Caterpillar, world known as CAT (and with its yellow and black), is one of the largest and most important US companies: a global company that designs, manufactures and sells machinery and engines of most of the vehicles used for 'mining and shipbuilding, as well as industrial turbines and locomotives. It is the world leader in the field, as is currently the listing of its shares on the Stock Exchange on Wall Street, is worth about $ 60 billion. Caterpillar employs thousands of people, mostly in Peoria, Illinois, where the headquarters of the company and some of the larger establishments are. Over the past twenty years, Caterpillar staff have been involved in numerous and prolonged strikes, which have resulted in lay-offs and wage cuts by the company.
The founder of the company - then registered under the name of Holt Manufacturing Company and located in Stockton, California - was Benjamin Holt, along with his brothers. He was an inventor (born in 1849 in New Hampshire) and he designed the first models of wheel loaders. The first machines were used mainly in agriculture, then they were re-designed to carry out mining activities. The first machine was put on the market in 1904, and in 1910 the plant in Peoria, Illinois, which is still the company headquarters, was inaugurated. The origin of the name is due in part to Charles Clements, a photographer: when photographing the new models of cranes while in motion, he thought they resembled crawling caterpillars. Over the years, the company made several acquisitions and the company name was changed in 1911, becoming Holt Caterpillar Company. The first patent was registered under the Caterpillar brand in 1925, while the trademark CAT was used for the first time in 1949: hence, CAT does not correspond to the name of the company, but it is one of his trademarks. Many Americans began to be familiar with the equipment Caterpillar during the rescue operation that followed the earthquake in San Francisco in 1906: in the photos of the time, the Caterpillar machinery backed up the police forces equipment during the rescue activities. Subsequently, the company's track-type tractors were used in the construction of the Los Angeles aqueduct and their use spread to many European cities at the end of World War I. In 1925, Caterpillar merged with one of their competitors, resolving an important financial problem due to the drop in demand creating Caterpillar Tractor Company. In the mid-forties, after the United States entered the war, Caterpillar began to produce and sell a lot of machines and became one of the main suppliers of the US government. Its profits rose even more at the end of the Second World War, as it had happened twenty-five years before, during the reconstruction phase after WWI. In the 50's the company had now become a multinational company, and began to spread to the markets of countries in the developing world. The situation worsened in the 80's, partly because of the embargo of US government against the Soviet Union - a market that had become important for Caterpillar. After the invasion of Afghanistan: the company fired about 20,000 workers, most of which worked in the factories of Peoria. The current name of the company, Caterpillar Inc., was coined in 1986. In recent decades, same as many other multinationals, the company's production is increasingly outsourced, in order to decrease production costs: in 2009, Caterpillar had 98,813 people working for the company out of which 50,562 were employed in plants outside the United States. During all these years, the main production site of the company has remained in Peoria, where new models are developed. Caterpillar has another 110 plants both throughout the United States and other countries. Regarding the current situation of the workforces, Oberhelman has announced that there will not be an increase in salaries until there is no economic recovery, hence linking the possibility of any improvements of workforce conditions to GDP growth in the United States. In 2012, Caterpillar had a turnover of 66 billion dollars and achieved 5.7 billion in profits. In the last quarter, however, profits declined, mainly due to a decrease in the prices of raw materials, which particularly struck mining companies. The company has been extremely affected by the decline in demand from the Chinese market. This resulted in deciding not to make big investments and not to expand production for the time being, and to focus on cost containment instead.
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