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Deere utility man helps keep Harvester Works assembly line going
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Photo: Gary Krambeck
Ed Lammers of Bettendorf is one of 2,200 employees at the John Deere Harvester Works plant in East Moline. He is trained to do a number of jobs at the factory, filling in as needed when another worker is absent.
More photos from this shoot
Photo: Gary Krambeck
Ed Lammers of Bettendorf checks the hoses on a John Deere 9870 combine as it moves through the assembly areas at the John Deere Harvester Works plant in East Moline.
More photos from this shoot
Photo: Gary Krambeck
Ed Lammers of Bettendorf checks the hoses on a John Deere 9870 combine as it moves through the assembly areas at the John Deere Harvester Works plant in East Moline.
More photos from this shoot
Photo: Gary Krambeck
Ed Lammers of Bettendorf checks the hoses on a John Deere 9870 combine as it moves through the assembly areas at the John Deere Harvester Works plant in East Moline.
EAST MOLINE — He's the fixer, the utility man, the person they go to when no one else is around to do the job.

Bettendorf resident Ed Lammers is one of 2,200 employees at the John Deere Harvester Works plant in East Moline. He's the man easily recognizable by the colored stickers he puts on his safety helmet.

Something to do, he said. It also allows supervisors to find him when they need to, which can be often.

Mr. Lammers' job is to do other people's jobs.

He's trained to do a number of jobs at the factory, filling in for those who are on vacation, who call in sick, or who, for any reason, are not on the job. He's the guy who moves across the line, able to work with electric and hydraulic equipment, check welds and do anything else required on the assembly line.

The combines come together through a building process, with assembly done at several different stations. Mr. Lammers inspects engines, electrical connections, hydraulic fluids and hoses.

"Ed is very good at doing repairs," said his co-worker, assembler Dan Thacker. "Ed knows every job on the line.So, if I would have called in sick today, Ed would have been here doing my job."

Mr. Thacker said his co-worker's service is invaluable to the company.

"When the CEO is sick, they call Ed," Mr. Thacker said, joking.

Mr. Lammer, wearing helmet and safety glasses, said he enjoys the different jobs. When he first started here three years ago, however, Mr. Lammers was a bit nervous.

But he picked up what he needed, learning and training to do upward of 20 to 25 jobs.

"I've always liked to put stuff together," Mr. Lammers said. "I love doing that. I just enjoy the heck out of seeing how stuff works. It might not be the most glamorous job in the world, but I enjoy it."

The 71-acre plant sits on 223 acres. The Harvester Works began in 1913 on the same site. Two of the original buildings, built in 1913 and 1914, still stand.The plant began manufacturing combines in 1927. The first combine, a Model 2, sold for $1,775 and could harvest four to five acres per day.

With today's Model 9870, one person can harvest well over 250 acres a day in small grain. It can harvest up to 220,000 pounds of corn per hour, nearly 4,000 bushels. The average list price of the the 9870 is $350,000.

Mr. Lammers walks over to an engine to inspect it. The combine engines are assembled at John Deere's Engine Works plant in Waterloo, Iowa. McLaughlin Body in Moline manufactures the combine cabs.

The entire combine is put together at the East Moline plant. That includes 250- and 300-bushel grain tanks and three engine sizes ranging from 6.8 to 12.5 liters. There are 35 stations in the assembly process.

For the first 23 stations, combines are moved by a chain in the floor. The factory has more than 9 miles of overhead track system for moving components to and from paint and assembly areas.

A complete combine takes approximately 20 gallons of paint. The paint station has tanks used for rinsing and for coating, with combine parts dipped into and out of those tanks. There is also a robotic spray area.

There are cleaning tanks and rinse tanks.There are lasers capable of cutting through one inch of sheet steel if needed.

The factory has more than 40 robotic welders. It's a combination of man and machine, working in tandem to build combines weighing up to 32,000 pounds without a header and with the capability of carrying 18,000 pounds of grain.

The lines use a stop-and-go method for safety. The line doesn't move until all stations have completed their work.

As Mr. Lammers inspects one of the combine engines, he notices one of the hose fittings isn't on properly. He checks one of the hose clamps, and using an impact drill socket, readjusts the clamp.

"We don't know if they have the proper torque on the clamp," Mr. Thacker said. "So, what we'll do is loosen it up, straighten it out, and put it on right."

As Mr. Lammers inspects the 12.5-liter engine, Mr. Thacker stands nearby in case Mr. Lammers has other questions.

"You've got to make the customers happy," Mr. Thacker said. "You know, a breakdown for the customer doesn't show good on us."

Through a program, customers purchasing new combines can drive them right out of the factory. (An average customer spends 400 hours a year in a combine.)

"If we do our job right, it fires right up, and the customer will drive them off," Mr. Lammers said.










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  Today is Saturday, April 19, the 109th day of 2014. There are 256 days left in the year.

1864 -- 150 years ago: Miss McCorkindale has opened millinery rooms over Gimbel's dry goods store, where she offers a choice lot of millinery goods, which she will manufacture to order.
1889 -- 125 years ago: The little South Park Presbyterian chapel celebrated it first Easter decorated with flowers for an afternoon worship service attended by a large congregation.
1914 -- 100 years ago: The Wennerberg Chorus of Augustana College has returned from a 2,000-mile tour in the Eastern states and Illinois.
1939 -- 75 years ago: Col. Charles Lindbergh has stated that he is convinced that Germany's air force is equal to the combined sky fleets of her potential European foes.
1964 -- 50 years ago: Small gas motors may be permitted on boats in the lake to be built in Loud Thunder Forest Preserve. The prospect was discussed yesterday at a meeting of the Rock Island County Forest Preserve Commission.
1989 -- 25 years ago: The annual Dispatch/Rock Island Argus Spelling Bee continues to be a family tradition. Ed Lee, an eighth-grader at John Deere Junior High School, Moline, is the 1989 spelling bee champion from among 49 top spellers in Rock Island, Henry and Mercer counties. He advances to the competition in Washington, D.C. Runnerup was Ed's sister, Susan.






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