The cat is not meowing, it's roaring

Chennai: A 1925 vintage 2-t crawler tractor gasoline engine in the reception area attracts visitors to the Caterpillar India's earthmoving equipment plant at Thiruvallur in Tamil Nadu. The company acquired the cute-looking machine from its Indian owner soon after it took over the plant. Perhaps that also signals the company's new strategy — a focus on smaller machines.

Some bit of history. The global earthmoving equipment major, $20.15-billion turnover Caterpillar Inc bought the erstwhile Hindustan Motors' earthmoving equipment division consisting of two plants (Thiruvallur and Pondicherry) for Rs 337 crore in 2001, and renamed it.

Small is actually big
Industry Players
Backhoe loaders
JCB India, Bharath Earth Movers (BEML), Telco Construction Equipment Company (Telcon), L&T Case Equipment, Caterpillar
BEML, Telcon, JCB India, L&T Komatsu. Volvo and Samsung
through imports.
Front end loaders
BEML, Caterpillar India, Telcon, L&T Komatsu and Volvo
Dumpers-25 t to 120 t
BEML, Caterpillar, Telcon and Volvo
BEML and L&T Komatsu
L&T Case, Greaves and Bitelli a Caterpillar company
Motor graders
L&T Komatsu, BEML and Volvo
Ingersoll Rand and Bitelli a Caterpillar company

Much has happened at Caterpillar India after that, albeit silently. The company managed the usual takeover pangs — downsizing and worker unrest (See: Caterpillar India downsizes management cadre). Aggravating the pain was the sudden fall in the demand for its giant yellow machines (dumpers and loaders) squeezing the company's bottomline.

It took some time for the workers and the executives at the 51,000-sq ft QS 9000-certified Thiruvallur plant to get into the American groove — informality and professionalism. "Earlier, junior officials had to stand while talking to seniors. But, today, they are offered a seat before any discussion takes place," says an official. It is also equally true that there is no room for laid-back attitude.

At the shop floor the layout was slightly changed to unlock additional space for new products. Early this year Caterpillar India shut down its plant in Pondicherry where it rolled out backhoe loaders — with Fermac technology — now been phased out.