A Factory Visit in Tamil Nadu

Posted by Atul Keshap
December 21, 2010
Atul Keshap Inspects a Locally-Manufactured Truck in Tamil Nadu, India

About the Author: Atul Keshap is the Director of the Office of India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Bhutan and Maldives in the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs.Editor's Note: Atul Keshap visited India in early December. This blog entry is the second in a series of his reflections on his trip.

I flew to Chennai to reacquaint myself with the booming industries and economy of India's southeastern coast. Three years have passed since my last visit, and I was eager to see what had changed. Along with representatives from our Consulate General in Chennai, I toured Caterpillar's factory in Thiruvallur, Tamil Nadu. This plant manufactures heavy trucks for mining operations in India, Indonesia, and throughout Asia.

Caterpillar is one example of an American and international success story. The industrial equipment manufacturer designs, builds, promotes, and sells equipment and related services around the world. (You're probably familiar with Caterpillar's "Cat" brand of construction equipment, found at sites all around the country.) At Caterpillar, I saw high-tech machining and finishing work performed on a spindle, part of the huge axle for a gigantic 100-ton mining truck. Booming demand in Asia is fueling the manufacture of spindles in India and in the United States. This overseas operation, which is directly tied to Caterpillar, is supporting jobs back home.

The Consulate team and I also viewed a mining truck as it was prepared for sea shipment to Indonesia. Caterpillar's trucks in Tamil Nadu are primarily a mix of U.S. and Indian sourcing, research and development in both countries, and assembly in India. Many of the Caterpillar trucks sold in India are tailored for emerging markets and are a different generation of truck than what are sold in the United States.

By making careful investments in operations in India and elsewhere, globally competitive U.S. firms such as Caterpillar sustain and create jobs in the U.S. as part of a globalized supply chain. These firms also enhance their innovation by tapping into Tamil Nadu's -- and India's -- immense human capital, and they enhance American shareholder value, benefiting the pensions and 401(k) plans of people all across the United States.

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