Over the last century, CLAAS has evolved from a small manufacturer of straw binders into a global leader of agricultural implement innovations.
August Claas founded the company in 1913 in Germany, and was soon joined by his three brothers — Bernhard, Franz Jr. and Theo — to form the company “Gerbuder Claas.” In 1921, the “knotter” was patented as a device designed to create perfect knots. Over the next 90 years, the knotter would go on to become the hallmark of CLAAS.
Later in the decade, the company expanded to the fertilizer spreader before being persuaded to explore the combine harvester market. Manufacturing of combines began in 1936 and has become a staple of CLAAS. Since the first combine rolled off the line, CLAAS has sold over 440,000 units worldwide. In fact, the 450,000th combine is scheduled to drive off the LEXION production line in Omaha, Nebraska in the Spring of 2013.
As productivity and demand grew, CLAAS expanded beyond the borders of Germany. In 1958, a plant was constructed in Metz, France, to produce balers; the first reciprocating plunger balers were built in 1961, and the first sliding plunger balers were manufactured in 1967. Over 280,000 balers have been assembled at the Metz facility in the last six decades.
CLAAS also took a step in tractor development with the 2003 major acquisition of French manufacturer Renault Agriculture. In 2008 CLAAS fully purchased Renault and the French workforce accounts for nearly a third of all CLAAS employees.
While European expansion was taking place, CLAAS was also focusing on reaching the American market. CLAAS of America was founded as an import and distribution firm in 1979 in Columbus, Ind. The company quickly became a market leader in the sales and services of the JAGUAR forage harvester. During the late 1990s, a new factory for the production of LEXION combine harvesters was built in Omaha, Neb. Here, the largest capacity, most efficient combines in the world roll off the line in yellow and black paint.
Today, CLAAS maintains 11 production facilities around the globe. Along with four facilities in Germany, the seven global plants are spread out from Hungary to India and from Argentina to Russia. All told, CLAAS employs more than 9,000 workers worldwide.
Under the guidance of second- and third-generation CLAAS family members, Helmut Claas and his daughter Cathrina Claas-Muhlhauser, the company has stayed true to its roots as a family-run business. They have seen CLAAS become the fourth-largest agricultural equipment manufacturer in the world and the global market leader in the production of self-propelled forage harvesters.
As CLAAS enters its 100th year as a family-owned agricultural manufacturer, the company is releasing a book chronicling the past century of innovation. Titled “100 Years of Harvesting Excellence”, the book contains nearly 400 pages on the history of CLAAS. The book is currently available on deliusklasing.com, and will be available in bookstores this spring.
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