Doing the Work That Matters: How Manufacturing Makes a Difference

October 26, 2022

Manufacturing is at the heart of our company, which is why our production team is made up of the makers and the doers who go above and beyond to get the job done. They touch everything we make that digs, powers, builds, crushes, cuts, and operates — they make it happen so our customers can build a better, more sustainable world.

This Manufacturing Month, we’re honoring decades of manufacturing employees who work hard each day to help our customers and communities thrive. 

Becoming a world-leading manufacturer

In 1904, Caterpillar’s co-founder, Benjamin Holt, invented the first commercially successful track-type tractor. His goal was to help farmers in Northern California avoid getting stuck in soft soil. He solved the problem by removing the rear wheels from a steam tractor and replacing them with a pair of tracks. Upon seeing the machine, a photographer quipped that it looked like a “monster caterpillar.” 

Jump to 1931, when Caterpillar introduced the Diesel Sixty—the first diesel track-type tractor. Soon after, we introduced our first diesel engine designed for non-tractor applications. By 1937, Caterpillar accounted for one-third of all diesel engine production in the U.S., making us the largest manufacturer of diesel power in the world. 


Cat® Diesel Sixty

Cat® Diesel Sixty

Broadening our impact

When Caterpillar comes to town, good things happen for our manufacturing communities and employees. Our plants bring jobs, training and economic growth. Our equipment helps build energy, education, healthcare and transportation infrastructure that strong communities rely upon. 

Our original plant communities were in San Leandro, California, and East Peoria, Illinois, where Caterpillar Tractor Co. was founded in 1925. Starting in the 1950s, Caterpillar began opening facilities not only throughout Illinois, but across the world. This included production at plants in the United Kingdom, Brazil, France, Belgium, Australia, Japan, and India. 

As our business grew, so did our global workforce. Today, we employ more than 107,700 team members and partner with 160 Cat dealers. From product engineers to quality specialists to assemblers, our plants bring skilled employees together to collaborate and make a difference. 

One way we uplift communities is by mentoring local students and empowering them to become the next generation of manufacturing leaders. In Peoria, we offer a four-year E4Life program, which gives high school students hands-on manufacturing experience. Participants also learn about budgeting and personal finance to set them up for long-term personal and professional success. Recently, five participating seniors from Peoria’s Manual High School signed job offer letters to begin their Caterpillar careers.


The new class of E4Life students from Manual High School. Over the course of their senior year, these students will be introduced to different roles and gain critical skills and job experience within our East Peoria operations facilities.

Group of students pose for photo

Cobot in Decatur, Illinois, US

Man operating machine


Building on a legacy of innovation

From enhancing safety and efficiency to further improving the quality of our products, we are passionate about transforming the way our colleagues and customers work. 

In the early 1990s, Caterpillar enacted a worldwide Plant with a Future (PWAF) project to improve manufacturing methods and streamline materials flow. The plan called for consolidation, simplification, integration and automation—principles that Caterpillar facilities continue to build on and embrace.

A recent example is our introduction of collaborative robots in several facilities around the world. Known as cobots, the machines are designed for close human interaction and can perform various fabrication-based tasks. By implementing them, facility managers can upskill their employees, enabling them to focus on tasks that are less tedious and more advanced. 


Our Tiruvallur, India, site became one of the earliest adopters when it introduced a cobot in 2021, which it uses to carry out a complex manual hardware fit-up process. Since implementing the cobot, the site has enhanced productivity by 40% and improved resource utilization by 50%. Based on this success, the facility has introduced two additional cobots, which have also been embraced by Caterpillar facilities in Rayong, Thailand, and East Peoria and Decatur, Illinois. 

These leaps forward remind us that innovation and manufacturing excellence are part of our company’s DNA. They ensure that our people can continue to serve our communities and customers long into the future.

Learn more about how manufacturing careers offer a chance to make quality products that matter.


East Peoria, Illinois, US

Four men standing next to a machine in a factory