Tuesday | 16 October, 2012 | 10:06 am

Wisely invested

By Gretchen Salois

When the economy stalled, one company chose to repurpose rather than downsize

October 2012 - When the financial system blundered in 2008, Cashman Equipment Co., Henderson, Nev., found its service centers went quiet. “Our customers in the Southern Nevada construction industry were hit hard,” say Kate Gallagher, marketing communicator and Joel Bennett, customer relations officer. Instead of sending welders home by midday each day, Cashman Equipment, which manufactures and sells Caterpillar machines and engines, put employees to work on creative projects.

At the time, the downward turn in the economy coincided with the company’s move to a new facility. In efforts to reduce the resources needed to purchase and ship artwork to its Henderson facility, Cashman Equipment company enlisted the talents of its own  welders. Shon Parks, Tim Moriarty and Mark Bail got to work, creating tables and benches out of used Caterpillar gears, sprockets, bearings and other components that would have otherwise ended up in a scrap yard. Their efforts helped spawn Weld Shop Designs, an outlet for Cashman Equipment welders to create unique pieces.

The welding projects from Weld Shop Designs kept workers working 40 hours a week, a positive boost to morale. Some of the more notable pieces include Remann, a six-foot-tall robot comprised of approximately 125 used Caterpillar parts, weighing approximately 400 pounds, and his dog, Bolt. The pair were made for a local non-profit holiday display at nearby Opportunity Village’s Magical Forest.

Other projects include a Lazy Susan style bearings table, designed to move, “reminding people that the table was built from Caterpillar parts and still functions smoothly,” say Gallagher and Bennett. “It kept [workers] busy and let them express a creativity at work they typically did not get a chance to do.”

According to Shon Parks, service shop lead and welder, there is no standard size for materials used the different pieces. Welders could work with sheet metal parts or thicker metals measuring more than 1 inch. Because Cashman Equipment welders used parts that no longer meet OEM standards, the welders could be working with a variety of metals and sizes. “Our welders simply use what’s on hand,” Parks says.

The welders used band saws to cut off wheels and used torches and grinders to either MIG, TIG or stick weld, followed by sanders. Their methods depended on what the customer wanted as a finish (shiny, natural, polished or brushed metal). An individual welder is assigned to one project, but there are often three or four people working on any one. “So it simply depends on who’s best suited to the project,” Parks says. “There are no schematics, just the general size and weight [are given] to the welder and they can use their imaginations from there!”

Maximizing morale
Fast-forward to 2012 and Cashman Equipment still retains its artists, who have since seen a return of equipment orders. “We are seeing a slow but steady increase in our industry. Our welders are back to their usual jobs but still work on special requests,” say Gallagher and Bennett. The team recently worked on a table for the Caterpillar parts facility in Morton, Ill. “They work on these items in between working on machines for our customers,” Gallagher says.

The mining industry is doing particularly well and as the construction industry picks up again, Cashman Equipment’s outlook is positive. “We are hiring,” say Gallagher and Bennett. “Like most Caterpillar dealerships, we are looking for experienced diesel mechanics and heavy equipment technicians and, of course, welders.”

Overall, the endeavor has been a positive and rewarding experience. It’s also been a great way for Cashman Equipment’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) to recycle and repurpose materials, say Gallagher and Bennett. “We are committed to sustainable principles here at Cashman Equipment and have been thrilled to be able to incorporate our business with that philosophy.” MM

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