Caterpillar Global Mining Invests to Become "One-Source" Supplier

Walt Moore | August 26, 2011

Caterpillar has stepped up its commitment to the global mining industry with its recent $8.8 billion acquisition of Bucyrus International and its plans to invest an additional $5 billion during the next two or three years to expand its mining-equipment capacity. The expansion in capacity, says Caterpillar Global Mining's president, Steve Wunning, includes investment in manufacturing resources, as well as in research and development efforts, such as autonomous mining vehicles and alternative fuels.

 According to Caterpillar, the Bucyrus acquisition—combined with the existing range of Cat mining trucks, large wheel loaders, wheel dozers and large track-type tractors—allows Caterpillar Global Mining to offer the broadest line of mining equipment available from a single supplier. Caterpillar's goal to become a single-source supplier, says Chris Curfman, vice president of mining sales and support division, fits well with the objective of today's large mine owners to reduce the number of their suppliers and to develop long-term business relationships with those suppliers.

The Bucyrus acquisition adds an extensive product range to Caterpillar Global Mining's equipment portfolio, serving the needs of both surface-extraction and underground miners. New to the Caterpillar range is the established Bucyrus line of surface-extraction machines, including draglines (with payload capacities exceeding  200 tons), hydraulic shovels (with payload capacities to 68 cubic yards) and electric rope shovels (with capacities to 120 tons).

Complementing these machines is a five-model range of hydraulic track drills and a six-model lineup of rotary blasthole drills. The largest rotary blasthole drill weighs in at 401,000 pounds and is capable of hole diameters to 17.5 inches. Also added to the lineup are material-transport belt systems, which are available for both surface and underground applications.

New underground-mining products in the Caterpillar lineup are aimed at serving the equipment requirements of customers involved in longwall, room-and-pillar, hardrock and highwall mining operations. Emphasizing the extent of the product line, product manager Keith O'Neil says that the equipment range provides a "one-stop shop for customers requiring a full scope of underground mining products."

Included in the underground portfolio are longwall machines with advanced production and safety features (such as personnel proximity detection), continuous mining machines (including two new models introduced in the past two years), face haulers (the new FH120 was introduced this year) and roof-support carriers, which, according to Caterpillar, are the world's largest.

Highwall equipment is designed to allow increased reserve utilization, and according to Caterpillar, has the capacity to deliver a direct-ship coal product (bypassing the cleaning process) and offers the potential for replacing higher cost extraction methods. For hardrock applications, the Cat product range now includes a line of underground drills and low-profile loading and hauling vehicles, including a new loader now under development that will use a Cat C15 engine and feature up to 25 percent more breakout force.

The products new to the Cat equipment range will be sold and serviced through the Caterpillar dealer network. According to Wunning, Bucyrus predominantly employed a direct model to sell and support products, but using established Cat dealers to handle these activities going forward "is consistent with our [Caterpillar's] long-held distribution strategy of strong, entrepreneurial, independent dealers."

With one exception, all new products will be branded "Cat" and will carry Caterpillar colors. The one exception is the acquired range of large mining trucks, which will carry the "Unit Rig" badge and retain their present paint scheme.

According to product manager Ed McCord, maintaining the identity and design of the acquired Bucyrus line of electric-drive mining trucks will expand the choice of haul vehicles available for global customers. The present Cat mining truck lineup includes six models, four mechanical-drive and two electric-drive (AC) models, ranging in capacity from 157 to 400 tons. The AC drive Unit Rig product line includes five models with a similar spread of capacities. The Unit Rig trucks, says McCord, will allow Caterpillar to increase its share of the mining-truck market, particularly in areas of the world where the Bucyrus brand had attained a large share of the available business.

According to Caterpillar, the Bucyrus acquisition opens wider channels of human resources, technical development and manufacturing expertise (the latter including recent extensive updating of machine tools and manufacturing processes at the former Bucyrus South Milwaukee (Wisconsin) facility. Caterpillar emphasizes that the synergies created in these areas, particularly in the expanded use of Cat components in former Bucyrus machines, have the potential to benefit the global mining community in terms of cost reductions associated with economies of scale and faster response to market demands.

Caterpillar Global Mining is now headquartered in Oak Creek, Wis., a suburb of Milwaukee. The leadership team includes Steve Wunning, group president; Chris Curfman, vice president of mining sales & support division; Luis de Leon, vice president of mining products division; and Dave Bozeman, vice president of integrated manufacturing operations division.