Caterpillar keeps machine components turning for longer

“Some parts do not wear out. So why not recycle them?”
Marc Biesemans, plant engineer at Caterpillar

Caterpillar is active throughout the world in the production of machines and components. “We like to keep our resources and materials circulating within the company as much as possible.”


Caterpillar has a range of over 300 different machines for use in sectors such as mining, road construction, motors and construction. The company markets its products in no less than 180 countries. This multinational has operated a logistical centre from Grimbergen ever since 1965. “We take care of the logistics, storage and distribution of components and spare parts for Caterpillar machines,” explains Marc Biesemans, plant engineer at Caterpillar. “We are responsible for 55 dealers in Europe, Africa and the Middle East.”

Old in exchange for restored

Caterpillar has been repairing components and rebuilding machines and marketing them ever since the 1980s. This process of remanufacturing or revising is carried out via the site at Grimbergen. “We operate an exchange system: customers buy a revised component and return us the part they are replacing. In Grimbergen we check the used components for signs of wear and tear. We determine the final credit level and then send them on to Caterpillar sites in the United States and China, where they are remanufactured. Components are taken apart, cleaned, revised, reassembled, tested and then returned to the market. It is an extensive range: going from injectors, starters, transmissions and wheel sets, right down to small and large motors.”

As good as new

“Since August 2016, the inspection of the components to be revised has been carried out in Grimbergen. This is a vast improvement. It used to be done in England, but the connections with the dealers go through us. It is much easier for used parts to be returned to Caterpillar’s possession using all the existing trips involved in delivery and returns. Then we check whether the components satisfy the criteria required for remanufacturing. Caterpillar not only sells separate revised components, but also complete sets of rebuilt components such as transmissions, motors and wheel sets. The so-called Cat Certified Rebuilds undergo over 350 tests and inspections, ensuring that they perform just as well as our brand new products.”


The same guarantee

“Remanufacturing is a sustainable solution that can save our customer considerable amounts of money. Revised components are cheaper than new ones, but the terms of guarantee are identical. The customer pays a deposit that is paid back when the used item is returned. In this way, we keep things going round. Remanufacturing extends the life cycle of products and materials. Certain components show little signs of wear and tear, such as the casing around an alternator. With this system, parts that do wear out are easily repaired or replaced. That makes it an important service for our customers. At the same time, we save on raw materials, production costs, and waste. It also benefits the environment.”

Everything is transported by boat

Caterpillar Grimbergen is located next to the Brussels-Scheldt sea canal. That gives us an additional environmental advantage, confirms Biesemans. “When arranging our transport to the United States and China we use the Port of Antwerp. Incoming transport is by boat, to about one kilometre from our site. Outgoing goods also sail to the port along inland waterways. Here they are loaded onto container ships. We hardly use any lorries.” 


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