Caterpillar has officially inaugurated its new parts distribution facility, near Johannesburg, Gauteng. The 60 000 m2 facility consolidates two smaller parts distribution sites – Linbro Park and Isando – and offers several advantages, including enabling the company to work more efficiently, while increasing its capacity to provide unmatched parts availability to customers across Africa.
The facility will serve more than 10 000 customers in 11 countries and will stock more than 110 000 different parts to service machines in the region. Caterpillar started operations in May and, of the 168 people currently employed, 60% comprise permanent staff while 40% are agency staff.
“Caterpillar’s investment in a new and more efficient parts distribution facility demonstrates its deep commitment to customers in Africa,” noted Caterpillar Group president for customer and dealer support Rob Charter at the inauguration on Thursday.
He highlighted that the facility, the largest parts distribution facility in the company’s industry in Africa, is one of 21 of its kind in the world, and the first on the continent.
Caterpillar builds and supplies construction and mining equipment, as well as diesel and natural gas engines, industrial turbines and diesel-electric locomotives. It also provides financial services such as rental equipment.
“Our dealers sell our equipment and provide the boots on the ground for maintenance and service. We have over 35 000 active machines and engines operating throughout the Southern African region,” noted Charter.
He added that, to keep machines and engines running smoothly, operators needed replacement parts as quickly as possible on the job site.
Meanwhile, Charter noted that Caterpillar’s investment in the new facility also forms part of the company’s previously announced, with its independent dealers and the Caterpillar Foundation, commitment to invest more than $1-billion in countries throughout Africa over five years.
“This is just another illustration of what we want to bring to South Africa, which is not only about investing in physical assets, but also people, first and foremost,” he said.
Caterpillar has, therefore, also negotiated an Equity Equivalent Investment Programme with the South African Department of Trade and Industry, which is the largest programme of this type in South Africa, highlighted Charter.
He added that the facility, to date, is Caterpillar’s largest investment in physical assets in Africa.
“We are looking forward to expanding our partnership with the South African government toward achieving economic transformation,” he said.
Also speaking at the launch of the new facility, Ekurhuleni acting mayor Masele Madihlaba also highlighted that the capital goods that Caterpillar produces are “critical to the industrial activities that carry many economies around the world”.
“It is, therefore, a great development in the industrial life of our city that today we are witnessing the launch of the distribution plan for equipment . . . This means the [manufacturers] that operate across the country will now benefit from repair and replacement equipment that is locally assembled,” Madihlaba said.
He noted that Ekurhuleni was encouraged by the investment in the region, as “it ties in nicely” with the city’s industrialisation strategy centred on the manufacturing centre.
“With the opening of the Caterpillar plant, we are guaranteed to see an expansion of employment opportunities for the people of our region.
“Investments of this nature in our local economy provide the much-needed relief for growth and economic development in a manner that creates wider economic opportunities for local residents through jobs in the entrepreneurial space and through skills development,” Madihlaba emphasised.
He added that Ekurhuleni would work closely with the company to explore more areas of cooperation.
Meanwhile, Caterpillar Aftermarket Parts Distribution director Bonnie Fetch highlighted that the Johannesburg parts distribution facility represented another first for the company, as it has a colocation arrangement with independent dealer Barloworld Equipment.
A portion of the facility – about 3 500 m2 – will host Barloworld Equipment’s retail parts operation.
Barloworld Equipment is the official dealer of Caterpillar products and services in 11 South African regions and seven Southern African countries. The company consolidated its over-the-counter aftermarket parts activities from Linbro Park and Isando at the new location.
“We decided to take this approach after an extensive study. The benefits of the colocation include improved parts availability to customers, as well as increased velocity in filling parts orders, given the proximity of the dealer’s retail parts sales counter to the regional distribution centre,” Fetch said.
She stressed the importance of the collaboration, adding that, as the company focuses on ensuring its customers’ success, the provision of “unmatched aftermarket parts availability and services is critical to achieving that objective”.
Barloworld celebrated its ninetieth anniversary on Thursday.