U.S. Still Rules the Big Stuff

After some disheartening manufacturing news on Tuesday, this article is a breath of fresh air. According to the Wall Street Journal, “In World of Big Stuff, the US. Still Rules.” They are talking about large-scale mining trucks in the U.S., which make up about 85% of those used globally. This post from the Manufacturing Innovation Blog is a really interesting read that explains a lot of what goes on in the world of these two-story trucks. You can read the full article in its original location here.

Moving the World

December 12, 2012 1

Moving the World

I was desperate to find something upbeat to read after seeing last Tuesday that U.S. manufacturing shrank to its weakest level since 2009.  The Wall Street Journal did the trick, though it was a far cry from the Sunday morning “funny pages.” They ran an uplifting article entitled, “In World of Big Stuff, the U.S. Still Rules.  And we do rule…in a big way.

85% of global sales of large-scale mining trucks originate in the United States.  Specifically, Illinois boasts the vast majority of these sales, and Peoria (40° 41′ 37″ N / 89° 35′ 20″, in case you’re a geo-cacher) is at the forefront. Less than 100 miles separate the facilities operated by Caterpillar and Komatsu, the country’s first and second-largest manufacturers of these trucks.

More about these trucks: they are enormous, two-story house-sized monsters.  Imagine driving a house.  It’s almost too big to picture.  Trucks big enough to move the world….well, okay, 200 tons, if you want to be exact.  But they do move the world.  In fact, Caterpillar, the dominant player in this market, claims to have moved over half of the rock, ore, coal, and oil sands at mines around the world.

Both of these companies rely on a flexible, Illinois-centric supply chain that provides all necessities from component parts to complex sub-assemblies. Thousands of companies produce the metal, steel, and plastic components enabling this sector to thrive as a major job generator and source of wealth in Illinois.  That’s big.  Machines this size are made in low volumes (a couple hundred) and command high prices ($4 to 6 million). Reliance upon an adaptive and agile supply chain is paramount in meeting customer expectations around the world.

Komatsu is an interesting example. Most of its smaller mining vehicles are produced in its home-base of Japan, but the division that produces the large-scale vehicles set up shop in Peoria, halfway across the world. These trucks are exported, but Komatsu has taken advantage of (and contributed to) the Peoria cluster, creating American jobs and wealth in the process. The advantages of the U.S. are on full display in this case.

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