Saturday, September 17, 2016

LeTourneau Earth Moving Machines

I have noticed the LeTourneau name on big earth moving machines when I was a kid. This video about R. G. LeTourneau was interesting even though it has the usual problem of talking heads saying the standard platitudes about manufacturing. They include enough shots of the equipment and factory interious to make it worth suffering through the standard "business speak."

From the video, I learned that LeTourneau started building bigger earth moving machines because originally he was a contractor and wanted to be able to under bid his competitors. His motto was "There are no big mountains, just small machines." He then switched his focus to manufacturing machines. Another topic addressed by the video is that big machines need big tires. He made an agreement with Harvey Firestone that if he manufactured the needed molds, Firestone would produce the tires. The tires have grown to be 13 feet and 7 tons. (I've never seen a "deep well" truck trailer to ship them vertically. I wonder how those tires are shipped. If they are shipped horizontally, then they are definitely an oversize load and need escort vehicles.) LeTourneau not only manufactures their own steel, they manufacture other basic components such as motors so that they can control the design and quality.

I could not find the plant in Longview, TX until I discovered that Joy Global bought the operations in 2012. [news-journal]

A video about the plant. After several aerial flyover views, it has interior views of the steel plant. The plant is still pouring the steel into ingot molds instead of using the more modern method of continuous casting. But maybe ingots are still appropriate because the steel is used to make large forged parts instead of being rolled into sheets or steel beams.

I was surprised by the round buildings. They evidently want large work areas free of support columns. Also note the "dirt pile" to test their machines.

The first plant was in Peoria, IL in 1929. They relocated several times until they built the plant in Longview, TX in 1945. [JoyGlobal]

I noticed that they also built drilling equipment and rig components. Joy Global sold that part of the business to Cameron. [prnewswire]

The plant does not seem to use rail service very often. One lead is severed. The other lead is covered. But it appears that they have a place where they can load a product on a flat car. I wonder if their products are now shipped in containers so that they can easily be exported. That would also allow them to use trucks for short-hauls and an intermodal yard for long hauls.

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