Lely robot assembly plant opens in Pella
By Jean Caspers-Simmet
Date Modified: 04/25/2012 9:35 PM
PELLA, Iowa —Toasting with fluted glasses of milk, Alexander van der Lely, CEO of Lely Group, and his 11-year-old son Laurens opened the company's new Pella production facility last week in front of 400 farmers, employees, Vermeer representatives and community members.
Lely robotic milkers for the North American market will be assembled at Pella using locally sourced parts, said Chad Huyser, director of Sales/Operations at Lely USA. It is Lely's first dairy production facility outside of its home in the Netherlands.
The 34,000 square feet of production space and 6,000 square feet of office space will provide ample area for other Lely departments such as technical and customer service and farm management support.
"It is with great pleasure that we are able to pay back the incredibly supportive community in Pella with our facility expansion, while also creating new jobs, more than 25 full-time positions within the first year of operation," said van der Lely.
Twenty years after its introduction, more than 12,500 Lely Astronaut milking robots have been sold and 1,000 operate in North America.
Lely also produces forage harvesting equipment, automated feeding systems, barn cleaners and is working on business concepts for energy-neutral operations in the dairy sector.
Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad thanked Lely for building its first North American dairy production facility in Pella.
Branstad said he was governor during the 1980s farm crisis when agriculture was the weakest part of the economy.
"I'm glad to be back as governor when agriculture is the strong part of the economy," Branstad said. "Our strong ag economy is linked to the people, our farmers and our great agribusiness companies like Lely and Vermeer and many others."
The new facility, constructed on Vermeer's campus at Pella, is owned by Vermeer and leased by Lely, said Peter Langebeeke, president of Lely USA.
Mary Andringa, CEO of Vermeer Corporation, said Lely and Vermeer have a great partnership.
"We believe that in working together in the forage industry we are better than what we would be separately," Andringa said.
Both firms have Dutch heritage.
"We're both family-owned companies," Andringa said. "We're both over 60 years old."
Vermeer and Lely started working together in 1989 when they signed an agreement to bring Lely mowers to the United States to be distributed by Vermeer dealers. In 1992 the companies signed an agreement to ship Vermeer equipment to Europe, the Middle East and Africa. In 2003 Vermeer brought in Lely cutter bars to build Lely mowers in Pella. In 2004 Vermeer started building Lely's red fertilizer spreaders and bringing Lely automatic milkers and parts to supply North American markets.
In 2008 Vermeer and Lely jointly purchased German forage equipment-maker Welger. In 2011 the two companies signed an agreement to build the new Lely facility at Pella for Lely USA headquarters and U.S. manufacturing. Groundbreaking was May 2011, and the company started moving into the new building in January.
Lely and Vermeer are focused on the cattle and dairy industry and the biomass market.
"We are shipping hundreds of balers from the Vermeer/Lely joint venture manufacturing entity in Germany to China for the biomass industry," Andringa said.