Heavy-equipment manufacturer Caterpillar has officially inaugurated its new parts distribution facility near Johannesburg, in Gauteng. The 60 000 m2 facility consolidates two smaller parts distribution sites – Linbro Park and Isando – and offers several advantages, including the opportunity the to work more efficiently while increasing capacity to provide unmatched parts availability for customers across Africa.
The facility will serve more than 10 000 customers in 11 countries and will stock more than 110 000 parts to service machines in the region. Caterpillar started operations in May.
“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 last month, adding that this was a long-term investment.
He highlighted that the facility was the first on the continent and one of 21 such facilities in the world.
The facility, which has 260 000 storage locations, also has an additional 20 000 m2 of outside storage space. It uses water from a rainwater storage tank, as well as solar-powered geysers and motion-sensor lighting.
“Our dealers sell our equipment and provide the boots on the ground for maintenance and service. We have more than 35 000 active machines and engines operating throughout the Southern Africa region,” noted Charter.
He added that, to keep machines and engines running smoothly, operators needed replacement parts as quickly as possible on site.
Meanwhile, Charter noted that Caterpillar’s investment in the new facility also formed part of the company’s previously announced commitment, with its independent dealers and the Caterpillar Foundation, to invest more than $1-billion in countries throughout Africa over the next 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 [about] people, first and foremost,” he said.
Caterpillar, therefore, also negotiated an Equity Equivalent Investment Programme with the South African Department of Trade and Industry, which is the biggest programme of its kind in the country, highlighted Charter.
He added that the facility, to date, was Caterpillar’s largest investment in physical assets in Africa.
“We are looking forward to expanding our partnership with the South African government [to ensure] achieving economic transformation,” he said.
Also speaking at the launch was Ekurhuleni acting mayor Masele Madihlaba, who also highlighted that the capital goods that Caterpillar produced were 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 . . . we are witnessing the launch of the distribution plan for equipment . . . [manufacturers] that operate across the country, [who] 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 . . . an expansion of employment opportunities for the people of our region.”
Madihlaba emphasised that investments of this nature in the local economy provide the much-needed relief for growth and economic development in a manner that created wider economic opportunities for local residents, as well as opportunities through jobs in the entrepreneurial space and through skills development.
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 had a co-location arrangement with independent dealer Barloworld Equipment. This is the first co-location worldwide.
A portion of the facility – about 3 500 m2 – will house Barloworld Equipment’s retail parts operation. Barloworld Equipment is the official dealer of Caterpillar products and services in South Africa and seven Southern Africa countries. The company consolidated its over-the-counter aftermarket parts activities, as well as those from Linbro Park and Isando, at the new location.
“We decided to take this approach after an extensive study. The benefits of the co-location include improved parts availability to customers, as well as quick filling of 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 focused on ensuring customer success, the provision of “unmatched aftermarket parts availability and services was critical to achieving that objective”.