In November, Caterpillar reached the landmark of building the 250,000th backhoe loader (BHL) since the product was first introduced 26 years ago. The BHL is now in its fifth generation and started production in Leicester, but has since also been built in Clayton, N.C., Brazil and India.
The introduction of the BHL was the first Cat volume product below 100 Hp and was seen at the time as a game-changer, allowing Caterpillar to access different customer segments. Small contractors and owner operators were not Caterpillar's usual customers before 1985 and our dealers needed to transform their business to get closer to this customer base. The BHL design also needed different components than were commonly "on the shelf" within Caterpillar. All other Cat machines used larger engines, transmissions, cylinders etc. Initially, these smaller components were bought from external suppliers, but over the 26 years Caterpillar has vertically integrated, so that most of the critical components for the BHL are now produced in-house.
In addition, the BHL was the first product line in Building Construction Products Division, which now features seven product families, and is continuing to grow rapidly as BCP further expands their customer base.
The 250,000th unit is being sold by Wagner Equipment to CF Jordan, a large construction business in El Paso, Texas. John Goodrich, the executive vice president of CF Jordan flew over to Leicester to receive the 420E IT for his company. The event was celebrated at the Leicester Visitor Centre with a number of Leicester employees, local dignitaries, and press in attendance. During the celebration there were speeches from Robert Droogleever, Backhoe Loader General Manager, Bruce Wagner, Dealer Principal of Wagner Equipment, and the customer John Goodrich. The 250,000th machine then made a dramatic appearance, suitably adorned with stars and stripes engine side panels, silver buckets and muffler, before unfurling a Texas flag in front of the assembled audience. Robert then handed over the machine keys, a commemorative plaque and gifts to John Goodrich and Bruce Wagner.
While it has taken 26 years to reach the 250,000th milestone, BCP anticipates it will be significantly fewer years before the 500,000th milestone is reached.