Only around 40 years ago, Caterpillar was undoubtedly the world’s largest supplier of construction equipment, and inasmuch as some of this equipment had some use in the mining sector it serviced this sector too – largely with wheel loaders, scrapers, dozers, graders and articulated haul units.
But in those now seemingly far-off days mining was very much a sideline, albeit an important one, for the company.
Then in the 80s and 90s the emphasis changed.
Cat recognised the mining sector as being a key element in its future growth plans – if not perhaps the biggest element of all – and in this respect it has gone from strength to strength through mining product development and acquisition.
Initially, advances in mechanical drive technology saw the company begin to build big mining haul trucks entering into a sector which up until then had been dominated by electric wheel drive units.
Over the years Cat has come to dominate the market for large mining trucks – but it also began to produce other scaled up equipment specifically aimed at mining and promoting itself very much as a mining equipment company alongside its construction equipment base.
And it cemented its progress in the sector with a whole host of acquisitions and developments which have taken it into virtually all sectors at the front end of the mining sector – big mining shovels, draglines and excavators, surface drills, underground loading and haulage units and more.
Recently it has also targeted coal mining as an important sector for growth with longwall mining systems and rubber wheeled underground production and service vehicles to name but a few.
Caterpillar is now the world’s largest manufacturer of mining equipment and the company’s growth in mining has been a remarkable, and highly focused, one, backed by its unparalleled range of global dealerships and service facilities making it an ideal partner for mines wherever they are located.
The initial change came in the 80s when one year Caterpillar boycotted the huge CONEXPO construction show in Las Vegas, but committed instead to a major exhibit promoting its mining equipment at MINExpo, becoming the show’s largest exhibitor on that occasion – a position it has maintained since.
Anyone who visited last year’s MINExpo display of Caterpillar equipment cannot fail but to have been impressed by the money and effort the company expended in presenting its now huge range of production mining equipment.
And it is this emphasis on partnership with its mining customers which is the focus of renewed sales and marketing efforts by the company.
Other major construction sector companies have also been following in Cat’s path but none have the breadth, depth and volume of equipment Cat has succeeded in developing or acquiring – or both..
But it is ‘partnership’ with its customers that is now Cat’s mantra – a priority which has long been an emphasis of the German approach to mining equipment sales (and one which is indeed put into practice by most multinational mining equipment manufacturers), but also a principle that Cat with its huge global spread is perhaps in the best position of all to emphasise and carry out.
When you are dealing with equipment on the scale Cat does, where a single mine order can run into hundreds of millions of dollars you have to be close to the business you are serving, or the customer will look elsewhere.
As Cat itself puts it, “Mining is a complicated business.
"Whether you operate a single mine, or multiple mine sites all over the world, you have a lot of responsibilities.
"You’re focused on the safety and well-being of your people, and the communities where they live and work.
"You care about the impact your operations have on the environment.
"And you care about mining productively and efficiently.”
In emphasising its ‘partnership’ mantra, Cat goes on to say “Today, the demand for mined materials is greater than at any other time in history.
"World development and increased urbanization are driving sustained dependence on minerals, metals and coal.
Energy usage is expected to increase significantly in the coming decades—placing even more emphasis on supply, security, cost and environmental impact issues. As the demand for commodities grows, mining companies need a partner to support them in their efforts.
"A partner who understands the issues important to the mining industry — like safety, sustainability and productivity. And a partner with the equipment, technologies, end-to-end services and solutions to support their operations.”
The company has also produced a video to emphasise this avowed commitment – to view this click here.
The video is in flash so Apple iPad or iPhone user, and some others using mobile devices, may not be able to see it.
But, of course, the Cat approach is nothing new, as pointed out above.
A company’s sales success in heavy equipment is heavily dependent on its sales servicing (and partnership) approach.
Mining is a compact business and word gets around quickly if a company can’t deliver what it preaches and hugely expensive equipment has to lie idle as a result.
The proof is in the delivery of the policy and with many mines in extremely remote areas a manufacturer’s capability of meeting this kind of commitment is both hugely expensive and demanding. Those that succeed will get, and continue to get, the business.
Those that don’t, won’t! This is perhaps one of the reasons there has been so much consolidation in the heavy equipment sector. Only the biggest companies can provide this kind of service and Cat has undoubtedly set its sights on being a leader in this field.
Article published courtesy of Mineweb. To read more daily international mining and business new click here.