A £16 million engineering centre of excellence designed to underscore the firm’s role as an international player was opened at generator manufacturer FG Wilson yesterday.
The centre at the firm’s Larne plant was officially opened by Prince Andrew the Duke of York on a visit to the province in his role as UK Special Representative for International Trade and Investment
The company, which is the hub of Caterpillar’s substantial Electric Power Division, has leveraged a number of strategic Invest NI support packages to help create the facility which will transform product testing, enhancing product development and increasing competitiveness.
The 1700 sq m Engineering Centre of Excellence incorporates the most advanced testing facilities in the global industry. It will reduce the time and cost of new product development and improve the performance and efficiency of generating sets.
Products manufactured at the Larne site are exported throughout the globe and provide prime and stand-by power for a wide range of domestic, commercial and other uses.
“This is an extremely important investment for FG Wilson, Caterpillar and the local economy,” said Dr Mark Sweeney, FG Wilson Managing Director and Global Operations Director of Caterpillar’s Electric Power Division.
“It will enhance sustainability at the company, one of our major corporate objectives, by streamlining the product development process and enhancing the efficiency of products.
“We are very grateful to Invest Northern Ireland for their support and we look forward to further development at Larne in the next few years,” he added.
Founded by the late Fred Wilson in 1966 the firm is now a wholly owned subsidiary of Caterpillar and is Europe’s largest diesel generating set manufacturer. The company employs more than 3,000 people across four sites in Northern Ireland and also has manufacturing facilities in Brazil, China, India and the USA.
Steve Niehaus, Diesel Product Manager for the Electric Power Division, added: “The Engineering Centre of Excellence that we are unveiling today is the major component of a $26m investment to ensure that FG Wilson and Caterpillar’s Electric Power Division remain world-leaders.
“The centre includes state-of-the-art testing and validation facilities that will put us in a very strong position in relation to global competition.”