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Massey Ferguson’s Unrivalled Harvesting Heritage

Massey Ferguson’s harvesting heritage, which stretches back centuries, has introduced many world first agricultural engineering innovations including, a combined stripper/thresher, the self-propelled combine harvester, PowerFlow header, in-cab electronic interactive display as well as GPS yield mapping, which began the precision farming revolution.

The roots to today’s harvesting expertise reach back to the mid-19th century with the founding of the Canadian farm equipment firms – the Massey Manufacturing Company of Toronto and A. Harris, Son & Company of Brantford. When they merged in 1891, they were not only the two most successful farm machinery companies in Canada, but also well-established on the international trading scene, exporting their wide range of harvesting equipment worldwide.

Among the products on offer were binders, reapers, reaper-threshers, rakes and mowers. At the 1889 Paris Universal Exposition Massey’s Toronto Light Binder was awarded the distinction of the ‘world’s greatest harvesting machine’.

The success in this early period resulted from the company staying right at the forefront of farm technology and drawing into the family other firms that showed a flair for innovation. Among these was H V McKay Limited, Australia’s biggest manufacturer of farm machinery in whom Massey-Harris acquired an interest in 1930. Back in the 1880s, McKay had added a separating mechanism to the existing stripper harvester (a machine that stripped the heads of grain and threshed them with a beater), patented the machine and, thereby, effectively created a ‘combine harvester.’

Under the supervision of Massey-Harris engineer, the Australian-born Tom Carroll, came the development of the world’s first commercially-viable self-propelled combine harvester, the Massey-Harris No 20. Dispensing with the need for draft animals or tractors, this all-in-one operation represented a major breakthrough in harvesting techniques.

Its knife extended the full width of the combine’s front-end and the engine was ingeniously made to drive the internal mechanism and propel the vehicle – either together or separately. The machine (later in the form of a lighter, more compact model, the MH No 21) proved itself during the Second World War when Massey-Harris set up its Harvest Brigade of 500 combines which gathered thousands of hectares of grain as the ripening season moved northwards across America.

The development of the self-propelled combine continued throughout the 1940s and 1950s. One of the first models to appear under the new Massey Ferguson name was the MF 35 in North America – a small, low-priced machine for small- to medium-sized farms. In the mid-1960s, following the introduction of new MF 300, 400 and 500 models, Massey Ferguson claimed 18% of the worldwide market for combines.

One of the major developments in combines was the addition of an enclosed cab to protect the driver from the elements and, in particular, the dust thrown up by the harvesting process.

The first MF combine to boast a factory-fitted cab was a North American-built MF 750/MF 760 in the early 1970s. Integral cabs appeared on MF European-built models – the MF 500 and MF 600 – in the early 1980s.

In 1976, MF engineers headed by Jim McNaught developed the pioneering PowerFlow table – an innovation that is still making a difference on MF combines today. With PowerFlow, the crop is powered headfirst to the table elevator by means of rubber belts. This ensures an even feed into the machine and reduces table losses and machine blockages.

This increases output of up to 73% ha/hr in oilseed rape, for example. The design was originally presented at a meeting of the Royal Society of Engineers and received the Silver Medal at the UK’s Royal Show.

Combines continued to get bigger and bigger. In 1972, the MF 760 combine was one of the largest combines of its day and was used in Europe with 24ft (7.3m) tables. In the late 1970s, an MF 760 set the standard for harvesting 100 acres (41.6ha) in a day’s work. The MF 760 was superseded in the early 1980s by the MF 860 where engine horsepower had risen to a massive (for the time) 184hp driven by a Perkins V8 engine. In 1984, the Cascade Separator (which caught the grain that would otherwise have fallen to the ground and returned it to the machine via an elevator) was introduced on the MF 850 and MF 860. This could increase standard capacity by 10%.

In 1986, two rotary models – the MF 8560 and MF 8590 – were launched which employed a large rotor rather than a cylinder and straw walkers. At 14ft (4.2m), the latter had the longest rotor on any rotary model to this day. With the rotary launch, MF became the only company in the world at that time to offer both rotary and conventional combine technologies in the high capacity sector.

