Wednesday, 12 March 2014
Caterpillar bolsters Peterlee production
Caterpillar, based in Peterlee, east Durham, has bolstered its production line with new articulated dump trucks and bare-chassis models.
Although the vehicles are additions to the existing range of heavy industry trucks it is understood no new jobs have been created in the work.
According to Caterpillar, the bare-chassis vehicles are capable of carrying specialist equipment such as water tanks and spray systems, while the dump trucks are fitted with more powerful engines and improved rails to counter falling loads.
A Caterpillar spokeswoman pronounced the work as a major boost for its North-East site with Peterlee as the worldwide supply base for articulated trucks.
She described the latest development as an “exciting launch” for the group.
“The company rolls-out products and services in each of its territories at different intervals,” the spokeswoman added. “These new products are a complement to our product line and will be made by Peterlee's existing workforce.”
The business in Peterlee was founded in 1973 by David J. Brown, an engineer with a history of involvement in innovative vehicle design. His business, DJB Engineering Ltd, was renamed Artix Ltd in 1985 after Caterpillar Inc. of Peoria, Illinois, bought the rights to the design of Brown’s articulated dump truck (ADT).
DJB Engineering Ltd. built its first ADT in 1974 based on a Caterpillar drive train. The trucks were marketed exclusively through Caterpillar dealers worldwide as some major components were of Caterpillar origin.
The range was expanded causing sales to grow to the point that in 1985 Caterpillar bought the rights to the design and branded them as Caterpillar products. Ten years later Caterpillar bought the company outright.
After selling the rights to Caterpillar, Brown, the driving force behind the UK business, went on to purchase the Bedford truck business from General Motors in 1987. Brown renamed the Dunstable firm AWD with GM retaining the Bedford name.
Among venues held for AWD press conferences were Winston Churchill’s war rooms in Westminster, London, and Gieves & Hawkes gentlemen’s tailors in Saville Row.
In September 1991, David P. Brown, David Brown’s son, took over the chief executive’s job at AWD from Dr. Michael Sanderson. Brown 'junior' had overall executive responsibility for the Dunstable-based company; he had helped his father develop the first DJB articulated dump truck.
But by then writing was on the wall with the company already beginning to falter; in June and July the following year the company sold just 27 trucks compared with 117 in the same period the previous year.
Months later, on 14 October 1992 the Independent newspaper reported that AWD, the former Bedford truck business that crashed in June owing tens of millions, had just been sold by receivers to Marshall SPV, a privately owned manufacturer of special purpose vehicles based in Cambridge.
The price was not disclosed, although it was thought at the time to have been but a fraction of the £20 million that entrepreneur Brown paid General Motors in 1987 when he took over the Dunstable-based business and renamed it AWD Ltd. Part of the Dunstable site had been sold to Sainsbury for a supermarket.
Marshall's purchase did not save many jobs, nor did it result in production continuing at Dunstable, which once produced virtually all the British Army's trucks. The new owners planned to run down the Dunstable plant over the following few months and transfer all production to Cambridge.
Marshall SPV claimed it could make 1,000 vehicles a year on a single shift. Initial production concentrated on the TL 6x4, the TM 6x6 and the bonneted TJ 4x2. Later, the company planned to make the MT with Perkins engines.
When AWD went into receivership, most of its 850 workers were made redundant. Only about half the 150 workers left at Dunstable were offered jobs at Cambridge.
The receivers, Roger Oldfield and Tony Thompson of KPMG Peat Marwick, had managed to keep the AWD plant open for a while, producing one truck a week. They secured new orders for military trucks worth £160 million from customers in South America, Asia and Africa.
Marshall, which employed 2,500 and made military vehicles, ambulances, buses, refuse vehicles and car transporters, indicated that it would continue to produce AWD's range of military and commercial heavy commercial vehicles. Marshall acquired the licence to use the Bedford marque overseas.
Bernard Williams, Marshall's managing director, said then the acquisition would benefit the company’s expansion plans. However, later the company stopped making AWD vehicles and more recently Marshall SPV itself was merged with the company’s aerospace business although it still manufactures some vehicles, such as ambulances.
The Marshall Group today has a turnover of £1 billion and has four sectors: aerospace, motor retail, land systems and Cambridge Airport. The land systems activity (MLS) makes military vehicles.
Credited with many design and manufacturing achievements in the off-highway marketplace, Brown himself gained first-hand experience in the African logging industry. He became one of the most respected off-road vehicle designers in the world with fundamental and detailed new ideas across diverse product ranges.
Brown’s business received four Queen’s Awards to Industry, a Design Council Award, a Prince Philip Design Award and was made CBE. It is reported that his businesses were responsible for over £3 billion of export sales. And evolutions of brown’s ADT designs are still produced today.
Brown launched Multidrive Ltd. based in Thirsk, Yorkshire, in 1977 where he pioneered many new concepts for the agricultural, construction and military markets worldwide, including the Multidrive tractor and the innovative M8 hauler.
The Multidrive articulated 8x6 vehicles were unusual in that the axle on the trailer was driven to ensure traction under difficult conditions.
Sadly, however, David J.B. Brown CBE, chairman and founder of Multidrive Ltd, died in a car accident on 28 January 2004 while driving in severe winter weather near his home in Thirsk, North Yorkshire. He was 78.
The original Multidrive business no longer trades. The company went downhill following Brown’s death whereupon the company moved to Cheltenham, Glos. It went into receivership in February 2006.
Meanwhile, at Caterpillar, news of the new vehicles comes after the company’s bulldozer track-making division, based in Skinningrove, east Cleveland, revealed plans to create ten jobs and invest in new machinery to meet rising global demand.
That factory, employing about 70 workers, makes track shoes for Caterpillar’s range of large earthmovers, as well as parts used as spares for customers across Europe, Africa, the Middle-East and Russia.
The new work is a welcome boost for Caterpillar after it was forced to cut jobs at its Peterlee plant at the start of the year due to falling demand.
According to sources, over 110 jobs were at risk, including 70 production workers and 45 office staff, though Caterpillar has not revealed how many jobs were lost.
Caterpillar also makes parts for loaders and excavators at its sister plant in Stockton.∎