Productivity Pays Off For Caterpillar

caterpillar
caterpillar
CBS

Caterpillar is part of the American landscape. It's the world's No. 1 maaker of tractors and earth-moving machines, CBS News correspondent Trish Regan reports.

When Panama wants to expand its canal, it turns to Caterpillar. When China wants to mine nickel, it turns to Caterpillar again.

CEO Jim Owens says the company exports $9 billion worth of machines oversea every year. He says it surprises him that Americans think manufacturing is losing out to other countries.

We're not. Last year, America produced $1.79 trillion worth of goods, almost twice as much as second-place Japan.

The key to success in factories like Caterpillar comes down to one thing: A steady growth in worker productivity. In other words, it's not your grandparents' assembly line.

Every year for the last decade, American workers have increased manufacturing productivity by more than 4 percent ... because of employees like Jack Morgenstern. He figured out how to take minutes off parts distribution on Caterpillar's engine line in Peoria, Ill.

"I would say there's at least 25 to 30 parts at each assembly station. So my idea was to coordinate them in the kits where the first assembler would not have to reach for anything. They could take them off the top," Morgenstern explains.

Those saved minutes added up to two more engines a day.

"We're more competitive with our manufacturing in the United States than we were 15 or 20 years ago because we've broken through a lot of those hurdles where people had tightly defined jobs and didn't work together," Owens says.

Caterpillar's products are the No. 1 or No. 2 best sellers on every continent, proving that "Made in the USA" a very valuable label.