Sarah and I enjoyed a great trip to Germany to visit the Claas manufacturing plants and tour some of the German countryside. The trip was provided for by Claas, the maker of the combines we use. We traveled with about 40 other producers and dealer representaives from Illinois, South Dakota, and North Dakota. The Cat dealer we traveld with was Butler Cat from North Dakota. We thoroughly enjoyed the trip and getting to know a lot of new friends.
One of the first days of the trip we toured the Claas combine and forage harvester plant in Harsewinkle, Germany. It is a very impressive plant with multiple assembly lines running for different sizes and types of machines. We were able to see the entire production process from cutting the steel, welding, painting, and assembly through final machine testing.
I was surprised to find such a large and technologically advanced factory nestled in a fairly small town. The factory is located on the original Claas family farm property. The founder's house is just around the corner from the factory.
Claas remains a family owned and managed company. We were impressed by all the Claas people we met. You can tell they take pride in their work and in their company.
After the factory tour we were able to go to the test farm and drive some of the Claas machines including tractors, loaders, and combines. It was pretty cool.
Below are some photos of our visit to Harsewinkel including the showroom and demo farm.
Germany Trip Day 2 The second day our Germany trip we traveled to Hann to tour the main Claas parts distribution center. The parts center carries over 100,000 parts in a state of the art warehouse. Large parts are retrieved by fork lift operators while small parts are retrieved with a robotic system. Orders are filled and shipped world wide throughout the year. The parts center serves all the equipment that Claas makes including forage equipment, tractors, and harvesters.
We also visited the Claas Industrial Technology plant where they make gear boxes, transmissions, hydraulic components, and other highly engineered components. It was interesting to see solid steel and aluminum blocks be machined into various components as we toured the plant. Besides making parts for their own equipment, Claas makes many components for other manufacturers as well.
Below are some photos from day 2 of our travels.
Germany Trip Day 3 On the thrid day of our visit we got to do some site seeing. We toured the Cathedral in Koln. The building was amazingly spared from significant damage in World War II. The Cathedral was built over a 500 year timeframe, completed in 1880. It is 515 feet tall. It is hard to get the perspective on how big it is from pictures. It includes beautiful stained glass windows which were removed during the war to protect them. It houses the remains of many leaders in the church including the shrine of the Three Kings in the high altar.
Next we toured the area around Rhine River near Rudesheim. This is very historic and beatiful area with many vineyards and castles overlooking the river valley. Throughout Germany we were taken back by the amount of history you can observe by just viewing the area.
Germany Trip Day 4 We enjoyed a wonderful river cruise on the historic Rhine river. The Rhine runs from south to north, starting in the Alps and ending at the North Sea. The area we toured was surrounded by vineyards planted on the steep riverfront slopes. The hills were dotted with remains of castles dating back to 1000 AD.
We toured one of the castles on the Rhine. The castles with their original 1100 AD amenities were really not that glamorous. They are cold and dark. Living conditions were not that great even for the King and especially not for the prisoners who got to experience some of the torture chamber equipment on display. We are once again glad to be living in this century.
Finally that day we visited one of the monuments over looking the Rhine where Hilter held a rally to declare war. It was haunting to stand in the place where Hilter once stood.
Germany Trip Day 5 At the end of the week we bid our friends from the Dakotas farewell when they headed for home and we stayed an extra couple of days to explore on our own. It was a little stressful to head out on our own with a rental car after being cared for by our tour guides all week in the bus with the rest of our travel mates. Sarah was very apprehensive about navigating for me as we drove around a foreign country. However, after a few wrong turns on our way out of the airport we managed to get on our way.
We traveled to the far east side of Germany to visit the Horsch equipment company. We had learned about the Horsch company a the Ag Connect farm show in Kansas City earlier this winter. We decided to look up the Horsch people while we had the chance in Germany.
Michael, Phillip, and Traugott Horsch graciously spent most of the day with us telling us about the company and showing us around their facilities. We greatly appreciate their time and hospitality.
The Horsch family is passionate about farming and about their farm equipment. Sarah and I found that we have a lot in common with the them and we enjoyed learning more about European agriculture. We hope to be able to work more with the Horsche family in the future.
Germany Trip Day 6 After our visit at the Horsch company we traveled on to the historic town of Regensburg. This town has a lot of original pre-war buildings including a beautiful cathedral. We enjoyed walking through the scenic narrow streets in the old part of town.
Our return trip back to the airport in Frankfurt was a little too exciting. The GPS decided to reroute us off of the autobahn to go around some traffic delays. I do not think this was the best move. Our 3 hour trip turned into 6+ on winding/snowy roads.
We had a wonderful trip but it was good to be heading home. Thanks to Claas and Horsch for helping to make a very memorable trip for us.