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Caterpillar, Inc. Opens History-Making Facility in Winston-Salem, N.C.

In Numbers

  • Winston-Salem, NC
  • 850,000 s.f.
    Square Footage
  • 16 months

Caterpillar, Inc. hosted a grand opening ceremony for their 850,000 s.f.axle manufacturing facility in Winston-Salem, N.C. on November 16, 2011. This machining, assembly, testing and painting facility, constructed on a 102-acre site, is pursuing LEED certification and is one of the biggest manufacturing and economic development projects in North Carolina’s history.


Gray Construction, ranked third among the top U.S. green contractors in manufacturing plants construction, provided architecture; electrical, mechanical, process, structural and civil engineering; construction management; building commissioning; and LEED certification coordination.


“It isn’t every day we get to work on a project of this magnitude, and we are honored Caterpillar gave us the opportunity to be part of this incredible facility,” said Stephen Gray, president and chief executive officer for Gray Construction.


For more information on Gray’s manufacturing plant construction services, please contact Phil Seale, Senior Vice President, Manufacturing Market, at  For more information on the Caterpillar project, please contact David Florence, Director, Pre-Construction Services, at

Please see below for an article that appeared in the Winston-Salem Journal on November 17, 2011.


Caterpillar Plant’s Impact Will Be Global and Local, Officials Say at Grand Opening


By: RICHARD CRAVER | Winston-Salem Journal

The 850,000-square-foot Caterpillar Inc. plant in Winston-Salem is a large facility by most measuring sticks.


The $426 million axle-manufacturing plant, which had its grand opening before 400 guests Wednesday at the site on Temple School Road, is one of the biggest manufacturing and economic development projects in state history.


However, Caterpillar officials stressed that the plant’s importance is larger than just its eventual 398 full-time and 112 contract workforce and capital investment in Winston-Salem.


“This Winston-Salem plant will help us more fully participate in the growth of developing countries,” said Steve Wunning, a Caterpillar group president with responsibility for resource industries such as mining.


Wunning said 90 percent of the axles made in the plant are expected to be sold to customers outside the U.S.


“This world-class axle facility will allow us to produce more high-quality mining trucks in our existing manufacturing operations,” Wunning said.


Another reason for the plant’s importance is Caterpillar’s decision to aggressively pursue growth in the mining sector, including its recent $8.8 billion purchase of Bucyrus International Inc. Bucyrus makes surface mining equipment used for coal, copper, iron ore, oil sands and other minerals.


“The world’s population is growing, and so is the need for energy and raw materials,” Wunning said. “That makes mining the biggest opportunity in our company’s history, and we have the inside track. This plant will provide the axles to drive that success.”


Having Caterpillar with a Winston-Salem address “validates the city and the state as a strong location for advanced manufacturing, considering the competitive nature for landing the plant,” Mayor Allen Joines said. “We’re proud to have the Cat flag flying here.”


Hans Haefeli, Caterpillar’s vice president of advanced components and systems division, said the plant represents the biggest expenditure ever by his division.


“We’re very happy with how the plant development has gone,” Haefeli said. “There have been no significant issues. It’s come in on time and on cost, allowing us to be at the best possible startup.”


Local officials said they are hopeful the plant will become a sterling example of Caterpillar’s “seed, grow, harvest” business mindset that encourages success at the grass-roots and corporate levels.


Don Martin, superintendent of Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools, said he’s encouraged by Caterpillar’s commitment to providing tours and pursuing collaborative programs with local schools, universities and community colleges.


“This plant fits so well with the STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) educational emphasis because this is something hands-on to show our students rather than something in a textbook or in a video,” Martin said.


“Seeing is believing, especially when it’s known that you need to get a sixth-grader interested in this track in order to produce a Ph.D. medical official or engineer within the typical 16-year timeframe.”


Gov. Bev Perdue was scheduled to attend, but was delayed by weather that affected her plane. She was expected to arrive later for a private tour.


Rusty Davis, the plant’s operational manager, said the plant will remain in its startup phase for another six to seven months. The next step is to start bringing in machinist equipment by late November and have the paint and final preparation areas ready by Dec. 1.


It could take until late 2013 or early 2014 to reach full production, operating around the clock in the machinist side and two shifts in the assembly side outside scheduled maintenance breaks.


“We’re awaiting the completion of the foundation and flooring of the machinist side, and we will be doing debugging on the equipment for a few months,” Davis said.


“That has delayed some of the hiring a bit. We want to bring on full-time employees so that when they’re through training, there’s something for them to do.”


There will be 140 employees on the assembly side and 120 machinists. The rest will be in operations that include administrative, engineering, logistics and supply chain and painting.


Errol Wint, the project team manager, said most of the machinists won’t be hired until next year, with the expectation the cells will be operating in the second quarter.


He said most of the manufacturing positions won’t require more than a technical degree and some hands-on experience because Caterpillar plans to train “most of them on what we do.”


Gray Construction said it is about 90 percent done with the plant, waiting on Caterpillar’s machinist equipment to finish the foundations in that section. Unlike many of the suppliers, this was Gray’s first major plant project for Caterpillar.


“We believe we’ve exceeded Caterpillar’s expectations in a very fluid and aggressive construction process,” said Jeff Bischoff, Gray’s vice president of business development.


David Florence, Gray’s project manager on the plant, credited the work of local subcontractors and city of Winston-Salem inspectors for helping meet Caterpillar’s production timetable.


“It is always a sign of satisfaction to see a plant this size come in on time with the quality the customer expects,” Florence said. “It’s a tribute to everyone involved.”



    Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a contributing author and not necessarily Gray.

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