The global headquarters

We manufacture and assemble at over ten production plants worldwide. Our main factory in Harsewinkel works closely with our international sites—on equal footing—to ensure the highest quality standards at all times.

Minus 20 degrees and sleet: when Lisane Volkeri arrived at the CLAAS factory in Omaha, Nebraska, in January 2018, it was so cold that the entrance door had frozen shut. “The temperatures came as a real shock to me, but my colleagues gave me a very warm welcome,” said the 31-year-old engineer with a laugh.

The warm reception was all the more important given that the team had a major challenge on their hands. They had to prepare the Omaha factory for the full-scale production of a new series of the LEXION large combine harvester (model numbers 8800–6800) just a few months after the prototype had been assembled for the first time in Harsewinkel.

The goal was to be able to produce the machines in the American factory to exactly the same standards as the main production plant within two years, even though Omaha is more than 4,300 miles away from Harsewinkel as the crow flies.

“What makes working at the Harsewinkel plant so satisfying? The fact that the harvesting machines we produce help feed people throughout the world.”

– Viktor Schneipel, Planner Manufacturing Engineering

“What I like the most about the factory are my colleagues. The team spirit and willingness to help are fantastic and many people here make life-long friends.”

– Winny Walcott

“The Harsewinkel plant is currently the largest and most modern combine harvester factory in Europe. We’ve been manufacturing agricultural machinery here for over 100 years. Now that’s something to think about.”

– Rafael Thüte, body shell supervisor

Made by CLAAS

And for many, Harsewinkel is still synonymous with CLAAS. The small town in Münsterland became the company headquarters in 1919. Since 1936, more than 450,000 combine harvesters have rolled off the production line. Today, around 2,300 employees work on a production area spanning some 100 acres. The LEXION large combine harvester, JAGUAR forage harvester and XERION large tractor are just some of the products manufactured here.

The factory is one of the most advanced production plants for combine harvesters and forage harvesters in the world, in part thanks to the SynPro 2020 modernization project. The smart production processes and test procedures are second to none.

Yet there is far more to CLAAS than Harsewinkel. The Group now has over ten production plants worldwide, for example in in China, France, Hungary and the USA. And they all operate on the same footing as the main factory. “For us, it’s really important that all our machines, wherever they’re manufactured, are made exactly to CLAAS quality standards,” says executive board member Jan-Hendrik Mohr.

Setting up a new factory site, one step at a time

One of those responsible for ensuring that CLAAS quality standards are the same throughout the world is Bernd Schapmann, manager of the main combine harvester assembly line in Harsewinkel. He has worked for the Group for 32 years and has helped set up several international production plants. “Every site is treated the same,” he explains. “We implement the same CLAAS standards of quality everywhere.”

We do this by guiding each production plant step-by-step along the way until it reaches the point of being able to manufacture independently. New plants start with the “semi-knocked down” stage. This means that the employees on site assemble individual parts on a largely finished machine supplied by another plant. Harsewinkel supports them every step of the way, for example by providing parts lists and work schedules.

Then comes the “completely knocked down” stage. In this stage, only some of the components and assemblies are supplied to the new plant. Others are sourced from local suppliers. The next stage is localization: the plant purchases only individual parts from other CLAAS factories and sources the majority of parts from a supplier network. The final stage of development is reached when the new plant has found suppliers that are so good that other CLAAS plants also use them.

New production plants are closely supervised by Harsewinkel in the first few years. Experienced colleagues from the main factory are on site to provide assistance in all areas: management, planning, production and quality assurance. At the same time, employees from the new site receive training in Harsewinkel. “The main goal is to get everyone on the same page in terms of our quality standards,” explains Schapmann. For example, how to assess a paint defect to determine if it has to be redone?

“It’s important to stress that at Harsewinkel our role is one of that of an advisor, not a director,” says Schapmann. “If colleagues need help, we provide it, but we’re not the center of the universe.”

New suppliers are carefully vetted.

