Posted on Wednesday 29 January 2014 by Ulster Business

US construction giant Caterpillar has confirmed plans to invest $9m (£5m) to expand its local manufacturing operations to produce articulated truck axles in Northern Ireland.

The new production is expected to maintain up to 100 jobs and the company said it will "further enhance skills and diversify production in Northern Ireland".

The news is a big positive for the former FG Wilson business, which shed over 700 jobs in 2012 when manufacturing of one of Caterpillar's smaller diesel generator sets was moved to China.

The decision to permanently source these components from Caterpillar's local facilities follows a preliminary production period, which has been underway for a number of months.

The axles are a key component of Cat® Articulated Trucks, which are used for earthmoving, mining and quarry applications throughout the world. Caterpillar's facility in Peterlee, England, is the worldwide manufacturing source for the trucks.

Caterpillar Northern Ireland Operations Director Robert Kennedy said: "This important announcement primarily recognises the high standard of the facilities, processes, skills and expertise in Northern Ireland. It is also a testament to the cost competitiveness of manufacturing in Northern Ireland and advantages the local facilities have in terms of proximity to customers, access to ports and other transportation infrastructure."

Managing Director for Articulated Trucks Phil Handley added: "Caterpillar NI operations are proven and very capable. We're happy with the level of quality we've had from there, the team has been very responsive to our needs and has been really collaborating and working closely with us. It's an excellent source for these key components."

This announcement follows the recent news that Caterpillar plans to produce Cat Wheeled Material Handlers at its manufacturing facilities in Northern Ireland, supported by Invest NI and the Department for Employment and Learning.

It said all Caterpillar Northern Ireland locations will benefit through the diversification of manufacturing, enabling the company to expand skills into areas such as complex assembly and enhance the expertise of its local workforce.

Industry-leading FG Wilson and Cat branded electric power products will also continue to be manufactured at the company's Northern Ireland operations.

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