North East Connected

Olympian Effort as Engineers go for Gold

Screen Shot 2016-04-12 at 10.38.30FROM bear-like discus throwers to rubber-limbed gymnasts, Olympians come in all shapes and sizes…but how many could spot weld an excavator?

It may not be the question on the lips of the BBC commentary team as they prepare for this summer’s Rio games, but it was one of the disciplines at this year’s Komatsu Technology Olympics, staged at the firm’s Birtley plant.

From the welding booths to the paint department, assembly teams to excavator testing, 115 “Olympians” from every part of the business competed for the honour of representing Komatsu UK at the global finals of the Komatsu Technology Olympics, in Japan, later in the year.

It is the 18th annual Komatsu Technology Olympics, which not only gives employees the opportunity to showcase the high level of skill that goes into creating the plant’s world-famous excavators, it’s also an opportunity to bring together everyone from directors to apprentices to compete against each other. Komatsu suppliers can also get involved, as competing helps improve their skills.

Komatsu UK Manufacturing Director, Paul Blanchard, said: “The benefits of the Komatsu Olympics are many, from the promotion of skills to the ethos of continuous improvement, from helping demonstrate our workforce’s skill to giving our employees the exciting opportunity to travel to Japan – they are embraced by the whole plant.

“We bring in guests, including senior representatives from business groups such as the NEAA and CBI, and from the world of education…we even welcomed representatives from the Armed Forces this year. Hopefully, a few will leave here today inspired by the effort, skill and undoubted talent on display across our workforce.

“As an industry we must always look to attract the next generation of engineers and, today, we might play a small part in spiking the interest of young people who are considering their first step on the career ladder.”

Around 80 people attended the event, which included a tour of the Birtley plant, demonstrations of the Komatsu excavator fleet and the winners award ceremony.

Preparation and training for the contest started in January, and the actual competition takes place over a fortnight. However attendees of the final day were treated to front row seats in the Assembly, Painting, Welding and Machine Inspection elements

Winners included, Kris Malloy in Welding; Steve Chapman, Painting; Owen Outterside, Assembly and Richard Taylor, Machine Inspection.

Richard, also a winner in 2015, said: “While there is an obvious competitive nature to the Olympics, most of us are competing against ourselves. The emphasis is not only on speed, but also on quality – and you do feel a certain amount of pressure to deliver in front of your peers.

“It’s great to win the event two years in succession and I’m genuinely looking forward to making up part of the Komatsu UK team competing against the rest of the world at the main event in Japan, in October.”

Organiser of the event, Paul Gardner, production manager, said: “Every year the event gets bigger and better. We know how good the people are at this plant, but every year they manage to surprise us with their abilities.

“Congratulations to Kris, Steve, Owen and Richard who will now head off to Japan to fly the flag for Komatsu UK against some of the most talented and skilled technicians in the worldwide Komatsu group.”

View the Komatsu UK Technology Olympics video:

For more information on Komatsu UK, visit

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