John DeereBy Mike Schmidt, AEM Industry Advisor Editor

When the opportunity to make an impact presented itself, Deere & Company and its employees didn’t hesitate.

The longtime AEM member company and prominent equipment manufacturer recently teamed up with the UAW, IAM, Iowa Department of Homeland Security and Illinois Manufacturers’ Association in an effort to produce protective face shields for healthcare workers in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Our employees wanted to do more,” said David Ottavianelli, director of labor relations for the company’s Moline, Illinois-based operations. “They wanted to help out the front-line healthcare professionals. They are our neighbors, and some are even part of our families. It’s been amazing to see the desire to help, and then to step up to the plate and make a real difference.”

For more information and resources on COVID-19, visit the COVID-19 section on the AEM website

In the first week of production at the John Deere Seeding Moline plant, the company has already produced and delivered over 25,000 shields. The face shields will be delivered to 16 U.S. Deere factories in eight states, as well as the company's U.S. Deere-Hitachi factory for local distribution.

Ultimately, said Ottavianelli, the goal is to address an immediate need for face shields in communities where Deere factories are located, with an additional 200,000 set to be produced at some in the not-too-distant future.

“The leaders in each of our factory locations have been in constant communication with healthcare organizations in their respective areas, and these organizations have expressed an ongoing need for PPE,” he continued. “We thought this was something we could help with, and those conversations and personal connections led to action.”

As part of its efforts to produce PPE, Deere is using an open-source face shield design from the University of Wisconsin. In addition, the company is relying on a wide range of skills, expertise and innovation from both its partners and substantial employee base.

“Our manufacturing and supply management teams, along with our production and maintenance employees, the UAW, and our partners have worked tirelessly to ensure we could lend our support and protect our healthcare workers during this crisis,” said John May, chief executive officer of Deere & Company. “By working closely with the communities where our employees live and work, we can help support the needs we've identified close to home and, as the project expands, address additional, urgent needs across the country.”

Deemed an essential “essential workplace” and allowed to continue to run its factories throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Deere has continually made protecting company employees its top priority.

The company is currently engaged in the process of implementing employee screening for when its workforce arrives to its facilities. Deere has also provided employees with additional PPE, issued social distancing guidelines and invested in enhanced cleaning and sanitation.

“We’re extremely proud of the measures we’ve taken to safeguard our employees’ physical, financial and emotional well-being,” said Ottavianelli. “Bottom line is we’re providing an environment where employees are protected.”

The production of thousands of protective face shields is just one of many initiatives the company and its employees have executed in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. Additional efforts include:

  • PPE donations to health care facilities
  • A 2:1 employee match program encouraging donations to local food banks and the American Red Cross
  • Production of approximately 18,000 protective face shields for use by factory employees
  • Employee volunteerism efforts to sew cloth masks for community members along with a match from the John Deere Foundation for the time invested in this volunteer activity
  • The launch of a COVID-19 innovations site to share open-source specifications for related projects, including 3D-printed clips to affix face shields to protective bump caps

“We’re so proud of our employees,” said Ottavianelli. “They’re the true stars of our efforts.”

To learn more about AEM’s efforts to support the equipment manufacturing industry, visit the COVID-19 section on the AEM website. If you have questions or need to get a hold of AEM staff, please e-mail our Response Team at

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