Hitachi Construction Machinery - North America
Celebrating 30 Years of an Unbeatable Partnership
July 23, 2018

Deere-Hitachi continues to provide outstanding quality and superior customer value.

When Deere & Company and Hitachi Construction Machinery Co. Ltd. created a 50/50 joint venture in 1988 called Deere-Hitachi Construction Machinery Corporation, they established an unbeatable partnership.

Utilizing united manufacturing facilities and integrated marketing and parts distribution, the two companies take the “best of both parent companies” to provide more value to customers by producing high-quality products backed by a robust dealer network. Since the start of operations as a joint venture 30 years ago, Deere-Hitachi has manufactured more than 55,000 hydraulic excavators for the North, Central and South American markets.

“The 30-year Deere-Hitachi partnership is unlike any other joint venture in the industry, and is a testament to the longstanding mutual respect and dedication of our teams,” said Jon Chase, president of Deere-Hitachi. “Combining the strength of Hitachi’s world-leading hydraulic excavator technology with the resources and might of the 180-year-old John Deere brand, the alliance produces excavators for the world’s best customers.”

Origins of the partnership

The relationship between Deere and Hitachi dates back to the 1960s, when the two companies began collaborating with each other. That bond was formalized in 1983 when they signed an original equipment manufacturer (OEM) supply agreement for construction excavators.

As the North American excavator market continued to grow throughout the 1980s, Deere and Hitachi created Deere-Hitachi Construction Machinery Corporation in Kernersville, N.C. to reduce logistics costs and improve response times to market demands. Excavator track and main frames were manufactured in Japan and then shipped to Kernersville, where the machine fronts were fabricated and the machine was assembled.

Success with the “front” manufacturing strategy led to more than 10,000 units being fabricated and assembled by 1998. To build growth, a “Base USA” strategy is implemented on two models for both brands. Machines are fabricated, painted and assembled complete from the ground up. Today the facility produces conventional Hitachi and Deere 13- to 47-metric-ton world-class hydraulic excavators.

This approach was so successful that since 1998, two additional companies with respective manufacturing facilities were established: Deere-Hitachi Specialty Products (DHSP) in Langley, British Columbia, Canada in 1998; and Deere-Hitachi Máquinas de Construção do Brasil S.A. (DHB) in Indaiatuba, São Paulo, Brazil in 2011.

Kernersville factory

The over 1-million-square-foot Deere-Hitachi manufacturing facility in Kernersville, N.C. brings together the latest in technological innovation and a skilled workforce of over 800 employees.

Operations are housed in two facilities: the Main Campus and the East Campus. The Main Campus is where all the welding, machining, plate processing and paint operations take place, while the East Campus focuses on assembly and logistic operations. Together both campuses occupy 145 acres.

The state-of-the-art factory uses high quality materials, advanced welding robotics, CNC machining centers, plasma plate-cutting machines and cranes capable of transporting as much as 25 tons. A lean manufacturing system combined with a thorough quality assurance process enables the facility to produce made-to-order machines with a quick time to market.

Culture of safety and quality

One of the drivers to Deere-Hitachi’s manufacturing success has been its commitment to safety and quality.

In 1998, the company adopted a safety program that is built on the principle that every accident can be prevented. As a result, Deere-Hitachi broke its own record in 2018 of more than six million hours (four years and counting) without a lost-time injury.

Its quality program, which mimics the safety program, is built on the similar philosophy that all defects can be prevented. In addition, Deere-Hitachi has implemented a culture of DHLean and Kaizen, which means “change for the better” and is one of the company’s core values. This approach to lean manufacturing and continuous improvement is one of the main reasons why the facility is able to maintain its “steel to real” process, in which the plant produces a complete machine in eight days.

John Deere and Hitachi commemorated the 30-year milestone this spring with an employee and parent company celebration day. More than 1,500 attendees including employees, family members and guests participated in the event.

At a Glance: Deere-Hitachi Construction Machinery Corp.

  • 123,561 m2(1.33 million ft.2) total operational space
  • 13- to 47-metric-ton models produced at the plant
  • 8 days for a machine to go from “steel to real”
  • 4 Deere-Hitachi core values: Safety, Quality, Integrity, Kaizen