Plowing ahead in global manufacturing

The keynote speaker for the 2008 Plant Engineering Manufacturing Summit, Dr. Bernhard Haas is the vice president of manufacturing for the manufacturing of tractor equipment for Deere & Co.


The keynote speaker for the 2008 Plant Engineering Manufacturing Summit, Dr. Bernhard Haas is the vice president of manufacturing for the manufacturing of tractor equipment for Deere & Co. Ahead of his keynote address on Monday, March 31, at the annual Product of the Year dinner, Dr. Haas discussed with Plant Engineering editors some of the challenges and opportunities facing manufacturing here and around the world:

Plant Engineering: Deere has a history of innovation and success in manufacturing. How do you challenge your manufacturing staff to build on that tradition?

Haas : John Deere has been a manufacturing company for over 170 years. However, its rich and long tradition does not guarantee future success. The challenge for our team has to come from driving the business to delight our customers and shareholders. From the manufacturing side, we know that an important piece of that is derived from operating excellence.

Some of the keys of operating excellence include safety, quality, productivity, environmental stewardship and asset efficiency. From each of these, we build explicit goals that are cascaded down through the organization to help each of our business and the enterprise in total continuously improve.

Plant Engineering: As a global manufacturer, what are the biggest challenges you face? How do those challenges vary depending on different regions?

Haas : There are a number of challenges in manufacturing across the world. Communications is certainly a large piece of that puzzle. We do use English as the core language of business, but in our Agricultural Equipment Division for example, we have more employees outside of the USA than within. To really engage everyone on common goals, we need to be able to operate in more than a dozen other languages and dialects, while delivering a consistent message and clear expectations. We need to help each global location define what success looks like, so that every employee can contribute to the positive results of that business.

Our challenge in this area probably differs by region of the world based on the manufacturing and operating tradition and experience where we are doing business. It can require more leadership, for example, to build a culture from the ground up in a greenfield site in China, compared to other places like Germany where we have been manufacturing for generations.

Another one is the development and implementation of common processes. Their is no doubt that common/standard business software is very much requested though the question will be what is the level of flexibility in regard to execution in the respective operations.

Plant Engineering: What are some of the advantages of being a global manufacturer?

Haas : There are huge benefits in having a global footprint. Let me talk about a mid-size tractor family that we build in six locations around the world. First, by building products in various regions of the world, we can have close contact with our customers. This is a huge benefit, as it allows us to really meet their expectations.

Finally, it gives us access to great people in all corners of the world. Clearly by utilizing the skills, intelligence and creativity of a global workforce can help us build a business as great as our products.

Plant Engineering: What is the biggest challenge manufacturing faces today? How do we meet and overcome that challenge?

Haas : There are lots of large challenges in business today. One of the clear challenges for manufacturing today is to be nimble enough to match the pace of change in product design and to be able to handle the increasing sophistication and complexity of new products. We are working to overcome that challenge with real concurrent engineering.

Today’s virtual engineering tools are delivering on the promise of computer-aided manufacturing design that we have talked about for the last fifteen or twenty years. Our manufacturing today is able to keep pace with the faster design cycles and the sophistication of our products.

Another of the challenges of manufacturing today is to meet customers’ expectations, especially in the area of quality. We must make sure that all of our products meet their uptime and reliability targets.

Plant Engineering: What is the biggest opportunity in manufacturing? How do we take advantage of that opportunity?

Haas: The biggest opportunity manufacturing has is to contribute to the success of the company, especially by delivering to the bottom line. Efficient manufacturing can control costs. Great processes can deliver high quality. Great people can help the business continuously improve and remain successful on the competitive landscape. Those are three things upon which we focus.

Plant Engineering: Deere has had a long history of balancing process and people in making its manufacturing operation successful. Explain why this is so important at Deere.

Haas : Certainly this is a balancing act. However, the bedrock is always the people. Finding, developing, and retaining outstanding people is central to creating a great business. The second piece is to then create a high performance culture. John Deere employees working together within a location and across the enterprise really create a hard to copy competitive advantage. The process piece comes in play as it is the fabric that creates sustainability.

Manufacturing Summit to address issues, honor top products and Top Plants

The 2008 Plant Engineering Manufacturing Summit on March 31 and April 1 at the Hotel Sofitel in Chicago, is designed to address the key issues facing manufacturers while giving plant managers a chance to meet the 2007 Product of the Year winners and the 2007 Top Plant award recipients.

The 2008 Manufacturing Summit is sponsored by IBM, Schneider Electric, Molex and Ahlborn Equipment. The 2008 Summit schedule features three tracks on issues crucial to manufacturing success:

Sustainability: Monday, March 31 at 1 p.m. Speakers include Chuck Edwards from Molex and Eric Luyer from IBM.

Data management: Monday, March 31 at 3:30 p.m. Speakers include Mark Cox from GE Fanuc and Michael Wendell from SAP.

Workforce development: Tuesday, April 1 at 10 a.m. Speakers include Eric Luyer from IBM and Dan Swinney of the Chicago Manufacturing Renaissance Council.

At the Manufacturing Summit, winners of the 2007 Product of the Year awards will receive their trophies at a gala dinner Monday, March 31. Keynote speaker is Dr. Bernhard Haas, vice president of manufacturing for Deere & Co. Product managers from more than 50 companies will be on hand, making it an excellent networking event for plant managers.

Top Plant award winners GEMA, SEW Eurodrive and Spriax Sarco will be recognized at a breakfast April 1 at 8 a.m. Jamie McDonald, plant manager from 2006 winner Square D, will address the breakfast. An interactive roundtable discussion with plant managers will follow the award presentation.

Registration for the 2008 Summit is available by going to

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After two years of economic concerns, manufacturing leaders once again have homed in on the single biggest issue facing their operations:

It's the workers—or more specifically, the lack of workers.

The 2017 Plant Engineering Salary Survey looks at not just what plant managers make, but what they think. As they look across their plants today, plant managers say they don’t have the operational depth to take on the new technologies and new challenges of global manufacturing.

Read more: 2017 Salary Survey

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