Caterpillar Inc. will build its new small-track tractor and mini-hydraulic excavator plant in Athens, Ga. The $200-million project, first reported in November 2011, will begin during the first quarter of this year, with manufacturing expected to begin in late 2013. Caterpillar indicated it expects to hire up to 1.400 workers for the operation, which it expects will take up to five years to reach full production.
“We are making a series of significant investments around the world to position Caterpillar to maintain its leadership position,” said Caterpillar chairman and CEO Doug Oberhelman stated, announcing the construction plan.
The new plant will produce large fabrications, paint components and parts, and complete final assembly for both product lines. An on-site product distribution center for small track-type tractors and mini hydraulic excavators produced at the plant is also part of the project.
Building the new plant is part of Caterpillar’s plan to relocate manufacturing of its small-track tractors and mini-hydraulic excavators nearer to the consumer market. Currently, those products are produced in Sagami, Japan. (That plant will be converted to a “high-tech component facility,” Caterpillar said.)
In November, Mary Bell, the vice president of Caterpillar’s Building Construction Products division, explained that the markets for these products has changed in recent decades, and that the majority of Cat’s customers for them are in North America and Europe. "Producing these machines at a North American location will put us in the best possible position to serve our customers in the building construction industry," Bell said.
The Georgia plant will become Caterpillar’s global center for small track tractor manufacturing, and it will produce mini hydraulic excavators for customers in North and South America. Also, the company plans to export partially assembled mini excavator base units to a European plant for final assembly.