Kubota, the Japanese agricultural and construction machinery manufacturer, aims to play an even more important role in Europe in the future. This is reflected in the move to commission a tractor production facility in the French commune of Bierne. The large tractors manufactured here have been specifically developed down to the last detail to meet the demands of the European market in co-operation with suppliers. SOLVARO, the specialist for air grilles, supplies no fewer than nine parts for the Kubota M7001 following an extensive joint development project.
Joint solutions for sufficient air supply
When a Japanese iron foundry was established in 1890, this was to be the beginning of a global success story. Kubota now has a presence in 110 countries worldwide and generates an annual turnover of around EUR 8.7 billion through the sale of construction machinery, tractors, mowers and internal combustion engines. So far, its main markets for tractors have been Asia and the U.S. However, the construction of a tractor factory in Bierne, France, means that the European market has become a stronger focus of the globalization strategy. The development center of the Japanese company was working at full speed before the first tractor rolled off the production line in France.
In order to comply with European standards, suppliers in a variety of trades were involved in the development of the new tractor from an early stage. This made it possible to benefit from the engineering and production expertise of companies such as component specialist SOLVARO, based in Kirchheim, whose air grilles will cool engines with an output of up to 170 hp. The technical team at SOLVARO were aware that an attractive design was equally important for European farmers as modern technology and high-quality workmanship. Many people consider their farm’s tractor to be something of an advertisement for their business.
This is where many years of experience in the deep drawing of perforated metal came into play. Thermoformed parts give the bonnet – the visual centerpiece of a tractor – an especially striking appearance. For the Kubota M7001, a total of six parts integrated into the plastic bonnet give the vehicle a distinctive face. The components feature a Hv 2–2.5 perforation, providing excellent stability despite an air passage level of 64%.
Development costs under control
Several prototypes of each component are usually necessary before series production, and this was also the case for the air grilles for Kubota. In such a process, the design is optimized, assemblies are fine-tuned and different materials are used before field tests reveal areas where finishing touches are necessary. "Tooling costs can quickly accumulate during this stage," explains Gerhard Bullinger, Managing Director of SOLVARO. "In order to save time and money, we rely on alternative techniques when producing our prototypes."
This may also lead to a solution for series production, as in the case of three exhaust cover parts for the Japanese manufacturer. When bending parts that are 1.5 mm thick with a Rv 5–7 perforation, there is no need at all for an expensive thermoforming tool. Instead, they are bent using a more affordable tool that is specially designed for the job. In order to withstand dirt, stone impacts and all types of weather, all parts are coated and supplied ready for assembly. "The result of our work on the Kubota M7001 shows us how important synergies and efficiency are when it comes to intensive cooperation with our customers," notes Bullinger, stressing the added value of close, collaborative customer relationships.