Farm machinery maker celebrates new era with launch of new £20m headquarters
PUBLISHED: 15:21 16 October 2020 | UPDATED: 16:15 16 October 2020
A German farm machinery maker has underlined its commitment to the UK market with the unveiling of its striking new £20m headquarters in Suffolk.
Work on CLAAS UK’s impressive new 33,000sq m complex in Saxham, near Bury St Edmunds, began in November 2017 and has continued throughout the Brexit negotiations.
As UK prime minister Boris Johnson announced a stand-off in talks with the European Union over the shape of a Brexit trade deal on Friday, October 16 – increasing the odds on a ‘no-deal’ Brexit – the family-owned agricultural machinery manufacturer was pressing ahead with its plans.
CLAAS’s top figure, chairwoman of the firm’s supervisory board Cathrina Claas-Mühlhäuser, was there to officially open the building, which houses a 130-strong workforce. She is granddaughter of the firm’s founder, August, and daughter of Helmut, who ran the company – based in Harsewinkel – after him.
With many larger companies factoring in a ‘no-deal’ scenario, Trevor Tyrrell – who has presided over the project and was recently promoted to senior vice president of the group’s sales and service division – has already adopted a relaxed “bring it on” approach to Brexit.
“By supporting this major redevelopment and impressive new building, both the CLAAS Group and the Claas family have shown their commitment to CLAAS dealers, their customers and UK agriculture as a whole, and also to Bury St Edmunds and west Suffolk where we are now one of the largest employers,” said Mr Tyrrell.
The new 16.5 metre-high building – which occupies a prominent position by the A14 and is also the headquarters of CLAAS’s East Anglia dealer MANNS – was designed by BCR Infinity Architects of Cambridge and built by R G Carter Ltd.
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The complex incorporates a glass-fronted machinery showroom, offers and facilities and the latest in energy efficient systems with a passive solar design, a water harvester, a solar array and power from a neighbouring anaerobic digestion plant run by neighbouring farmer George Gittus.
The showroom will be an important alternative to national exhibitions at risk due to the pandemic, the company said, so a further field training and demonstration area is also being developed to complete a Customer Experience Centre on the site.
To the rear, a new 10-bay workshop complex for MANNS and a large 4,336m sq parts warehouse supports dealers throughout the UK and Ireland.
“The new building vastly improves the experience for customers and visitors from the UK, Ireland and around the world. It also enables CLAAS and MANNS to provide a superb working environment for their employees,” said Mr Tyrrell.
“Customers are welcome to use the new on-site Seasons Restaurant, where 70% of ingredients are locally sourced. The new offices, showrooms, modern parts logistics warehouse and more efficient workshop environment allow us to make far better overall use of the site, which will have an impact on the recruitment and retention of employees, in addition to a considerable improvement in health and safety procedures.”
The Saxham site is also home to the CLAAS Academy, which provides training for dealer sales, service and parts staff – as well as customer operator training.
A team of 11 staff provide more than 4,000 hours of training each year, both on-site and through remote online training programmes.
The CLAAS Group – which has a turnover of about £3.45bn – was founded more than 100 years ago and is still privately owned by the Claas family. It is one of the largest family-owned agricultural machinery manufacturers in the world, with 14 manufacturing plants making combine harvesters and forager harvesters around the globe employing more than 11,400 people.
In the UK it employs more than 100 people at Saxham and a further 300 throughout the UK and Ireland.
The MANNS dealer group has six dealerships throughout the eastern counties and employs 33 people. It was started by local farmer Bill Mann in the 1930s, who began importing CLAAS combines from Germany. The MANNS company moved to the site at Saxham during the 1950s and the previous headquarters building has been a landmark alongside the A14 for many years.
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