But meeting that boom in demand at the world’s largest heavy equipment manufacturer is a challenge, in part because of Caterpillar suppliers like Steve Kirsh.
Years of watching Caterpillar and other big manufacturers cut inventories, close plants and axe workers in the last downturn has embedded caution in Kirsh’s ambition to expand after the surge in orders, reflecting a more fundamental shift in how many industrial businesses view expansions, according to interviews with Caterpillar executives, more than a half-dozen Caterpillar suppliers and U.S. economic data.
“I just wasn’t sure it was real,” said Kirsh, speaking from a windowless office at the front of Kirsh Foundry Inc., in Beaver Dam, Wisconsin, which makes metal parts for Caterpillar and other customers.
Even with a surplus in demand for its product, Caterpillar CEO Jim Umpleby told investors last month the company will not invest in factory capacity. Instead, it plans to spend more on new technologies, expanding its parts business and selling more rental and used equipment.
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