[wooslider slider_type=”attachments” slide-page=”mg-fs” limit=”20″ thumbnails=”true” lightbox=”yes”] By Steve Tarter of the Journal Star
Posted Sep. 19, 2014 @ 3:58 pm
Updated Sep 19, 2014 at 4:15 PM

EDWARDS — Most of the time they don’t let just anyone operate a 150,000-pound Caterpillar excavator. Except on media day at Caterpillar Inc.’s Demonstration and Learning Center in Edwards.

That’s when — in a controlled environment — media folks and Caterpillar employees got a chance to take the controls of heavy equipment on the dirt floor of the same arena where trained operators had just put big machines through their paces.

Alex Rusciano, a reporter for WCBU-FM 89.9, Peoria’s public radio outlet, had his picture taken in front of a large tractor blade while Journal Star photographer Dave Zalaznik tried his hand at running a 316E hydraulic excavator.

The media was invited to the Edwards site to do more than push dirt around, however. A demonstration of 34 of the company’s machines — these operated by professionals — was also held along with a session with some of the many driving simulators that Caterpillar maintains at the learning site.

Caterpillar hadn’t sponsored a media day event in a number of years, said spokeswoman Rachel Potts.

“New reporters come and go out of the market. We thought it was a chance for them to learn more about the company or to just brush up on their Cat knowledge. It’s also a chance to spur potential story ideas for the future. We think it’s beneficial for both sides,” she said.

It was beneficial for Penny Wu, a Caterpillar employee in the corporate communication division who just moved to the United States from Beijing with her family five weeks ago.

A Caterpillar employee in China since April 2012, Wu said she’s anxious to learn more about her employer and the machines they make. That desire prompted her to try operating an excavator, herself.

“This was my first time to watch the show,” she said of the hour-long demonstration of various Caterpillar machines that preceded her own turn behind the wheel.

“Language is still a challenge for me plus adjusting to the cultural differences, just the way people do things,” said Wu, whose son is in the fifth grade at Dunlap’s Ridgeview Elementary School.

“I want to contribute back to the company plus just help people understand each other better,” she said.

Understanding some of the many characteristics of the earth-moving machines Caterpillar makes is the point of the demonstration program.

That’s where multi-terrain loaders, tractor-scrapers and heavy-duty trucks whirl about the arena, displaying the latest safety features or energy efficiency attributes.

The show-stopper was the 230,000-pound D11T, Caterpillar’s largest track-type tractor produced at the company’s East Peoria facility.

The lights went down and the music of rock band AC DC came up as the behemoth machine made its appearance, ripping up what seemed like a truckload of earth in a single pass.

You’re not likely to see machine action like that outside of an open-pit coal mine but then that’s what media day is all about.

Steve Tarter is Journal Star business editor. Tarter’s phone number is 686-3260, and his email address is starter@pjstar.com. Follow his blog, Minding Business, on pjstar.com and follow him on Twitter @SteveTarter

Source: PJ Star