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The Fortune 100 Company renowned for being the leading manufacturer of mining and construction equipment, gas engines, generators and turbines, has a long, illustrious history of innovation.

It began with the wagon wheel…

In late nineteenth-century America, the Holt family produced wagon wheels under the name the Stockton Wheel Company.

Benjamin Holt, a man of ideas, solved the problem of unreliable mechanical harvesters requiring long periods out of service when he came up with the idea of using link belts, which could be repaired on the field. 1886 saw Holt's company sell its first link-bolt combined harvester.

At this time, steam tractors were fast overtaking mule-pulled wagons. Benjamin Holt came up with a number of patented products around this time. The most notable of these was the first commercially successful crawler, which used wing tracks bolted to chains, rather than wheels. In 1904, when the machine was unveiled, it was named “the caterpillar”. It was to revolutionise the agricultural industry.

More production space was needed, so a factory – named the Holt Caterpillar Company − was opened in Peoria, Illinois, and consolidated into the Holt Manufacturing Company.

Twentieth-century developments

When the twentieth century arrived, there were two companies specialising in tractor technology, which had moved from steam to gas. In addition to the Holt Manufacturing Company, there was C.L. Best Tractor Co, started by Daniel Best.

When these competitors merged in 1925, the Caterpillar Tractor Company was formally established. It would prove to play a vital role in all that defined the century – wars, population growth, urban expansion and globalisation.

Each decade thereafter saw Caterpillar continue to innovate and to participate in global construction, military programmes and humanitarian efforts.

  • The 1920s: In 1928, Caterpillar acquired the Russell Grader Company, which had produced the Motor Patrol, the first self-propelled grader, back in 1920.
  • The 1930s: During the Great Depression, the Diesel Sixty Tractor was launched. In this decade, Caterpillar’s product line grew to include motor, blade and elevating graders, as well as electric-generator sets and terracers.
  • The 1940s: World War II saw Caterpillar rapidly accelerate production, in order to provide 51,000 track-type tractors to the US military. Allied troops needed these for ammunition and supplies to be delivered, and also relied on other Cat equipment, such as motor graders and generator sets. To meet demand, women joined the assembly line, and the company operated seven days a week.
  • The 1950s: Post-war, Caterpillar went global, with their first overseas subsidiary, set up in the United Kingdom in 1950. In the late 50s, contractors on the Kariba Gorge Hydroelectric Project, Rhodesia, made extensive use of Caterpillar machines.
  • The 1960s: In 1961, in Japan, a joint venture between Caterpillar and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd was formed, taking Caterpillar’s reach to Asia. Caterpillar Mitsubishi Ltd began production at Sagamihara, near Tokyo, in 1963. This decade also marked the introduction of the No 16 Motor Grader, Caterpillar’s first really large graders.
  • The 1970s: The Asian market continued to support the company further, with 34 Caterpillar pipelayers purchased by China.
  • The 1980s: The recession saw drives to modernise, and thus streamline, manufacturing processes in Caterpillar factories. Caterpillar also diversified their product offering, and this was reflected in the company’s name change – to the more-inclusive Caterpillar Inc – in 1986.
  • The 1990s: Caterpillar machines and generators helped in humanitarian efforts, including extinguishing oil wells on fire in Kuwait (1991), and assisting after the Oklahoma Bombing (1995). Construction projects included the Panama Canal Widening Project (1995) and the 351-mile Canadian portion of the Maritimes & Northeast natural gas pipeline (1999). Product extensions included the H series of turbocharged graders (1995), the largest being the 24H (1996).

Caterpillar, beyond 2000

In 2001, Caterpillar assisted after the tragic historical event known as 9/11, playing a key role in rescue and relief efforts. Caterpillar equipment was also on hand for clean-up operations after the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami.

In 2001, Caterpillar exited the agricultural tractor business. In November of that year, the company incorporated 6 Sigma into its strategic planning processes and introduced hundreds of suppliers to the system.

January, 2003 saw Caterpillar ready to roll out its ACERT engine line-up, engineered to meet the environmental demand for reduced engine emissions.

With the acquisition of Progress Rail Services in 2006, Caterpillar entered the rail industry.

Today Caterpillar continues to produce and develop leading products, including motor graders. Cat motor graders are known across the globe for their world-class cab features and controls, and advanced electronics and hydraulics.

For information about the range of refurbished Caterpillar 140G, 140H and 140K motor graders available from KH Plant, contact us online or call one of our representatives on +27 83 274 4882.