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1989 – 2017

International growth and digitalisation

Growth and internationalisation have been the hallmarks of the CLAAS approach since the early 1990s. Another area of potential growth for CLAAS lies in the ongoing digitalisation of the farming sector.

1989 – 2017

International growth and digitalisation

Growth and internationalisation have been the hallmarks of the CLAAS approach since the early 1990s. Another area of potential growth for CLAAS lies in the ongoing digitalisation of the farming sector.

International, digital and connected.

CLAAS had a strong export focus right from the start. Its first straw binders were sold abroad. However, since the 1990s, the company has also boosted its international presence beyond Europe. New production and sales locations have been set up in India, the USA, Russia, China and South America, for example. Another important strategic step was taken in 2003 with the acquisition of the French tractor manufacturer RENAULT Agriculture. The creation of CLAAS E-Systems is a measure focused on another key sector for the future: the digitalisation of the farming sector.

Tractors on the production line: in 2003, the first CLAAS green tractor drove over the conveyor belt in the plant at Le Mans.

With its niche strategy of focusing all resources on the combine harvester, and the subsequent specialisation in harvesting, with the Bautz/Speiser acquisitions, CLAAS had a record of successful competition in the international arena over several decades. For a long period of its history, CLAAS managed to get by without having its own tractor line. However, the trend towards the consolidation of tractor manufacturers during the 1980s and 1990s brought fundamental changes in the market landscape, and again required the company to adjust its product and corporate strategy.

As a harvest specialist pure and simple, without its own tractor, CLAAS was left in an uncomfortable and precarious position in the marketplace. For decades, CLAAS machines had been sold in dealerships in conjunction with the products of tractor specialists. However, as manufacturers specialising solely in tractors progressively disappeared from the market, either by adding a harvesting machine to their own product range or by being taken over by a full liner, there were fewer and fewer potential tractor partners available, putting CLAAS in an ever-weaker position with machinery dealers. The termination of a succession of partnerships – which in some cases had operated with great success over many years, such as the relationship with Ford in North America – created major turbulence in the dealership network, resulting in dramatic rises in downstream distribution costs. So clearly, in order to remain successful in the long term, CLAAS had to have its own tractor.

The CLAAS tractor arrives

On 23 February 2003, in Paris, a handshake between Patrick Faure (l.), member of the board of RENAULT S.A., and Helmut Claas marked the beginning of a new alliance between CLAAS and Renault Agriculture.

Then, in 2002, an unexpected opportunity opened up for the company. The tractor producer Renault Agriculture was up for sale, since the parent company had decided to shed all its non-automotive activities. At that time, Renault Agriculture was a medium-scale manufacturer, offering one of the last opportunities for CLAAS to enter the mass standard tractors market segment. CLAAS acted quickly and decisively.

Ahead of the Sima 2003 tradeshow in France, Helmut Claas and Patrick Faure signed off the crucial agreement in Paris, initially for CLAAS to buy a stake in Renault Agriculture, and then, in a succession of steps, to take over the Renault tractor business completely in 2008. A full range of tractors sporting the seed-green livery, from 72 to 335 hp, was on display already at Agritechnica 2003, with the XERION large tractor developed by CLAAS as the flagship exhibit.

They represented the successful achievement of an important goal for the company. As well as consolidating its profile for its own dealership network, it opened up new growth potential for the future. CLAAS had made the transition from a harvesting specialist to a full-liner.

International growth

The addition of the tractor to the CLAAS product range was never going to be enough to consolidate the company’s full-liner status in the long term. So already towards the end of the 1980s, CLAAS adopted a more international focus for its business, and, in the ensuing years, expanded its global presence both in terms of distribution and with the establishment of new production locations:

Eastern Europe

  • Hungary

    Following the political turnaround at the beginning of the 1990s, fresh markets opened up, particularly in Eastern Europe. Since as early as 1969, CLAAS had been operating successfully in Hungary as the only western producer operating in that country. That early engagement with the Hungarian market remains part of the foundation for the excellent reputation that CLAAS now enjoys in Eastern Europe. This special bond led in 1997 to the acquisition of the existing production plant in Törökszentmiklós, to which CLAAS was already supplying key parts and components. The plant in Törökszentmiklós now designs and manufactures all CLAAS drum mowers and cutterbars.

  • Ukraine

    CLAAS has also been active in Ukraine since 1992, when it first exhibited at the Kyiv Agro trade fair. From 1994, an agent took up the task of creating a dealership network and arranging the first machine deliveries. This was followed in 1998 by the establishment of the autonomous distribution subsidiary CLAAS Ukraina DP. The CLAAS presence is now based on a dealership network of showrooms and service location in all rural regions of Ukraine.

  • Russia

    CLAAS first entered the Russian market in 1992, through the export of used machines. This was followed in 1996 by the opening of a sales office in Moscow, which in 2006 was transformed into the distribution company OOO CLAAS Vostok. In 2005, CLAAS became the first western agricultural machinery manufacturer to open its own combine harvester production operation at Krasnodar, in southern Russia. In 2015, the company invested another 120 million euros in expanding the plant. Every step in the combine harvester manufacturing process is carried out on the factory’s state-of-the-art plant, including metalworking, painting and assembly.

