May 9, 2017 - Joy Global Inc., a mining equipment manufacturer with 133 years of history and nearly 1,000 employees in Milwaukee, is now officially Komatsu Mining Corp.
Joy, which made some of the world’s largest mining machines under the Joy and P&H brands, was sold to Komatsu America Corp., part of Japan-based Komatsu Ltd., for $3.7 billion in a deal that was finalized April 5.
On Monday, Komatsu Ltd. President and CEO Tetsuji Ohashi, and Komatsu Mining Corp. President Jeffrey Dawes were in Milwaukee for a presentation to employees.
Combined, Joy and Komatsu have about 60,000 employees worldwide.
For now, Komatsu has struck a positive tone for the Milwaukee workforce.
“We couldn’t be more pleased to commit to keeping the headquarters of Komatsu Mining right here in Milwaukee,” Dawes said.
The company says it will continue to promote and invest in the Joy, P&H and Montabert brands, and that it’s not shutting down the sprawling factory at 4400 W. National Ave., even as that plant has seen hundreds of layoffs.
“We didn’t buy this company to close it. Quite the contrary; there is huge experience here, more than 100 years worth, and we want to capitalize on that and make it grow,” Dawes said.
The merger of Joy into Komatsu’s operations could take several years to complete, and there are no guarantees for how it will look when finished.
Mining equipment companies are in a deep slump, with hundreds of jobs lost at Joy and its competitor Caterpillar Inc. in South Milwaukee.
Komatsu also manufactures off-highway trucks, excavators and industrial machines. It has locations worldwide.
“With so many voices around the world, and processes to consider, we will all need to be patient through these times of ambiguity and uncertainty,” Dawes said.
“We expect you to participate, collaborate, listen to new perspectives, share ideas and be open to change,” he told employees.
The mining equipment industry has some of the highest-paying jobs in Milwaukee manufacturing, with annual pay sometimes topping $80,000. That’s made the job losses especially difficult for union members who had those positions for many years.
Ross Winklbauer, a subdistrict director for the United Steelworkers union that represents Joy and Caterpillar employees, said he’s optimistic about Komatsu.
“We are kind of excited about this. Nothing has been said officially, but from the conversations our local (union) president has had, we are hoping that some work comes back in,” Winklbauer said.
The Steelworkers are down to fewer than 250 members at the Joy plants in Milwaukee, from 830 when the plants were running at a much higher capacity.
A year ago this week, Joy said it was discontinuing its welding and heavy fabrication operations at the National Ave. plant, eliminating about 130 union jobs.
Many people formerly employed in mining equipment manufacturing took buyouts, retired or changed careers.
The National Ave. plant has huge cranes and capabilities of building other equipment in Komatsu’s product lineup, in addition to mining machines.
“We are hopeful,” Winklbauer said.
Although their products haven’t overlapped, Joy and Komatsu have had many of the same mining industry customers.
The combined companies will be able to make a stronger sales pitch to those customers, as mine operators would rather deal with one large equipment supplier that can meet more of their needs.
“Of course, change is not easy; integration will be challenging,” Dawes said.
Komatsu was formed in 1921. To date, Joy is its largest acquisition.
Dawes was named president and CEO of Komatsu Mining Corp. in early April. Previously, he was head of Komatsu Latin America.
The merger of Joy into Komatsu won’t be rushed, according to Dawes.
“We are going to take our time to get it right. Whatever decisions we make will be sustainable in the long term,” he said.
Tetsuji Ohashi (left), Komatsu Ltd. president and CEO, is presented with a Wisconsin state flag by Gov. Scott Walker as Jeffrey Dawes, president and CEO of Komatsu Mining Corp., and Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett look on Monday at an event launching Komatsu Mining Corporation.
Photo by Michael Sears, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel