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Back You are here: Home News News Business These sculptures have a definite local flair

These sculptures have a definite local flair

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Welders would probably tell you there is a definite element of art that goes into their work. For sure, a good vision would be an asset when making sure pieces go well together.

But close to 60 welders at Caterpillar Inc. have proved a talent for art, including vision and even drawing, is prevalent in their vocation. And they will be rewarded for that talent.

Four team of approximately 15 welders each recently completed four pieces of sculture using nothing but their skill with pieces of scrap metal they found lying around Caterpillar plants in East Peoria. The time they used was only after their scheduled production work was completed each shift.

About the only thing gained for these welders was a sense of accomplishment and pride, said Tim Williams, the facility manager at Building SS, where the sculptures were unveiled on Thursday. There they will be judged by employees with the winning sculpture to be announced next week.

The four sculptures will be displayed at the Caterpillar Visitors Center beginning in January.

“These teams designed each sculpture themselves and did all the work building them. As you can see, they did great work. We have some very talented welders here and this was a good way to show it,” Williams said.

The competition came about as part of the company’s Employee Engagement Initiative, Williams said. He said welders came to management with the idea earlier in the year and got the green light to proceed.

“This was their initiative. They developed their own concepts for each sculpture. The only rules were that they had to be made with scrap pieces, production work had to be finished per shift first, and the sculpture had to fit on a pallet so it could be moved,” he said.

“We’re pretty proud of what they’ve done.”

The welders all are proud of their work, as well, said Randy Peters, a welder for the company for 12 years and one of 16 members of a team that put together a sculpture with a globe, tractor and a functional weather vane. Another of the team members, Peters said, is a tattoo artist who did the work putting the map on the globe that took 14 separate scrap pieces to put together.

“We wanted to use as much of the Caterpillar theme as we could,” he said, explaining that the numbers 1, 10 and 100 present on the sculpture refer to the motto that each Caterpillar tractor will be built by one team in 10 days and will last 100 years.

Travis Lutes, a welder for five years who was part of a team that welded a sculpture showing a bulldozer in front of the Murray Baker Bridge, with the Peoria skyline behind it. He said that was done to show the connection between East Peoria, where most of the company’s central Illinois factories are located, and Peoria, where Caterpillar’s headquarters are located. Those pieces then are in front of an American flag and a bald eagle to pay homage to the military veterans who work at Caterpillar, Lutes said. Each small piece of the eagle’s feathers was welded to the body.

Another sculpture is of a bulldozer that appears to be driven by a caterpillar, the fuzzy kind. This one has been welded together from scrap but appears basically seamless. This sculpture shows the different Caterpillar company logos from its history. The blade is signed by the team members.

The fourth sculpture also plays on Caterpillar’s global company theme. This one has a globe that more resembles the large, cage-looking one that is prominent in the lobby of the company’s headquarters building. A large hand, with each finger and joint individually welded, is attached to the globe. There also is an American flag, with each star a large bolt.

Peters and Lutes said each member of their teams were assigned a certain piece or aspect of the overall sculpture and worked on it when they had the time. “Production always came first; we knew that. But sometimes that left little time to work on our piece. We used every minute of the time we got to get it done,” Lutes said.

Peters said a few on his team were put on temporary layoff, which made it difficult to get that sculpture finished on time. “We’d just about given up on it, but we really pulled it together the last two weeks,” he said.

About the Author
Paul Gordon is the editor of The Peorian after spending 29 years of indentured servitude at the Peoria Journal Star. He’s an award-winning writer, raconteur and song-and-dance man. He also went to a high school whose team name is the Alices (that’s Vincennes Lincoln High School in Indiana; you can look it up).