What’s it like inside of a John Deere factory?

February 8, 2017


Ever wondered what goes into manufacturing some of John Deere’s largest machines? Well, Deere offers the chance to go behind the scenes and watch how their machines are manufactured, step-by-step. Factory tour guides take you through the process and explain each stage of building the equipment. Each piece of John Deere equipment is carefully manufactured and inspected to ensure the highest quality.


I recently had the opportunity to visit and tour John Deere Harvester Works in Moline, Illinois where all of Deere’s combines and heads are manufactured. This was an experience I will never forget. It was fascinating to watch the amount of work and attention to detail each combine and head require. Each combine is uniquely built to order with the exact specifications of the individual customer. There are not only hundreds of tests done to ensure the machine is being built perfectly within each station in the factory, but once the combine is complete, it goes into another round of thorough inspections. Each combine is run for 45 minutes around a test track to ensure there are no hidden problems in the machine.

I attended a Gold Key tour which Deere offers specifically for new combine purchasers. Customers get to see their own combine in production and start it for the first time on the line. It was amazing to see both the massive size of the factory and the high standards within which it is operated. The factory was extremely clean and efficient and employees were very friendly and welcoming. Here’s a little peek into what I saw and learned at the Harvester Works.


The tour began with an informational video about how combines have drastically increased in both size and efficiency since Deere first began making harvesting equipment. Visitors tour the factory from a seated trolley ride and are outfitted with safety gear and earphones, and listen to an extremely knowledgeable tour guide. The tour begins with a look at the large lasers that cut big metal sheets into parts with unparalleled accuracy. These parts are also bent and later delivered to the main hub of the factory for assembly.


One of the parts of the tour I found most interesting was the painting process. Massive cranes lift and dip three separate sections of the combine in large tanks containing cleaning and priming solutions. Then, four robots top the pieces with signature green paint. The parts are then given an extra coat by workers, baked, and later inspected under bright lighting for any flaw in the paint job.


Back in the factory hub, we made our journey through several different areas. Many parts of the combines and heads are welded together by both workers and robots. I was able to see what the inside parts of a combine look like and how they separate grain. With that perspective, I can now visualize what’s going on inside the combine as it harvests. In different locations, workers make individual components of the combine that will be assembled. Near the back of the factory, all of the metal and parts continue to come together to more closely resemble a finished combine.


Station 22… where the combine is started for the first time. Because this was a Gold Key tour, the customers were given the opportunity to start their own new combine. The customers thought it would be nice for me to start their combine for the first time. I was extremely nervous. I didn’t want to mess up anything with their brand new, I mean brand new, combine. I climbed up the steps and got in the driver’s seat, thinking I was literally just going to turn the key to start the combine. Nope! The Harvester Works employee with me helped me go through a series of tests for the combine, turning the wheel, pressing the brakes, etc. Not too bad, but I still was extremely nervous since a combine is such a big, expensive machine. Then I was asked to engage the separator. Well, I didn’t know what it was. Sorry, but I’m by no means an expert at this yet! The employee chuckled a little and showed me where the buttons were. I’ll probably always remember where they are from now on. Thankfully, when it was finally time to start the combine, it started. Phew!

Each task from welding parts to painting to assembly is carefully monitored through the use of modern technology and smart tools. At the end of the factory tour, John Deere quality engineer Shawn Atwater discussed the extensive testing and inspection process each combine goes through. The combine must pass all of these inspections before it can be released for delivery.


I feel this tour was an amazing experience and could appeal to many different people – both those who are already knowledgeable farmers and people like me who are learning more about John Deere equipment and farming in general. The tour gave me a greater appreciation for the time and effort Deere puts in to ensure they manufacture the highest quality machines in the industry. It’s clear that this factory is one of the many reasons that John Deere’s equipment is far superior to the rest.


“I will never put my name on a product that does not have in it the best that is in me.” – John Deere

I believe John Deere would be very proud of the combines Deere is manufacturing today in Moline.


Anyone 13 years or older can tour the John Deere Harvester Works Factory. Tours are Monday-Friday, 8 a.m., 10 a.m. and 12 p.m. For reservations or more information, call (800) 765-9588 or visit: www.deere.com/en_US/corporate/our_company/fans_visitors/tours_attractions/factorytours.page?


Holland & Sons customers with a 2017 combine on order may contact their salesman to set up their very own ‘Gold Key’ tour.


Article by Nicole Holland. Nicole is an employee at Holland’s Princeton location. She can be reached by email at nholland@hollandandsons.com.