Komatsu UK Limited (KUK) celebrated its 30th anniversary on July 21 2017.
On this special occasion, current and former Komatsu UK employees from both the UK and Japan welcomed several distinguished guests at the Gateshead plant, among which Mr Ohashi, CEO and President of Komatsu Ltd, Mr Mas Morishita, CEO and Managing Director of KEISA, Mr Taiichiro Kitatani, President and Managing Director of Komatsu Germany and Vice Chairman of Komatsu Europe, Mr Suketomo and Mr Tipping, former KUK Managing Directors and Clive Morton, the very first KUK employee.
M Ohashi spent seven years working at the UK plant after it was opened in 1987.
(L-R) Komatsu UK managing director Peter Howe with Mr Ohashi.
Links between the North East of England and Komatsu have grown in strength over the years and led to Gateshead being twinned with Komatsu City. The Komatsu UK plant is located close to the town of Gateshead. Council leaders from Gateshead also attended the event, and marked the occasion by inviting Mr Ohashi to operate the tilting Millennium Bridge over the River Tyne during a welcome dinner on July 20, and by allowing the Komatsu logo to be projected onto the bridge.
Mr Ohashi said: “I have nothing but fond memories of my time at Birtley and learned so much during my years here. It is fantastic to see so many old friends and colleagues here on this momentous day.
“Komatsu UK arrived at a time when industry in the North East was changing dramatically. Not only did I work at Komatsu UK, but back in 1984, before the site was acquired, I was one of the team members seeking a suitable location for the plant.
“I am not exaggerating when I say the whole region opened its arms to welcome us and I have felt that this is my second home ever since. In particular, I thank Gateshead Council, which supported us when the plant was established, and continue to do so ever since.”
Anniversary address by Mr Ohashi.
Many of the original KUK staff members are still working for the company to this day. Jackie Lowe, who began her career as a receptionist at the factory, and is now a human resource officer, said that the company works hard to retain its staff.
She said: “Some of our apprentices that started 30 years ago are still here today, and some are now supervisors or engineers. It’s a testament to the company’s dedication.
“There are 51 people here who started out as apprentices and 21 apprentices who are still coming through.”
KUK group photo.
Komatsu UK now employs around 400 people, with 12% having worked at the firm for three decades. Since the plant was opened, KUK has manufactured over 65,000 machines, most of which sold to domestic and European markets.