Association of Equipment Manufacturers

AEM Hall of Fame

Current Inductees

DeereDipl.-Ing. Dr. h. c. Helmut Claas

Chairman of the Shareholder’s Committee & Member of the Supervisory Board, CLAAS KGaA mbH

Helmut Claas, an engineer by education and with in-depth and hands-on farming experience, has dedicated his professional life and engineering talents to agricultural crop production sustainability. He joined CLAAS in 1957, was named managing director of technology in 1962, and later became CEO. He initiated or co-designed many CLAAS innovations, including the DOMINATOR Series combine harvesters, JAGUAR forage harvesters and XERION tractors.

Much of CLAAS’s success can be attributed to Helmut Claas’s leadership and belief that progress comes only if companies are willing to invest in often uncharted territory for the sake of advancing equipment technology and innovation. He also recognized the importance of building coalitions, oftentimes with competitors, for the good of the industry. Under his leadership, the company has successfully established manufacturing facilities in many world regions, generating total turnover of approximately $5 billion with about 10,000 employees worldwide. Founded by his father, August Claas, 2013 marks the company’s 100th year in business.

A firm believer in fostering development of the next generation, Helmut Claas established the CLAAS Foundation in 1999, which promotes education and research and development in agricultural technology and related engineering and economic disciplines.

In recognition of his contributions, he has received honorary doctorates and professorship from prestigious universities in Germany, Great Britain, Russia, Hungary and Bulgaria. His awards and other high decorations include the Profesor-Niklas-Medal of the German Ministry of Agriculture, Order of Merit of the French Ministry of Agriculture, and Order of Merit of the British Association of Agricultural Engineers.

DeereRay O’Connor

President & CEO, Topcon Positioning Group

Ray O’Connor joined Topcon in 1993 as the only employee dedicated to laser products. O’Connor had one goal: automate the construction industry. Today, with the joining of imaging, GNSS, scanning, and software technology, there are few construction sites or farms that do not use automated positioning. To meet the global requirement of positioning automation, he developed a ring of technology centers where the brightest geospatial engineers in North America, Europe, Asia and Australia create the next generation of products.

O’Connor mandates that every product for every market segment supports the theme of “time”: saving it by increasing productivity, minimizing the disruptive footprint of a project and reducing use of renewable and non-renewable resources.

Recognizing the importance of educating future generations of end users, O’Connor helped implement the Topcon Educational Partnership Program, which provides a full range of educational tools to more than 500 universities and associations worldwide.

O’Connor is the 2006 recipient of Toshiba Corporation’s Business Performance Award (the first recipient of non-Japanese descent) for “his superior leadership and performance.” In 2012, Pompeii, Italy honored him for supporting “preservation and renovation” of the landmark city; the University of Naples awarded him an honorary doctorate degree for his efforts. O’Connor also received an honorary doctorate from The Dublin Institute of Technology for his “global leadership in precision measurement technology.” Geospatial World magazine named him Business Leader of the Year in 2013.

DeereFriedrich W. Schwing, Sr.

Founder, Schwing GmbH

Friedrich Schwing, Sr., founder of Schwing GmbH, has more than 1,200 patents relating to innovations in material handling and construction equipment. Most notably, the Schwing all-hydraulic, twin-cylinder concrete pump design powers the majority of modern concrete pumps. This invention established a new method for moving concrete through a pipeline resulting in structures that could not have been built prior to the modern concrete pump. His invention resulted in construction efficiency without the manual labor and with extraordinary speed of placement never before achieved by other methods.

His engineering expertise was not only aimed at product performance but also operator safety. Schwing helped establish the American Concrete Pumping Association (ACPA), which has safety as a key focus. Schwing’s corporate policy directed resources towards safety guidelines, safety seminars, safety materials and hundreds of hours of donated employee time on industry committees and boards.

Schwing led by example with a work ethic and modesty that meant he wore the oldest suit and drove a 20-year-old car. His leadership style was to delegate functions better left to his employees, so he could pursue solutions through engineering. Schwing also had a penchant for sustainability before it was popular. Another of his innovations was a ready-mix reclaimer introduced in the 1980s to convert returned concrete to its components of sand, aggregate, cement and water. This system provides 100-percent recycling of these materials for economic and environmental benefits, especially less water use and excess concrete dumping.

The AEM Hall of Fame

  • Recognizes, celebrates and preserves the history of outstanding leaders in the off-road equipment industry.
  • Seeks to create a wider public understanding and appreciation of the industry's role in global economic and social prosperity, not only in the past but for the future.
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