A team of engineering Olympians will put their abilities to the test against the finest manufacturing minds in the world in a global contest later this year.

The Komatsu UK squad will be heading to Japan after a nail-biting final at the Birtley-based firm’s “Technology Olympics”, a contest pitting some of the factory’s brightest talents against competitors from its supply chain and representatives from European sister companies, across a range of disciplines.

It is the first time since January 2020 the global leader in construction machinery manufacturing has staged the contest, in which competitors do battle in three of the factory’s main departments: welding, paint and assembly. Each task testing and showcasing employee skill, with judges assessing quality and technical knowledge.

Komatsu UK managing director, Paul Blanchard, said: “Competition in the Technology Olympics is fierce, but also friendly. The dedication, concentration and skill required just to compete is immense, but to win employees really must be at the top of their game on the day.

“We had a smaller event last autumn, but this is the first full Olympics we have staged since the pandemic, so it’s not only great to see the contest in full swing again, but also a real pleasure for us to be able to welcome people back into the plant.”

In total, 153 Komatsu employees participated this year’s Olympics, as well as 14 from supply chain businesses, as bright-spark engineers battled it out for a place in the grand final in Osaka, Japan, later this year.

This year’s winners were Callum Soul in welding, Adomas Burba in paint and Jason Embleton in assembly. The trio will now train with the Komatsu ‘meisters’ – the best of the best engineering masters – at the company’s Takumi Centre in Japan, before participating in the global finals in Osaka later in the year.

Callum, 31, who works as a welder, said: “It’s great to have the Olympics back and I’m delighted to have scooped first spot in fabrication again. I won in the same contest three years ago but unfortunately was unable to visit Japan to compete in the final due to the pandemic.”

Painter, Adomas, 30, said: “We’re all evenly matched in the paint department, and it all comes down to who performs best on the day. It’s a great honour to win and I can’t wait to head to Japan to test myself against some of the best paint technicians in the world, especially after placing third in the 2020 competition.”

Jason, 24, an assembler, said: “This is my first time entering the full competition and while it is intense, it is also great fun. I am excited for the opportunity to travel across the world and represent the organisation on a global stage in Japan.”

Phil Trott, general manager – manufacturing, said: “The Technology Olympics is totally unique and gives us a fantastic opportunity to reward employees for their outstanding hard work, skill, and application.

“This year’s event was a real celebration of everything that is great about KUK, and I’m certain the three winners will do us proud in the global finals in Japan.”

Komatsu welcomed guests from Gateshead Council, regional suppliers, and local colleges to the event. They received a tour of the site and had the opportunity to test drive one of the firm’s excavators.

Komatsu has delivered the highest quality excavators since establishing the plant in 1987, when it helped redefine modern manufacturing in the North East, establishing a range of Japanese practices and ways of working unheard of in most UK plants.

Originally creating 250 high quality manufacturing and engineering roles, Komatsu was at the forefront of the creation of a whole new industry in the North East that centered around automotive and construction equipment manufacturing.