Caterpillar Inc. said Thursday it has temporarily closed an undisclosed number of production facilities in response to the COVID-19 virus lowering demand for its products.
The company's Progress Rail subsidiary operates a manufacturing plant in Winston-Salem with about 160 employees at last count. It also has production plants in Clayton, Goldsboro and Sanford.
Company officials could not be immediately reached for comment on whether the Winston-Salem or other N.C. facilities are affected.
"The continued spread of the COVID-19 pandemic is starting to impact Caterpillar’s supply chain," the company said.
"Supply chain teams have been executing business continuity plans, which include, but are not limited to, being alert to potential short supply situations, and, if necessary, utilizing alternative sources and/or air freight, redirecting orders to other distribution centers and prioritizing the redistribution of the most impactful parts."
Caterpillar said it is "continuing to run the majority of its U.S. domestic operations and plans to continue operations in other parts of the world, as permitted by local authorities."
"The company will continue to monitor the situation and may suspend operations at additional facilities as the situation warrants."
Lydall Inc. has temporarily shut down all of its Yadkin County facilities, affecting about 500 employees. Gildan Activewear Inc. has taken the same action with all of its plants, including in Eden, Mocksville and Sanford, affecting more than 800 employees combined.
Caterpillar joined a growing list of corporations, including CBL Properties and Hanesbrands Inc., in withdrawing first quarter and/or fiscal 2020 earnings projections because of the uncertainty of the overall COVID-19 impact on its revenue and expenses.
Caterpillar’s initial fiscal 2020 earnings forecast, disclosed Jan. 31, was a range of $8.50 to $10 a share.
The company plans to provide an earnings forecast update with its first-quarter report that is scheduled to be released April 28.
Caterpillar said it ended fiscal 2019 with $8.3 billion of cash and available global lines of credit of $10.5 billion.