Caterpillar Upgrades Room and Pillar Mining Equipment Manufacturing in Pennsylvania

Caterpillar is updating and upgrading room and pillar mining equipment manufacturing facilities in Houston, Penn. The facility, located south of Pittsburgh, currently manufactures continuous miners used in underground coal and soft rock mining, and it is being readied to manufacture the Cat® room and pillar coal transportation products now made in Pulaski, Va. Additionally, the Cat HW300 Highwall Miner, now built in Beckley, W. Va., will be assembled in the Houston facility. The facility updates will be completed in third quarter.

Investment in these mining machines, which came to Caterpillar in the acquisition of Bucyrus in 2011, includes more than the facility upgrades in Houston. Caterpillar continues to conduct significant research and development directed to new products and technology.

“There’s no doubt that the underground mining segment is a key component of Caterpillar’s growth strategy, and we’re putting all the building blocks in place now to ensure our underground program is everything our dealers and

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customers need it to be,” said Paul Mulley, Product Manager for room and pillar and the highwall miner. “We’re funding programs that will create long term facility, product and customer benefits. Even as the updates to the facility are made, we have the industry’s best engineering talent working on new products, we’re integrating proven Cat components into many models, and we’re pursuing new technologies that customers have been asking for.”

The Houston facility upgrades are substantial and will first and foremost address manufacturing and assembly areas.  Jim Johnston, Facility Manager for all Caterpillar room and pillar manufacturing locations, explains: “Our changes will improve work flow and provide our employees with a brighter environment, and we’re physically separating manufacturing from assembly areas to help ensure the highest quality. New flooring surfaces in the plant will also promote contamination control. In addition, new pre delivery inspection areas and a test track are planned. All of these changes will help us deliver the highest quality products built for high productivity and long life.”

The Houston facility already uses the Caterpillar Production System, proven to drive quality and efficiency in Caterpillar plants around the world. Additionally, all new products are being developed using virtual validation tools that help ensure ergonomic, efficient and safe assembly procedures.  On the line, the team uses new visual management tools that facilitate assembly and help ensure global Caterpillar standards are being met.

Growing underground

“Our goal is to deliver underground mining equipment that provides the best value for customers worldwide. We are taking advantage of a slow period to make significant changes to our business and to position Caterpillar well for the future. We are also working with our dealers to be able to provide our underground customers the unparalleled support they expect from Caterpillar,” said Robert Droogleever, segment manager for all underground products at Caterpillar. “Being the best means not only developing new products and technologies, but also making continuous product improvements to the models we currently offer—and, yes, making some difficult decisions required to develop into a stronger business.”

The Caterpillar portfolio of underground products also includes longwall and hard rock mining equipment. Cat longwall products, such as the new EL1000 Shearer, are designed by the talent in the engineering Center of Excellence located in Lünen, Germany. The hard rock segment is also hard at work on new product introductions, including the rock cutting head that was announced at MINExpo 2012.

In addition to the Houston, Penn. plant, Caterpillar manufactures underground products in plants located in Australia, Germany, China, Thailand and the Czech Republic.