(Bloomberg) -- The clanking, hulking factory in a rural patch of northwest Germany that produces 22-ton combine harvesters has lately been turning out machines with a technical edge. Claas Group, a 104-year-old, family-owned manufacturer of harvesters, threshers and tractors, is hunting for revenue by outfitting machines with sensors, cameras and software to help its products stand out amid slumping demand.
Low commodity prices have hurt farm equipment demand globally, and Claas does not expect sales to increase from the $4 billion made over 2016. Since combines only see action six weeks a year, Claas is trying to sell software as well as machinery: for the past year a package of GPS networking, grain-load sensors and smartphone software to choreograph the lumbering dance of combines and 40-foot wagons that haul away grain. Based on where the threshers are in the field and how full the loading wagons are, drivers can pinpoint where they’re needed next with a glance at a screen, saving time and fuel.
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