Best Practice Representative

Best Practice Representative | Published September 12 2017


When most people think of Caterpillar, they picture big yellow machines but what we offer our customers goes well beyond bulldozers and diggers. For over 90 years, Caterpillar has provided sustainable solutions for our customers in a wide variety of markets. As our customers grow, and attitudes to digital technology evolve, we aim to be at the forefront of providing the services and solutions of tomorrow. 

With 2016 sales and revenues of $38.5 billion, Caterpillar is the world’s leading manufacturer of construction and mining equipment, diesel and natural gas engines, industrial gas turbines and diesel electric locomotives. Our businesses in the United Kingdom reflect the three key product segments in which we operate: Construction Industries, Resource Industries and Energy and Transportation. 

In 1951, Caterpillar chose the UK to build its first manufacturing facility outside the United States. Today, over 60 years later, we are a major inward investor and employ over 9,000 people at 19 facilities across the country, making the UK one of the largest centres of operations outside the US. From defence products manufactured in Shrewsbury, articulated trucks in Peterlee, marine engines in Wimborne, industrial engines in Peterborough and Stafford, a range of products for the railway infrastructure market manufactured across four UK sites, and generator sets manufactured in Northern Ireland, which provide back-up power to London hospitals and the City, Caterpillar touches most sectors of the UK economy. 

About 85% of our products manufactured in the UK are exported, which makes us one of the nation’s most significant exporters. It’s easy to see why Caterpillar has a vested interest in ensuring the Government understands the business issues regarding the UK’s withdrawal from the EU, and in seeing that a deal gets negotiated that supports our trade and growth ambitions. 

Caterpillar UK’s trading relationship with the EU is tightly interwoven, with complex pan-European supply chains and a diverse, skilled workforce, some of whom are from the EU, and contribute daily to the productivity, innovation and growth of our businesses. There are obvious challenges associated with the UK’s decision to leave the EU. Securing a future agreement that includes zero tariffs and allows frictionless trade is critical to Caterpillar for the future competitiveness of our business, and to enable us to serve our UK, EU and global customers. Any imposition of tariffs/duties would drive incremental costs and complexity into our sourcing actions and would impact our customers’ costs. 

Helping our customers to be more successful with our products and services has been the cornerstone of who we are since our founding more than nine decades ago, and it is a tradition that won’t change. Mark Dorsett, Caterpillar’s UK Country Director, is based in Peterborough, our largest facility in Europe. He is the first to say that people don’t always think of Caterpillar as high tech but we are. Did you know that Caterpillar was the first to introduce the world to autonomous vehicles in 1996 on our large mining trucks? 

The Government is currently reviewing policy and investment decisions to enable the UK to receive maximum economic benefit from driverless cars and connected autonomous vehicles. With over 500,000 connected assets, Caterpillar has the largest connected industrial fleet in the world, and our products, solutions and experience are helping to control costs. For example, statistics show over 90% of construction projects have cost overruns, of which 60% being avoidable or reduced with smart data in advance. 

Without technology, even the most skilled operator would have uneven surfaces and would take 18–36 months to train to deliver the perfectly flattened surface upon which to put the asphalt. Today, operators can access data from the office through the Global Positioning System (GPS) to make the bed and base of a road within a quarter inch of accuracy. 

Caterpillar has been focused on leading in innovation, providing our customers with the solutions they need. We have over 15,000 granted and pending patents worldwide as of July 2017 and invest nearly $2 billion a year in research and development. In the digital age, the world is transforming at a rapid pace, and that’s the same for Caterpillar customers and the industries we serve. We’re merging our expertise in iron with new and evolving digital capabilities. We are connecting entire fleets, and using this data to create solutions that help our customers grow and innovate their businesses while staying on top of, and reducing, costs. 

Peterborough is home to our Europe Research and Development Centre, one of three centres around the world, where our innovation and technology teams design and develop advanced engineering solutions to meet our global customer requirements. We are supported with the great links we have developed to world-class universities, including Loughborough and Imperial College, and through the Advanced Propulsion Centre. 

Technology needs human skills. With much of the public debate focused on skill shortages across engineering and manufacturing, we understand the importance of developing our own people at Caterpillar and ensuring we have a future pipeline of talent for our businesses. Caterpillar has nationally recognised apprenticeship programmes in place and our apprentices are themselves STEM ambassadors, going out to schools to promote the uptake of STEM subjects. 

However, we don’t stop there. We believe that bringing the excitement of engineering and manufacturing to young people needs to begin much earlier, and so our facilities work closely with primary schools, teachers and parents to do just that. Our purpose-built Caterpillar Learning and Inspiration Centre in Leicester, designed to get more young people into engineering and science, was opened in 2014 by the then-Education Secretary, Nicky Morgan MP. It offers half-day, hands-on learning experiences for children aged 7 and up, such as assembling digger parts, team-based manufacturing challenges and a factory tour. Students learn about the exciting career opportunities within STEM and meet our inspiring young STEM Ambassadors. 

Helping our customers be more successful with our technology, products and services than any competitor’s is Caterpillar’s goal. Our businesses in the UK are a key part of achieving that.