Electronics took combine development to a higher plane in the early 1990s and set the scene for precision farming techniques. Again, Massey Ferguson was in the vanguard. Datavision (initially known as Daniavision) was the first in-cab interactive information display. Then in 1991, Massey Ferguson introduced the first yield-mapping system on its combines. Using GPS satellite navigation, Datavision and the highly-accurate Yield Meter farmers were able, for the first time, to track the amount of crop produced in each area of their field.

Other developments have included Automatic Table Height Control which allows the combine table to hug ground contours and maintain a constant cutting height, and Constant Flow which keeps the combine fully-loaded in different crop densities by sensing the load on the cylinder and electronically varying the combine’s forward speed.

 

Final Demolition of AGCO’s Banner Lane, Coventry Tower Block Marks End of an Era

Six years after AGCO moved to its new European Office Facility at Abbey Park Stoneleigh in the UK, the company’s long-time office block at Banner Lane, Coventry was demolished by its current owners, Persimmon Homes on 8 July.

“The Banner Lane tractor manufacturing plant which closed in 2003 and 16-storey office block at Coventry in the UK which we vacated in 2006, were very much part of the history of AGCO’s Massey Ferguson brand and its successful development over more than six decades,” said Richard Markwell, Massey Ferguson Vice-President and Managing Director Europe, Africa and Middle East (EAME).

“The Tower Block and the factory site at Coventry formed the centre of Massey Ferguson’s global operations for many years. They played an important part in the working lives of thousands of people, helping to drive the spirit and camaraderie of one of the world’s most famous farm machinery brands which continues to go from strength to strength,” he stated. “2011 was an exceptional year for Massey Ferguson with record results, a host of new product introductions and major sales growth.”

The demolition of the office block is part of Persimmon Homes ongoing redevelopment of the area which has already seen the construction of over 600 new homes with a further 400 properties expected to follow. The land will now form part of an area to be offered to Coventry City Council for the provision of a new school and playing field under the local authority’s confirmed planning agreement.

The Tower Block served the Banner Lane factory site and was occupied by Massey Ferguson and, latterly its parent company AGCO until 2006 when the company moved to a new home some eight miles (12 km) away at Abbey Park, Stoneleigh in Warwickshire. This followed the closure of the factory in 2003 and the consolidation of European tractor production onto AGCO’s manufacturing facility in Beauvais, France, now the site of the largest AGCO factory in Europe and the centre of Massey Ferguson’s Europe, Africa and Middle East operations.

“We can look back at the Banner Lane site with great respect and lasting memories of the role it played in our rich heritage and evolution – it is part of our DNA,” continued Mr Markwell. “While the Tower Block’s demolition is a poignant moment for all of us who have been associated with it, world economics, the markets we serve and indeed, the company along with its products have changed dramatically. As we develop and face different business challenges, like any successful business we adapt to changing environments and ensure that we can continue to grow. We are firmly established at our European Office facility at Abbey Park Stoneleigh, housed in 21st century purpose-built offices where we employ 500 people and which also includes our UK & Ireland Sales and Training Centre.”

“It is pleasing to know that the Banner Lane office block land is being considered as a site for a future school and that the housing development is providing the opportunity for people to get onto the property ladder for the first time. Once again the site will play its part in encouraging some highly positive developments,” he comments

The Tower Block was officially opened by Albert A Thornborough, the then President and Chief Executive Officer of Massey Ferguson Limited on 21 September 1966. At its peak, it housed 500 people including functions such as Sales and Marketing, Finance, IT, Customer Support and Human Resources. In order to accommodate the growing number of employees, the only way to build was up and it became an iconic part of the local skyline.

Massey Ferguson was acquired by the US-based AGCO Corporation in 1994 and remains one of the few truly global brands of farm machinery, distributing its renowned red tractors, combine harvesters and other farm equipment in up to 140 countries. Machines bearing the Massey Ferguson marque are produced at factories worldwide including France, Italy, United States, Brazil, Mexico, India, Pakistan, Japan and China.

“Today, Massey Ferguson has one of its strongest-ever machine line-ups with numerous international awards to our name. We continue to gain market share, providing straightforward, dependable equipment which farmers across the globe can rely on to produce and care for their vital crops and livestock,” says Richard Markwell.

 

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