Here in Boonville, 165,000 square feet worth of multi-million dollar robotic arms, industrial molders and injection-molding machinery are operated around the clock by a skilled team of approximately 320 operators and support staff. Caterpillar, the renowned corporation known for its mining and construction equipment, is at the top of its game – both locally and internationally.
Twenty years ago, a group of Caterpillar employees sought a stand-alone facility that was tactically located. Boonville's location, adjacent to the Missouri River and I-70 corridor, and laid directly in the middle of the United States, provided the opportunity. From a business perspective, the plant is a model of rapid success.
"From the outset, the facility had only about 20 people working it. It quickly went up to 40 or 50; it was never intended to be more than a 100-person operation. What happened after that was a huge expansion that went on year after year," said facility manager Steve Peters.
Boonville's plant produces rubber products that are bonded to steel.
"What this facility does that is specific in terms of Caterpillar's overall strategies in very simple terms – we make components for Caterpillar that involve non-metallic materials, predominantly rubber and plastic," Peters said.
Proprietary technology, unique to Caterpillar, has been developed over many decades. Seals for engine casings and shock absorbers are only a handful of the locally-produced products. The Boonville plant does not produce the several-tonned pieces of equipment that many are familiar with. They produce components that allow for a smoother and more efficient functionality.
"Our specialty here is that we mix and produce that rubber ingredient. We take it through to a final finished component by assembling it or bonding it to a metal surface for one requirement or another," Peters said.
A walk-through of the production floor yields glances at hydraulically-operated and computer controlled robotics, as can be expected at a state-of-the-art manufacturing plant. Coupled with the future, however, is the sensation of one of our oldest and most basic senses – smell. Heated rubber and plastic fill the atmosphere with a smell of being in the midst of something international.
The Boonville-produced products are shipped worldwide. A mining operation in South Africa can trace equipment parts all the way back to Central Missouri, courtesy of a time and plant stamp.
Peters explains the machine-process in a particular corner of the main warehouse. Quality inspection follows the end of every production cycle – a hands-on activity.
"We make this part out of our own rubber ingredients. We make the plastic part and injection-mold it. This is a crucial part. Here, we have a sealing face – we have an oil-filled joint in the middle of the track and then we make the final assembly here. We make thousands of these pieces every day, and they go out to supply Caterpillar tractors all over the world," Peters said.
Safety concerns abound. Every machine, every cart, every dolly, every shelf and every desk has a pre-marked spot on the production floor, drawn out with tape or paint. Ear plugs and vests are worn, almost as if they were a trademarked requirement. New machinery has been delivered and more is yet to arrive, facilitating the potential further expansion of the operation.
For more information on Caterpillar, Inc., please visit www.cat.com.
The Boonville facility is located at 2416 Mid-America Industrial Drive. They can be reached at 882-6200.