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Seguin plant builds 25,000th engine

By Melissa Crowe
Aug. 18, 2012 at 3:18 a.m.
Updated Aug. 19, 2012 at 3:19 a.m.

An inside view of the Seguin Caterpillar plant where 1,400 people are employed to assemble engines for excavators that are built in the company's Victoria plant.

SEGUIN - Along a quarter-mile production line, the heavy duty muscle behind Caterpillar's hydraulic ground movers takes life.

A crew of the 1,400 employees at Caterpillar Inc.'s Seguin plant installs crank shafts, fuel systems and other components at rapid-fire, as engine blocks roll with excruciating precision, timed to the second, down the line.

Jim Lock, operations manager at the Seguin Caterpillar plant, stops by a work station to check the progress.

"Every station is supposed to be two minutes," he said, as the green light flashed and the engine moved on to another of the 136 stations in the plant.

By the end of the quarter-mile journey, the signature Cat-yellow engines are swept out the door, packaged and shipped across the world.

The plant assembles 15- and 18-liter engines on the C15 line. The newest products are the 11- and 13-liter engines, called C9 and C13, which become the force behind the hydraulic excavator built in Victoria.

Bridget Young, a media relations representative for Caterpillar Inc., said the C9 engine will be fully transitioned by the end of the year.

Lock said Caterpillar broke ground on the Seguin plant in January 2009. It opened for business June 4, 2010.

The town's location, on Interstate 10 near Interstate 35, and its easily accessibility to the ports of Houston and Corpus Christi give it a prime location for exporting.

In just over two years, the plant has produced more than 25,000 engines, of which about 60 percent are exported, Young said.

Lock said the production style encourages maximum efficiency. The Caterpillar Processing System uses visual indicators at each station to show progress, efficiency and validation.

Lock said all engines are built on demand. One will not enter the production line until someone makes an order.

"Victoria will signal when a tractor is down the line and we'll send an engine," Lock said. "It's pull-trigger delivery."

He said both Seguin and Victoria's plants will keep very little inventory onsite, about enough materials for two days of work at all time.

"We had a good start up here," Lock said. "We've worked very well. Our policy is to treat people right."

He said the Seguin plant has had a positive impact on the local economy, and there are opportunities for spin-off businesses: paint suppliers, distributors and such.

"For every one job we create, there are five in the community," Lock said.

Related stories:

Victoria's Caterpillar plant revs up production, click HERE

Victoria College, Caterpillar team up for training, click HERE

Caterpillar plant means big business for other companies, click HERE



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