Valtra ploughs ahead
Valtra has been manufacturing tractors since 1913 and is a part of AGCO Corporation.
AGCO is one of the largest manufacturers of agricultural equipment in the world, selling tractors in over 75 countries worldwide. Valtra is the leading tractor manufacturer in Northern Europe and the second most popular tractor brand in South America.
Valtra produces an extensive range of tractors ranging from 75 to 240 horsepower at its manufacturing sites in Finland and Brazil and has recently opened a comprehensive R&D centre dedicated to developing enhanced features.
Valtra evolved from Swedish manufacturers Munktell and Volvo, and Finnish company Valmet to become part of the AGCO Corporation in 2004. Director of engineering Sam Freesmeyer explains: “Valtra is a Nordic company with Scandinavian heritage and is a fairly recent addition to AGCO, a corporation that has been in existence since 1990. Historically, there are three parts comprising Valtra; the Finish tractor operation in Suolahti, the Finish Sisu Diesel operation in Linnavuori and the Valtra factory in Brazil.”
Since it began as the first tractor manufacturer in the world, Valtra has enjoyed impressive growth and celebrated a record year for 2006, with a turnover of 869 million euros. “We had an excellent year, with more revenue and more tractors sold than any previous year,” says Sam. “Valtra is first in terms of market share in the Nordic countries, we are active in Central and Eastern Europe and we are a big player in Western Europe with a large stake in France, Germany, the UK and Spain, as well as smaller market shares in other countries.”
Valtra has a strong presence in South America with a tractor plant located in Mogi das Cruzes in São Paulo state, Brazil, which operates in a similar way to the Suolahti factory in Finland but runs independently of the Nordic facility.
Founded in 1942, the large Sisu Diesel factory is located in Linnavuori and makes diesel engines for many applications, including for the tractors manufactured at Suolahti, which itself has a transmission factory and a main assembly factory. Sam explains: “In the transmission factory we have a range of flexible manufacturing tools that machine the large castings that make up our transmissions. This is one of the few facilities in Finland that can machine these large castings, giving us a lot of flexibility to do different variations of transmission using the same raw material. That comes back into play in our assembly plant because one of the distinctive features of Valtra is the ‘built to order’ concept.”
The Valtra ‘built to order’ philosophy is one of the company’s key strengths allowing customers to design their own tractor. “We are the only company in the industry to offer ten different paint colours,” comments Sam. “Customers can pick their colour, transmission, hydraulics and trim level. The machining of our own castings and the assembly of our transmissions provide stability at the base so we can offer the flexibility to support a customised service.”
Valtra recently invested over seven million euros in a new R&D centre at Suolahti which boasts a 4000 square metre engineering centre, a specialised laboratory, measuring power and acoustics, chassis testing and design work. “This is the newest, most advanced R&D centre within AGCO, working to improve productivity, develop new features, and improve flow of product through our distribution channels,” says Sam.
Valtra recently introduced improvements to its T Series in order to make it more productive and versatile and the company has reacted to the trend towards diversification of farming practices by adding features that improve the suitability of the T Series for other industries. “We’re taking what has been an excellent series and adding capabilities, enabling the tractors to operate more efficiently. We are implementing new technologies, such as Auto Guide, which uses GPS satellite to steer the tractor in the field for straighter rows,” explains Sam.
Valtra conducts 40 per cent of its business in Northern Europe with its largest market being Finland. “Finland is a domestic market fostering a strong attitude to buy Finnish, which helps us,” says Sam. “And we believe some of our success in the other Nordic countries comes from local pride. We’re very committed to the Nordic market, but we also conduct 30 to 35 per cent of our business in Western Europe. Farm economy drives the wealth of nations – any discussion about world trade quickly turns to agriculture. The technology that underpins the market, the needs of the customers and even who those customers are, are constantly changing.
Continuing, he adds: “The factors that differentiate Valtra tractors tend to be associated with Finnish and Swedish values. This means clean lines and solid functionality with a no-frills approach to aesthetics. This Scandinavian design makes the tractor very attractive in other countries. Valtra tractors are lightweight and can operate at low temperatures allowing them to be used all year round, in forests and over snowy lakes. Much of the design is associated with our roots in Finland and Sweden.”
Valtra is strengthened by AGCO which, together with its two major competitors, supplies 75 to 80 per cent of the world with agricultural equipment. In thinking about future plans, Sam concludes: “AGCO brought strength in terms of technology, experience and leadership when Valtra was already succeeding. Our future is very bright and I think people will see great success from us.”
Products: Agricultural machinery
Sites: Finland and Brazil