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INNOVATION IN THE FARM TRACTOR WORLD – 1970-2010 Who Leads? Who Follows?

Published by the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers, St. Joseph, Michigan

Citation:  Paper number  021119,  2002 ASAE Annual Meeting . (doi: 10.13031/2013.9688) @2002
Authors:   G.A.B. Edwards

This paper attempts to look at the main significant innovations that have been introduced in to the worlds tractor industry in the past 30 years. The industry itself has changed out of all recognition in this period when organizational change has been at least as important in shaping the future as technological change. Here, Graham Edwards examines both kinds of change and attempts a little futurology. He begins by viewing the global industry, as a whole, and uses the 1970 paper by A.R. Reece (The Shape of the Farm Tractor) as the academic but significant starting-point and refers to the Mercedes-Benz Unimog the Agricultural Land Rover development (4x4 pick-up trucks), the MB Trac and Intrac as related but different concepts. He also traces some of the influences at Land Rover, Unimog, M.B. Trac and Corneuil of France and other different concepts in farming and attempts to place the new concepts (Xylon, Xerion, Trantor tractor and Fastrac) in the context of their relevant innovations and their place in the worlds tractor industry. The relevance of each of the newlyemerging tractor-vehicles is outlined in regard to the worlds current tractor production volumes, varying specifications and market sectors. Table 1 indicates the place of the innovative vehicles in the various conventional tractor slots. The paper contrasts the revolutionary innovation of some designers and manufacturers with the bit by bit, incremental innovation and frequently pedestrian innovativeness of others.

Having regard to the worlds vast and growing manufacturing volumes of China and India and the recent phenomenal reduction of volumes in Former Soviet Union, the author attempts to assess the way some of the tractor makers are moving production into new factories outside of Europe and USA and into India and Turkey. He attempts to examine the way innovation may influence the plans of important and emerging countries and companies and notes that currently R&D design and marketing for the world is currently centred on the traditional headquarters within some of the main groups (Coventry, Rascine, Beauvais, Marktoberdorf, Mannheim-Lanz, Moline) whereas in others the moves seem to be in to Italy!

As part of his presentation the author uses his 30 years of technological development and market research work in the field of Transport-first tractors (compared to ploughing-first tractor developments) and to explain the way in which he sees its future significance to the worldwide tractor industry, and the ASAE session 2001 on Higher Transport Speeds. He moves on to the idea of a tractor technology bank and the potential of such a bank as part of the future as big companies learn that some tasks like engineering design and R&D are perhaps better done in small organisations. The views expressed in the article are entirely his own and have been formulated as a result of working within the farm tractor industry since 1970.

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