Staff at digger maker impress in Technology Olympics

Workers from a North-East digger maker have pitted their wits against peers from across Europe in a company skills competition.

Komatsu UK hosted the annual Technology Olympics contest, which allowed its brightest talents to prove their mettle against rivals from the supply chain and sister companies.

The event, held at the business’ plant in Birtley, near Chester-le-Street, saw 115 people compete for the honour of representing Komatsu UK at finals in Japan later this year. Competitors took part in a number of tasks across fabrication, painting, welding and inspection.

This year’s winners included Kris Malloy, for welding, and painter Steve Chapman. Owen Outterside was championed for his work on assembly, with Ethan Kelly singled out for praise for his machine inspection skills. Mr Malloy, Mr Chapman and Mr Outterside have all won previously, but it was the first time Mr Kelly has been recognised in such a way.

David Kilkenny, fabrication, CNC and maintenance manager, said: “The Olympics puts focus on our commitment to giving the best training possible to our workforce.

“The competitors have gone above and beyond this year.”

Mr Malloy, who won in 2015 and 2016, said he was somewhat shocked to have been successful again. He added: “To win for the past three years is incredible and all the more surprising given the level of competition this year.

“It brings out the best in everyone and while it’s competitive, it’s still friendly and you find yourself rooting for friends and colleagues.”

The Olympics event comes after The Northern Echo exclusively revealed the business had been chosen by Japanese bosses to supply a next generation hybrid excavator, designed to cut fuel use, from its Birtley plant.

Bosses say the work will help the company, which employs about 400 people and this year celebrates its 30th anniversary, stay at the forefront of the European construction equipment sector.