Caterpillar starts production; workforce reaches 185


July 11, 2012 at 2:11 a.m.
Updated July 12, 2012 at 2:12 a.m.

With the first employees hired and initial machines coming off the line, things continue moving forward for Victoria's hydraulic excavator plant.

Chris Heitzmann, Caterpillar's human resources manager, spoke Wednesday at the Victoria Chamber of Commerce's monthly luncheon. There, he updated people on the Victoria plant.

The company has more than 185 employees working, he said, 75 percent local hires. The plan is to have about 800 employees by 2015.

Heitzmann said the first four excavators were completed and shipped in June, while two more awaited final touches before going out. While those initial excavators come in at 36 tons, the plant will eventually offer seven models, ranging from 12 to 49 tons.

"They're all pretty good-size pieces of equipment," he said, noting the plant would ship mainly throughout North America.

As time continued, Heitzmann said the number of machine frames going on the line would increase from two per week, to four, to one a day and so on.

"We're really trying to get lean and mean about how we manufacture these big pieces of equipment, so we have purpose-built facilities that are built to be very efficient in building one type of equipment, and building a lot of them really fast," he said.

Randy Vivian, the chamber's president and CEO, said he invited Caterpillar to speak so the company could tell its story. He said it was exciting to have the company in Victoria, and people wanted to know more about what was happening at the plant.

That was evidenced by the large crowd who remained, even after the luncheon went a few minutes past 1 p.m.

"Any time you have a meeting that goes overtime and no one leaves, that's a sign of a good meeting," Vivian said.

Mary Sue Koontz-Nelson, who attended Wednesday's event, said she was glad for the update. Heitzmann's presentation was informative and included all the information she needed, she said.

"It's extraordinary," she said of the ongoing project. "We, as citizens of the Coastal Bend area, should be very grateful. This is huge."



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