Versatile to move tillage equipment work to Winnipeg

Buhler to halt production at Vegreville next fall

Versatile’s Fury high-speed compact disc in transport mode. (Versatile-ag.com)

The company that makes Versatile tractors and tillage equipment is set to consolidate those product lines at its plant in Winnipeg, pulling the work out of its plant in east-central Alberta.

Farm equipment maker Buhler Industries announced Friday it will halt production at the former Ezee-On manufacturing plant at Vegreville, Alta. in September 2021 and set up that plant’s tillage equipment production lines in Winnipeg.

Products to be made in Winnipeg starting next year include Versatile tandem and offset discs, vertical tillage and high-speed compact discs.

The tillage production line will be set up in the Winnipeg plant’s former component staging and storage area, a move Buhler said will improve the overall plant’s efficiency but also allow the existing tractor assembly lines to step up production by “capitaliz(ing) on existing resources and economies of scale.”

Buhler said demand for its Versatile Fury high-speed compact disc units has “drastically increased” in the past three years, largely from markets in the U.S.

The company also plans to introduce an updated Versatile Viking vertical tillage unit next year and said it expects much of the demand for that tool to come from the U.S. as well.

Making those product lines in Winnipeg “puts them significantly closer to those key markets, reducing logistics time and costs,” the company said, adding it expects “no delays in product delivery” during the move.

Sales of “legacy” tillage tools, including tandem and offset discs under the Versatile and Farm King brands, will continue, Buhler said.

Versatile’s main Canadian parts distribution warehouse, next to the Winnipeg factory, will now handle distribution of tillage parts, a move it said will improve access to an increased parts supply.

Buhler said it will also make more tillage parts available through its U.S. distribution centres at Blair, Nebraska, just north of Omaha, and at West Memphis in Arkansas. The West Memphis warehouse, starting Tuesday (Dec. 1), will be a “primary distribution point” for Versatile service parts.

The decision to halt production at Vegreville marks Buhler’s third such consolidation this year, after closing its Fargo, North Dakota plant in September and moving that work to its plant at Willmar, Minnesota — which in turn was slated earlier this month to close in early 2021.

The Willmar plant’s work is to be then moved north to Buhler’s other major manufacturing plant at Morden, Man.

The company didn’t say Friday what it plans to do with the Vegreville facility after production ends there. Buhler has owned the plant since 2011, when it bought the Ezee-On farm equipment manufacturing business from TerraVest Income Fund.

Ezee-On had made air drills, air carts, offset and tandem discs, post pounders and front-end loaders. The plant began producing tillage equipment for sale under the Versatile and Farm King brands a few months after the acquisition.

Running multiple assembly lines is also nothing new for the Winnipeg plant. Buhler, which bought the Versatile business from CNH in 2000, noted the facility’s previous “long history” making equipment such as swathers, combines, sprayers and cultivators along with its flagship tractors. — Glacier FarmMedia Network

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Dave Bedard

Editor, Daily News, Glacier FarmMedia Network. A Saskatchewan transplant in Winnipeg.

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