers are heroes too and everyone should be more appreciative of the work they do.”