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Australian celebrates 50 years at John Deere

John Deere employee Laurie Wright has visited Moline in Illinois many times. But for many of the others on this trip from Asia-Pacific, where he works, it’s their first time touring Deere & Company world headquarters and factories.

Even though he is celebrating his 50th anniversary with Deere, Wright never gets tired of introducing the birthplace of Deere & Company and the “knowledge and passion shown by our people” to people in his corner of the world.

“Deere has been very innovative over the years,” the 69-year old said. “We make great products, and I’m passionate about getting these out there and into the customers’ hands. That’s me.”

Wright, who grew up in rural Victoria, works in Singapore as Deere’s manager of overseas construction operations. He says he serves John Deere dealers and customers in the Asia-Pacific markets and has worked out of Singapore for the past 20 years.

He started at just 19, closer to home in Australia. A neighbour who lived a kilometre away told him John Deere Lanz, a unit affiliated with John Deere’s German tractor manufacturing operation, was hiring, so he applied and was hired. His first job involved working in the Melbourne branch in the inventory management of service parts, ensuring the correct stock of parts was available to support Victorian tractors.

Since then, he has become what he calls a “jack of all trades”, serving in many different roles in many locations for Deere in Australia and now Singapore, on both the agricultural and turf and construction and forestry (C&F) sides of the business.

Essentially, Wright has been associated with Deere for most of the company’s history in that area of the world, and he does not plan to retire any time soon.

“Laurie has worked as a territory manager, territory customer support rep, product consultant, at a Deere dealership, in a factory environment. He’s unique in that regard to have that variety of experiences,” Dan Fitzpatrick, the sales director of the worldwide construction and forestry division of Hitachi Americas, C&F Asia-Pacific, Africa and Middle East, said. “He’s seen John Deere’s complete start-up of ag and construction and forestry in Australia.”

When Wright started, Australia did not have an independent, dedicated John Deere agricultural dealer network. Most dealers who sold Deere agricultural equipment were Caterpillar construction equipment dealers and some sales were conducted factory direct. Today, the dealer network is much stronger, he says.

Over the years, Wright worked at John Deere’s first factory in Sydney, and he remembers when Deere bought Chamberlain, an Australian tractor company. He witnessed the transitions that happened when Deere bought the Timberjack forestry equipment company and he went to Singapore to support Hitachi dealers in the region who became Deere C&F dealers in the early 1990s.

“Laurie’s experience and knowledge base is invaluable,” Fitzpatrick said. “He’s got a little bit of everything, from an understanding of our processes and systems to an understanding of dealer support and management and a deep understanding of the wide variety of markets he has worked in – you just don’t see that very often. And he applies that knowledge and skills to support customers like no one else does.”

Back in the hotel lobby in Moline, Wright says he enjoys spending time with his daughter and grandson in his off-work hours. He also enjoys scuba diving, golfing and “catching up with my mates”.

Fitzpatrick, who was Wright’s travel companion on this trip, joked that another one of Wright’s hobbies is getting to know the people who design and build Deere’s C&F equipment. Even though Wright makes only one or two trips to the US each year, whenever the pair go to Davenport works or Dubuque works in Iowa, the people there always seem to know him.

“I’ve realised it’s because he’s talking to them on the phone at all hours of the morning, Singapore time,” Fitzpatrick said. “Just catching up with our people on the other side of the world to find out what’s new with our products, or provide a few design suggestions he thinks might work better for customers in the Asia-Pacific.

“I am not quite sure when he actually sleeps, but these phone calls are something he truly enjoys.”
Wright smiles and shrugs.

“It’s all for the customers,” he said. “Trips like these are really eye-openers, too. Sometimes our customers don’t understand the size and scale of the company, so it’s a great experience for them to see how big Deere is. It’s rewarding for us to be a part of it.”

Source: John Deere (Corporate Communications)

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