South Milwaukee - The banners and signs told a story Monday at the former Bucyrus International headquarters: Caterpillar, Caterpillar, Caterpillar, they read.
In only a few days, it seemed as if 131 years of Bucyrus mining equipment history had been wiped clean.
Except for the company museum, the former headquarters now bleeds the black and yellow colors of Caterpillar Inc. A click on what used to be a Web page detailing Bucyrus history now takes you to a Caterpillar page.
"We call this day one. It's a historic day," said Steve Wunning, president of Caterpillar's mining equipment group.
Caterpillar, based in Peoria, Ill., completed its $8.8 billion acquisition of Bucyrus on Friday and immediately moved its mining equipment division into the Bucyrus facilities in South Milwaukee and Oak Creek.
The decision to drop the Bucyrus name wasn't taken lightly, Wunning said, and it wasn't done out of disrespect.
"Bucyrus is a great name in the industry; it's absolutely legendary. But Caterpillar has a good name as well," he said.
The company also wants to send the message that it now owns Bucyrus - right down to the color of the behemoth mining machines and the name they'll wear. After gathering input from Bucyrus dealers, customers, leaders and outside branding experts, Caterpillar came to the conclusion that a single brand - its own - would be best.
"We need one face for the company, not two," said Wunning, a 38-year veteran of Caterpillar, the world's largest construction equipment company and now the world's largest maker of mining equipment. "We thought long and hard about the name change, but it was basically a unanimous decision."
If the change seemed sudden Monday, outgoing Bucyrus CEO Tim Sullivan reminded that Caterpillar has had eight months to prepare for the transition since the deal was announced in November.
Caterpillar takes over Bucyrus at a time when mining is booming in China and developing nations.
The world's population is growing by millions of people a month, Wunning said, creating a huge demand for mined materials such as coal, copper and iron ore.
"I can't think of a better industry to be in than mining," he said.
Combined, Caterpillar and Bucyrus will be a formidable competitor to anyone - including Joy Global Inc., the Milwaukee area's other maker of massive mining equipment.
"We are now able to offer the broadest product line in the industry," Wunning said.
Bucyrus steam shovels helped dig the Panama Canal. It and Joy Global make some of the world's biggest machines, including draglines where the bucket alone is the size of a two-story garage.
In recent years, both companies have spent millions of dollars to upgrade and expand their Milwaukee-area factories.
The scale of the products made here is at least on par with the largest of Caterpillar's 100-plus manufacturing plants.
Wunning said Caterpillar has no intention of scaling back production - or employment - at the former Bucyrus operations that employ 1,400 people in the Milwaukee area and 10,000 worldwide.
"We are talking about creating jobs, not cutting them," he said. "As we grow the mining business at an even faster rate, we will be looking to increase manufacturing capacity not only here in Milwaukee but at other Caterpillar facilities around the world. We are right now in the process of planning what our global footprint should look like."
Under Sullivan's leadership, Bucyrus saw explosive growth, as annual sales increased to $3.65 billion in 2010 from $280 million in 2000. The company's stock appreciated more than 1,500% from an initial public offering in 2004 to when the deal was agreed upon last November.
Sullivan hasn't said what his next job will be, although suggestions have included teaching and running for the U.S. Senate.
He has been outspoken on issues including education, workforce development and international trade.
Wunning, by contrast, may be a little more low-key in public policy debates.
"Will I be as visible as Tim? I don't know," he said. "I am going to be as active as Tim in the community. I can promise you that. But I think what (Caterpillar) typically does is leverage our entire leadership to pursue things. You are going to see a lot of Caterpillar faces in the community."
Wunning has already met with union leaders and spent time with production employees.
A metallurgical engineer by profession, he said he intends to earn the trust of people who worked 40 years for Bucyrus, getting out on the shop floor to listen to employees' concerns. He also will travel globally to meet Bucyrus customers.
"In Peoria," Wunning said, "we have a saying in our office: It's a dangerous place to see the world from your desk."
Your link to the biggest stories in the suburbs delivered Thursday mornings.
Enter your e-mail address above and click "Sign Up Now!" to begin receiving your e-mail newsletter Get the Newsletter!
- Milwaukee suburbs trick-or-treat times 2015
- South Shore police report: June 18, 2015
- South Shore police report: June 4, 2015
- South Shore police report: May 28, 2015
- South Shore police report: May 14, 2015
- Winter's not through with us yet
- South Shore police report: May 7, 2015
- South Shore police report: April 30, 2015
- South Shore police report: April 23, 2015
- South Shore police report: April 16, 2015