Lewis Hamilton: My placement year at CLAAS in Germany

Lewis Hamilton, winner of the Claas Scholarship
Lewis Hamilton, winner of the Claas Scholarship

At the end of my second year, studying towards a Master’s degree in Agricultural Engineering, I was delighted to be awarded the CLAAS scholarship.

Incorporated within the scholarship was the opportunity to undertake an overseas placement working at the CLAAS headquarters in Harsewinkel, Germany.

The Carnival Parade in Harsewinkel, Germany

The Carnival Parade in Harsewinkel, Germany

This is where their combines, self-propelled forage harvesters and Xerion tractors are manufactured.

I arrived in Germany in October for the start of placement. I was placed as an intern into the Functional Testing Department of Advanced Development at CLAAS. The department tests the latest concepts for CLAAS Combine and Self-Propelled Forage Harvesters and my role was centred around the Combines. My previous experience with these was limited and therefore I was motivated to learn more about their operations and the systems used within them.

Whilst at CLAAS my roles have been ever changing, allowing me to experience a wide variety of positions and responsibilities within the company.

I initially supported the team in the department’s workshop with the preparation of test rigs and the installation of prototype systems. I progressed to the operation of the specialised equipment to perform a number of these tests myself. In addition, I also was involved in desk-based computational work on a project. I had to manage this project by myself, which was a great learning experience with unique challenges and rewards.

Whilst on placement, the company sent me on a number of training courses such as CAD design. It was great to be able to attend these courses, and this shows how much CLAAS values employee learning and development.

When applying for the CLAAS scholarship I thought that my year abroad would be entirely based in Germany, but I was lucky to spend a month in Spain with Combines in the field to test the functionality and see the comparisons between different systems. My time in Spain was unbelievable, and it was a delight to experience some Spanish culture. However, the sight of rain on my return to Germany was very welcome after working every day in over 30 degree heat for a month.

During my time on placement I’ve been exposed to the front line of development at CLAAS. This has been an eye-opening and rewarding experience for me as a young engineer. I have learnt a great deal and the opportunity to work alongside others in this industry has provided me with an invaluable insight into a global agricultural business.

Before coming to Germany, I had limited experience with the language but made it my goal to try to speak German. I was pleasantly surprised at the number of people I met who are bilingual and this is a real testament to the German people. When working in the department, many of my colleagues could speak English but availed from having a native English speaker to check pieces of work or emails. In return, they were very encouraging and helpful in advancing my German skills.

I also had the opportunity to explore some of the wonderful old cities and take in the stunning scenery which this country boasts. I also had the chance to experience German culture and the many local and national events. Most notable for me was the Carnival festival which is a parade full of floats and bands, this happens in many towns all across Germany.

My favourite event was the opportunity to visit Hannover in November and attend Agritechnica, the world’s largest agricultural machinery show. As an Agricultural Engineering student and a big machinery fan, a visit to the show is something I have wanted to do for a number of years. There is a large machinery presence, but also a range of other things including systems and component suppliers. At Agritechnica, I was overcome by the sheer scale, and it certainly surpassed my already high expectations. I would relish the chance to go again.

Having the opportunity to live in Germany, and work for CLAAS has been a real privilege. I would like to greatly thank Harper Adams and CLAAS for the wonderful experience that it has been.