AGCO Jackson, Minnesota Delivers Quality
Mixed model manufacturing line helps AGCO deliver high-quality products faster and more efficiently.
AGCO Jackson, Minnesota Delivers QualityMixed model manufacturing line helps AGCO deliver high-quality products faster and more efficiently.
Finding a way to manufacture complex, custom-configured Challenger® and Massey Ferguson® agricultural machines quickly, efficiently and to high quality standards was the mission when AGCO Corporation decided to move manufacturing of high-horsepower wheeled tractors for the North American market to its Jackson, Minn., assembly center in 2011. With a need to increase production by 25 percent, plant expansion would be necessary.
To accommodate the necessary changes, AGCO invested $50 million in the Jackson plant over a five-year-period. The expansion included a complete overhaul of the tractor assembly line an additional 16,000 square feet of manufacturing space and a 42,000-square-foot parts kitting area.
The addition of wheeled tractors also meant the manufacturing center would be charged with building five distinct types of products in multiple variations, where rarely are two exactly alike. This level of customization presented challenges both in efficient manufacturing processes and quality control. In addition to the customization, a relatively low-volume of machines are built each year and there are seasonal demand swings.
With these factors in mind, AGCO manufacturing experts decided that switching to mixed model manufacturing was the best approach.
“While mixed model lines can present difficulties in part stocking, setup, skills and training, it provides added flexibility during the manufacturing process,” says Peggy Gulick, AGCO’s director of business process improvement. The plant completed expansion and began building tractors in the shining new facility, but the switch to mixed model processes was not without challenges.
“This complexity and variation made it almost impossible for an operator to remember the exact building specifications of a machine,” says Eric Fisher, general manager, operations in Jackson. “Time was lost when operators had to continually check instructions on personal computers kept away from the assembly line. We tried switching to tablets, but found they were easily broken and expensive to replace.
That’s when AGCO investigated the use of Glass, an assisted-reality, wearable headset device. It was the solution needed to help improve efficiency and quality on the mixed-model line.
Rigorous In-House Testing
Another important aspect of manufacturing on a line with wide product variability is quality assurance. Each tractor passes through a series of four quality-check gates that validate proper function of the hydraulic system, cab electronics, overall fit and finish, and tire or track width. Before being released to its new owner, each machine undergoes a two-hour series of tests to ensure in-field reliability of all tractor functions. The final check is made when each machine is driven on an outdoor test track.
Since switching to mixed model assembly, AGCO has reached several major quality-focused milestones, including:
- Reducing early-hour repair frequency of its products by 40 percent
- Lowering the supplier parts-per-million rejection rate by 30 percent
“With these detailed quality checks, the Jackson site has set a new standard of excellence for the operation,” says Fisher.
Today, the Jackson plant supplies the entire North American market with built-to-order high-horsepower tractors, but also exports approximately 21 percent of its production.
“Continuing to invest in the Jackson facility supports AGCO’s commitment to delivering high-quality tractors and application equipment that meet the configurations that our customers want,” concludes Fisher. “By building the machines in North America we’re providing equipment that better meets the crop production systems followed by North American farmers. “
As a tribute to the improvements AGCO has made, the Jackson facility recently received the AME 2017 Excellence Award from the Association for Manufacturing Excellence. The award involves completing an extensive achievement report to demonstrate continuous improvement, best practices, creativity and innovation in manufacturing. Manufacturing facilities then are evaluated during a site visit that validates the achievement report.
Jackson also received the 2017 Assembly Plant of the Year Award sponsored by ASSEMBLY magazine. The award is presented to a state-of-the-art facility in the United States that has applied world-class processes to reduce production costs, increase productivity, shorten time to market or improve product quality.
Written by: Peggy Gulick – AGCO’s director of Business Process Improvement