Management Team Voices



General Manager Bruce Nelson says Komatsu’s CMO is dedicated to high-quality products delivered quickly

Bruce Nelson

QUESTION: What products are produced at the Chattanooga Manufacturing Operation (CMO)?

ANSWER: We currently produce six sizes of hydraulic excavators, ranging from the PC210LC-11 to the PC490LC-11. These models are primarily sold in North America, but we also export one model to Latin America and South America. In addition, we produce three sizes of forestry excavators, from a PC210LL-10 to a PC390LL-10, and four sizes of forestry tracked harvesters and tracked feller bunchers, from the XT430-3 to the XT460-3. We are the only Komatsu plant in the world that builds specialized forestry track machines, and we ship them all over the globe.

QUESTION: Why should a customer buy a machine produced at CMO?

ANSWER: The hydraulic excavators we build at CMO are also built in several other Komatsu factories around the world, in order to better serve local markets. Each factory uses the same parts, designs and quality standards, so users should not be able to tell the difference between an excavator built in a plant in Japan or the United Kingdom versus one built at CMO. In addition to high quality, CMO’s mission is quick delivery with whatever options a customer may need. Our staff works regularly with distributors and customers to ensure we meet or exceed their expectations. Being a part of the North American market means we can offer options on our machines that are not normally found in other parts of the world. For example, we offer pipeline spec hydraulic excavators with single grouser tracks and severe-duty revolving-frame undercovers.

Bruce Nelson

QUESTION: How do you prepare for new models, such as the Tier 4 Final products?

ANSWER: We start planning almost a year before our first build date, determining equipment requirements and laying out a detailed schedule of events. For all model changes, we work closely with the engineering and manufacturing groups to understand the fabrication and assembly differences. We have weekly meetings with all departments involved to understand the status of everyone’s activities and ensure we are all on schedule. We invite a staff member from the hydraulic excavator design group to stay at our plant during our first builds, so we have immediate feedback if we have any questions during the assembly process. After completing the first machine, we send it to our Cartersville Demonstration Center for operation and final evaluation. Once everything is complete, the product is released for sale to customers.

QUESTION: What are the markets (construction, utility) like now, and how do you adjust to ensure machines are available?

ANSWER: The construction-equipment market in North America has been growing throughout the last five years. Our plant works closely with Komatsu America’s Supply Chain Division to make sure our production plans are in sync with market requirements. We use KOMTRAX to see usage trends by model, which helps us predict and verify marketing forecasts. We have worked hard during the last several years to reduce our lead times to our customers. The time from receiving a distributor order to making the machine ready to ship was two months in 2009. Now, it’s three to five days, on average.

QUESTION: Do you encourage customers to visit CMO, and why or why not?

ANSWER: CMO always welcomes customer visits. We have customers at the plant on a weekly basis. A tour can be as small as one contractor with his wife and children passing through the Chattanooga area to as large as 75 people a day as part of Demo Days activities held just down the road at Cartersville. We love to show off our facility and allow people to see how the Komatsu machines, which we consider to be the best, are manufactured. Customers can see for themselves that we strive to keep the plant safe and clean for our workforce. They can also see how we build quality into each step of the process as frames are welded or as machines move down the assembly line.