In this blog I will bring a bit of information on the company and a look inside the factory at the work that goes on there producing the Komatsu products right here in the UK.
Komatsu’s UK operation is part of the massive Global Komatsu organisation, a business that is the world’s second largest manufacturer and supplier of construction and mining equipment. The stats are impressive, from its headquarters in Tokyo Komatsu run’s 140 companies in the global group and some 40 manufacturing plants around the world, employing around 47,000 people. The UK facility which was officially opened in 1987 by HRH the Prince of Wales is located in Chester le Street and currently employs around 400 staff who are engaged in producing 17 models of the companies excavators, which it exports to Europe and North Africa in addition to the UK market.
Komatsu Ltd was first established back in 1921 in Komatsu City, Japan, by its founder the curiously named Meitaro Takeuchi, apparently the name Takeuchi is as common as Smith is in the UK and this guy had nothing to do with the well-known mini excavator manufacturer of the same name. The company’s first machine was a small crawler tractor designated the G25. The company didn’t move into excavator manufacturing until 1968 when it launched its first model. The first excavator produced at the Chester le Street factory was the PC210-3 which was one of 10 initially sent over from Japan in kit form, an example of which was lovingly restored by apprentices and now greets visitors to the adjacent demonstration plot as seen in the photo above.
A visit to any construction machinery manufacturing facility is always an enjoyable and eye opening experience and it’s something I never get bored of, even though I have been lucky enough to visit a lot now. One thing I especially like about a visit to Komatsu is the fact that there are no restrictions on taking photos in and around the plant which in my eyes is great as is shows they are more than happy for people to see the quality of their work as the machines progress down the production line.
There had been a lot of changes in the factory since my last visit including the installation of some state of the art robot welding machines some of which were busy welding up the undercarriage sections.
As is often the case a factory’s these days, some custom paint job machines were going down the line. These coloured machines will almost certainly be heading for customers in Central Europe, where machines liveried in the company’s corporate colours are very popular. This distinctive dark grey machine complete with TAB boom was almost nearing completion.
At the beginning of the line a base upper-structure sprayed in silver paint was joining the assembly process as another bespoke coloured machine was set on its journey to be matched up with similar silver coloured components waiting further down the line.
One of the most impressive sights for me personally, is seeing the completed upper-structure’s being lifted and married to the undercarriage, then once everything is connected and plumbed up the machine is capable of moving under its own power down the line.
Once completed the machines are then moved onto the Dynamic Evaluation System (DES) a form of test bed where the machine is locked down and operated for a specific period of time to check for any leaks or problems.
Machines are then tested in operation in another area of factory before the final inspection process takes place at which point the machines head out into the yard area for storage and finally dispatch.
Check out this video on the factory produced by Komatsu UK.