  • Poland

    In response to Poland’s growing importance as a significant agricultural market in Europe, in 2009, CLAAS established a distribution and service company under the name CLAAS Polska sp. z o.o. From its base in Buk, near Poznan, it operates a dealership network supplying Polish farmers not only with CLAAS machines, but also with spare parts and professional service.

  • Romania

    The favourable performance of the Romanian market prompted the opening in 2012 of a regional centre at Afumati near Bucharest. The new regional centre provides support for all CLAAS distribution partners, to improve the level of customer service and the availability of spare parts throughout the country.

America

  • USA

    CLAAS established CLAAS of America in 1979, as its first marketing and distribution company, and was also represented by a number of partners in North America. In 1999, it also set up its own combine harvester plant in Omaha, Nebraska, operated initially in a partnership with Caterpillar, and since 2002 fully under CLAAS control. The CAT yellow LEXION combine harvesters were formerly distributed exclusively via Caterpillar dealers, but are now also sold via other distribution channels. CLAAS also operates Financial Services LLC in San Francisco.

  • Argentina

    With the establishment in 2000 of its own distribution company in Sunchales, in the Argentinian province of Santa Fé, CLAAS significantly enhanced its market presence in the South American continent. A number of other spare parts and service centres ensure the availability of CLAAS service throughout the country.

  • Brazil

    November 2014 saw the opening of another regional centre, in Porto Alegre in southern Brazil. This provides a base for supporting CLAAS distribution partners and importers throughout Central and South America. The products sold include tractors and all CLAAS combine harvesters and forage harvesters.

Asia

  • India

    Since 1991, CLAAS has been producing the CROP TIGER rice combine harvester at a plant in Faridabad, near Delhi. This machine, developed specifically for the Asian market, is ideally suited for rice harvesting in wet conditions on the small farms typical of the agricultural sector in southeast Asia. In response to the rising demand for modern agricultural equipment, in 2008, CLAAS opened a further plant in Chandigarh. It too manufactures the CROP TIGER rice and grain combine harvester. In March 2012, CLAAS also opened a large spare parts and service centre in Bangalore.

  • Thailand

    In Thailand, the CLAAS Regional Center South East Asia, based in Bangkok, was established in 2012. The centre acts as a support base for distribution partners throughout the South-East Asian region. In terms of surface area, Thailand is the size of France, and is by far the company’s most important market in the region. The dealerships of the new CLAAS importer, Asia Co. Ltd., provide sales service and spare parts support for the whole of Thailand.

  • China

    Since 2012, CLAAS has also had a subsidiary in China, located in Beijing, tasked with organising distribution and service operations in the country. CLAAS previously operated in China through its own representative, via local trade organisations. A central spare parts warehouse and training and service centre is located outside Beijing.

    In 2014, CLAAS also acquired a majority holding in the Chinese agricultural equipment producer Shandong Jinyee Machinery Manufacture Co. Ltd. (Jinyee). The company, now operating under the name CLAAS Agricultural Machinery (Shandong) Co. Ltd., manufactures a range of different harvesting machines at two main locations in Gaomi and Daqing, principally for maize and rice harvesting. The location has a total of around 1,000 employees, and operates an extensive distribution and service network in central and northern China.

Digital connectivity and Farming 4.0

CLAAS has already set the course for further growth into the future. The continuing digitalisation of agriculture is opening up many new potential innovation areas for the company. CLAAS has more than 40 years’ experience in the field of agricultural electronics. Its first electronic driver assist system was introduced in 1974, in the DOMINATOR 85/105. The “grain loss monitor” (DKG) showed the driver how fast the machine could be driven without exceeding the grain loss ratio defined as acceptable. Today, combine harvester performance is optimised by fully automated assist systems such as the CEMOS AUTOMATIC, completely automatically and more efficiently than was ever possible before.

Yet this technology represents only the beginning of a trend with dramatic impacts on the entire farming sector. Digitalisation and connectivity are bringing a fundamental transformation in agriculture and agricultural machinery, all around the world. This includes farm management systems to make the job easier, machines connected in intelligent networks, and fully digitalised process chains to make farming more efficient, and at the same conserve natural resources. The harvesting of data and information is clearly going to play a key role in this context.

As early as 1994, CLAAS established the AGROCOM business unit, into which the then leading provider of farm software, Klöpper & Wiege, was successfully integrated a few years later. CLAAS has now bundled all its electronics capability in a new subsidiary, CLAAS E-Systems. The new electronics centre in Dissen, Lower Saxony, has been working on developing innovative solutions for the high-tech farming of the future since 2017. With the launch of 365FarmNet, an open farm management software platform, not tied to any particular manufacturer, CLAAS is sending a clear signal that, in the “Farming 4.0” environment, the future of the agricultural sector lies in systems connected across competitor boundaries.

Machines will still be bringing in the harvest in the year 2100, but the crucial requirement will be to find the right combination of mechanical engineering and intelligent electronics. CLAAS will hold true to its fundamental principles, of never resting on its laurels, staying flexible and always keeping its feet on the ground.

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