During the same period, Caterpillar implemented other efforts to ensure its existence well into the future. Diversification became a focus with the company analysing how it could meet the impending needs of a global society by 2050. A series of acquisitions followed to broaden Caterpillar’s products and solutions.As the world became increasingly dependent on technology, Caterpillar, too, followed that path. In 2001, the company introduced ACERT™ technology with its engines. ACERT™ was developed to reduce pollutants and waste emissions while sustaining engine performance, durability and productivity.
Caterpillar branched out further between 2006 and 2013 making several more acquisitions, including: Progress Rail, Electro-Motive Diesel, Walter Berg AB, Bucyrus, MWM and Shandong SEM Machinery Co Ltd. Also during this time, Caterpillar implemented several new advancements in its plant and equipment such as its hydraulic hybrid technology and electric drive and variable transmission systems. These developments boosted efficiency and safety, particularly, increased fuel economy.
Improved fuel economy and safety are especially important during the bottom of an economic cycle for equipment buyers who are seeking to keep costs down.
Where to now?
According to Caterpillar’s current chairman and chief executive officer Doug Oberhelman, the company faced a tough year in 2015. However, Oberhelman is steadfast in his view that Caterpillar will emerge from the current downturn stronger than before.
“Our product quality continues to improve and is as strong as I’ve ever seen it,” Oberhelman said.
He said the company has implemented its Lean manufacturing policy throughout its operations, which has involved addressing the root cause of delays, inefficiencies and defects.
“We’ve already seen an up to 95 per cent reduction in internal defects per unit and improvements in warranty, and we anticipate substantial improvements as we further deploy Lean.”
“The capital expenditures we’ve made over the last few years mean our plants are modern, and our machinery and equipment are up to date.”
“We continue to invest in new products and technologies, maintaining research and development spending throughout the downturn.”
Oberhelman added Caterpillar’s research and development spending (as a percentage of sales) was the highest it’s been in more than a decade. He said the company’s current investments, coupled with its Lean manufacturing strategy, meant it was well placed to handle increased demand when the market begins to rebound.
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