The spectacle surrounding a new tractor rollout can be quite grand, but combine a new tractor series with the ribbon-cutting at a state-of-the-art new manufacturing facility with a heavy dose of Bavarian culture and it’s a recipe for a unique event.
Fendt brought the wraps off its new 500 Vario series tractor at the company’s expansive new manufacturing plant in Marktoberdorf, Germany, in late September. With a footprint of more than 900,000 sq. ft. – the size of more than 16 football fields – it is touted as one of the most modern and technically advanced tractor manufacturing facilities in the world.
As the ceremonial first tractor – the Fendt Vario 500 – moved off the assembly line to the throngs of guests from around the world, it was greeted in true Bavarian form with lots of traditional music and dress.
New Vario 500
But beyond all the celebration, The Vario 500 is a tractor with a lot under the hood. While Fendt is a market leader in Europe, it continues to build its market presence in North America. Fendt, part of the AGCO group, has high hopes for its newest addition to the lineup.
The new 500 Vario series includes four models in the 125- to 165-hp range. Powered by a 4.04 liter 4-cylinder Deutz engine, the tractors all use SCR technology to meet current Tier 4 Interim emissions standards.
The Vario 500 is equipped with features included on other Vario series tractors but with additional innovations that make it stand out. “It is designed to be highly maneuverable, so it is well equipped to handle a variety of tasks, including loader work,” reports Walter Wagner, Fendt European product manager.
The Fendt Vario 500 boasts 22 different connections at the front and rear for operations with a wide variety of implements. It has a self-leveling front axle suspension, shock load stabilizing, cab suspension, seat suspension and automatic steering axle lock. Loader work is enhanced with an active steering control that allows the tractor to be maneuvered easily with a single turn of the steering wheel.
The cab borrows heavily from the 700 Vario series, with a spacious operating environment and a new Varioterminal at the right armrest, which moves along with the driver seat. All controls are easily accessible from the operator joystick or dashboard on the armrest. A wide sweeping glass front provides plenty of visibility.
Combined with the new Fendt Profi loader, it is a machine that handles loader work with ease. Features include an integrated weighing system that monitors and documents the weight of individual bucket loads. A memo features recalls the precise position of the arm and attachment and can be recalled. A lift height limiter can restrict the range of the arm and attachment, perfect for producers doing loader work in confined areas or buildings with low ceilings.
Production of the Fendt Vario 500 began in earnest this fall. At a date to be announced in the future, AGCO does plan to add the 500 Series to its North American Fendt product line up which already includes the three largest Fendt series: the 700, 800 and 900 Series.
New from the ground up
When AGCO/Fendt drew up plans for its new manufacturing facilities, it was much more than an expansion of the existing facilities…it was a $300 million investment that transformed the entire manufacturing network.
The manufacturing facilities that undertook a complete redesign include the main facilities in Marktoberdorf, Germany, and the cab-manufacturing facility in Asback-Bäumenheim. Cabs for all the Vario tractors in the Fendt lineup are assembled according to customer orders, and delivered directly to the Marktoberdorf facility.
With the assistance of state-of-the-art automation, every Vario tractor is built on the same production line. Components are delivered just-in-time for final assembly according to each customer order. Fendt completely redesigned the final assembly process, taking advantage of the newest technologies and lean manufacturing methods to reduce manufacturing costs and increase efficiency.
“With these two facilities, we have significantly increased our production capabilities,” says Hubertus Köhne, vice president of manufacturing at Fendt. Production at the previous facility was 12,500 units per year. With increased capacity and efficiency, Fendt expects to soon be running at 20,000 units produced per year.
The one-kilometer assembly line runs straight through the facility, so no tractor during any part of the assembly is turned or moved…it starts at one end and rolls out of testing at the other end. “The capacity and efficiency of this plant will allow us to meet future demand for our tractors,” Köhne says. On average, it takes two hours for a single tractor to move along the assembly line.
It is quite a facility to tour. It’s bright and wide open. Parts are delivered directly to stations and assembled by technicians using the latest equipment. Tractors being assembled move along laser-guided trolleys that are automatically adjusted depending on the tractor model being assembled.
The facility in Marktoberdorf is quite impressive at more than 900,000 sq. ft. – more than 16 football fields. And what’s even more impressive is that the plant was built in only 13 months.