The same is true for quality assurance management, which is firmly embedded in every site as a dedicated function. The QA management reports both within the matrix function and to Peter Schonefeld in the corporate function. He is Senior Director Corporate Quality & CLAAS Excellence System and is based in Harsewinkel.

But it’s not about issuing unilateral instructions. “We work together across all our locations,” stresses Schonefeld. The quality assurance managers regularly speak to one another, agree on targets relating to supplier performance, for example, or work together on quality-related projects.

When one factory is planning to produce a new product or feature, they select the necessary processes, for example, the incoming goods inspections or quality checks along the assembly line, from a group-wide process landscape.

CLAAS also has standard procedures in place worldwide for vetting suppliers. New suppliers are evaluated as part of a comprehensive auditing process which involves assessing their technological expertise, supplier stability and financial figures.

The QA departments at the various plants also cooperate in ongoing production. If deviations occur at one production plant which exceed a few parts per million, the QA managers agree internally on who is responsible for working with the supplier to fix the problem.

“Together on equal footing”

Executive board member Jan-Hendrik Mohr explains in an interview how the company headquarters in Harsewinkel works closely with CLAAS locations around the world.

Interview with Jan-Hendrik Mohr

Frequent visits between locations

Consistently outstanding products. That’s the objective of the test engineering department under Stephan Dohmann. His department is responsible for working out the routines for testing machines at our locations all around the world. “Our challenge is to ensure that a machine in Harsewinkel is commissioned in precisely the same way as in Omaha, for example,” explains Stephan Dohmann.

Test engineers at the different plants work with the test engineering center in Harsewinkel to determine how a certain product should be tested and which hardware and software should be used.

In addition, specialist test engineers from Harsewinkel regularly visit our international locations to see how they operate and to exchange ideas with their colleagues. By the same token, test engineers from other production plants visit the CLAAS headquarters from time to time to stay up to date on changes to test engineering and commissioning procedures at Harsewinkel.

“The basic configuration of the test equipment is still undertaken in Harsewinkel in most cases,” says Dohmann.

But we all work together to ensure that we always deliver the same CLAAS quality, regardless of where the product is made.

The link between Harsewinkel and Omaha

Working together as equals is something that Lisane Volkeri also experienced during her time in Omaha. When she arrived there in 2018, the site was already in the localization phase. So her job was to help prepare for the production of the new LEXION 8800-6800 under local conditions with parts sourced from local suppliers.

Volkeri was part of a team of six in charge of production planning: at which point in production is which component assembled using which tool and in which way? How long does the respective assembly step take? The team’s job was to work out the answers to these questions and devise a work schedule.

“In a sense, I acted as the link to the main factory,” says Volkeri. “I knew many people in Harsewinkel, and I was able to relay questions between the two factories.” A small number of this generation of LEXION had already been assembled at the German factory. So there was experience in some areas. But the team in Omaha was constantly coming up with solutions which were of interest to Harsewinkel, too.

“I still remember when we turned the keys in the ignition and the first machine to roll off the Omaha assembly line started up,” explains Volkeri. “It was a fantastic feeling.” She returned to Harsewinkel in October 2019 with the job done and full-scale production of the new LEXION series about to begin. She would like to visit her old team in Omaha again soon. Hopefully the weather will be warmer next time.

Three generations at CLAAS

Five facts about Harsewinkel


Harsewinkel has a population of 25,000 in the Gütersloh district of North Rhine Westphalia. It lies in the Münsterland region of mostly farmland.


The history of the town goes back over 900 years. Harsewinkel was first mentioned in records in 1090. In the Middle Ages the town was famous for the Marienfeld Cistercian Monastery, which survives to this day.


CLAAS has been based in Harsewinkel since 1919. The company’s presence in the town has brought it nationwide recognition, and since 2013 it has been affectionately known as the “combine harvester town”.


Covering an area of over 24,500 acres, Harsewinkel is classified as a large rural community. More than 65 percent of the area is used for farming.


In addition to machine and tool manufacturing, the town is home to companies in the recycling, food and beverages, automation and plant engineering industries.

Behind the scenes