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Caterpillar Forest Products Adds Eco-Friendly Assembly Building at Georgia Headquarters

Caterpillar Forest Products

Caterpillar Forest Products in LaGrange, Ga., continues to grow as more fabrication and assembly of purpose-built forestry machines is transferred from the Caterpillar plant in Aurora, Ill. This move supports a 2005 decision to consolidate the manufacturing of all forestry products in facilities dedicated to forestry.
Assembly of all Cat® forest machines (FMs), wheel skidders and both Cat and Prentice track feller bunchers has been moved into a new building constructed at the 73-acre headquarters site. The move opened up floor space in the original building to transfer more fabrication work from Aurora and outside suppliers.
“We have been aggressively moving assembly and manufacturing work to LaGrange for the past five years, and we reached a point where we needed additional manufacturing space. This led to the construction of the new assembly building,” said Matt Keeley, operations and supply chain manager for the Forest Products Group.
The strategy benefits several Caterpillar divisions. “Moving forestry machines out of Aurora allows that facility to focus on construction and excavating products and gives us greater flexibility with our purpose-built forestry products,” Keeley said.
The new building was designed and constructed in accordance with LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification standards. Developed by the U.S. Green Building Council, LEED certification promotes sustainability in five key areas: site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection and indoor environmental quality.
“Caterpillar Forest Products is one of the first companies to go for LEED certification in the design, construction and operation of an industrial building,” Keeley said. “LEED standards make good business sense and good sense for the environment. The new space is very efficient, environmentally friendly and safe for employees.”
The building was constructed using on-site and local materials with a high-recycled content. Even the steel girders were manufactured from recycled material. “Using recycled aggregates or fill from another part of our facility made the cost of the building more economical,” Keeley said. “And 75% of construction waste — asphalt, concrete and soil — was recycled.”
The interior is open and light; clear panels along the top of the walls allow natural light. Other features include high efficiency heating and air conditioning systems, low flow plumbing fixtures, hot-on-demand water heaters and an oil/water separator to reduce waste and hauling costs.
The machine wash bay uses recycled water and is located outside the building to reduce the humidity inside the building. A “tank farm” — six 19,000 liter tanks to store oil, fuel, antifreeze and other bulk fluids — is also located outside the building. “The impact on the environment is much less with the tank farm. We draw our fluids right out of the tanks, instead of using portable containers and drums that can become an environmental hazard,” he said.
The company also took a fresh approach to the layout of the interior. “A typical assembly building would have an anchored rail or chain system to move machines from station to station. Other than the pillars supporting the roof and the cranes overhead, our building is wide open with a smooth floor. Air dollies are used to move machines,” Keeley explained. “This gives us a lot of flexibility. If we need more machines on the line one day and fewer the next, it’s not a problem. Long term, if we decided to turn the assembly line 90 degrees or add a line, it would be easy to reconfigure the space because 95% of the footprint is usable and there are no anchors to work around.”
The work area is also remarkably quiet for an assembly plant. “It’s very quiet in there! We still require hearing protection, but it’s actually similar to an office environment except when we have to start up a machine to move it,” he said.
Assembly operations in the new building are completely up and running; moving fabrication of large FM components from Aurora to LaGrange is scheduled to be complete by the end of the first quarter 2010. When this phase is done, all forestry fabrication and assembly will be consolidated in three plants dedicated to forest products: FM swing machines, wheel skidders and track feller bunchers in LaGrange; loaders, track and wheel harvesters and harvester heads, slashers and delimbers in Prentice, Wisc.; and wheel feller bunchers, felling heads, forwarders, site prep tractors, rotary axes and stump grinders in Owatonna, Minn.
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Caterpillar Forest Products is a leading manufacturer and worldwide marketer of timber harvesting, millyard, road-building and land management equipment. Products are marketed under the Caterpillar®, Cat®, Prentice™ and CTR™ brand names through a global independent dealer network. The company operates plants in the Americas, Asia and Europe.
Cat Forest Products is a division of Caterpillar Inc., the world’s leading manufacturer of construction and mining equipment, diesel and natural gas engines and industrial gas turbines.
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