A NORTH-EAST digger maker has laid strong foundations for the new year after carrying out a £25m order.

Komatsu UK, based in Birtley, near Chester-le-Street, County Durham, secured a major deal with sister company Komatsu America for about 200 hydraulic excavators.

The Japanese firm, which employs about 400 workers in the region, made and shipped 190 diggers to meet increased demand in the US' construction sector.

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The work strengthened Komatsu's order book, which bosses say continues to be affected by stagnation in Europe.

The company said the machinery was tailored exactly to US specifications, which differs from the European models Komatsu UK specialises in.

The company, whose Birtley plant was officially opened by the Prince of Wales in July 1987, worked with 13 supply chain firms to complete the order.

Trevor Cairns, Komatsu UK’s senior purchasing manager, said: “As the European market overall remained flat in 2013, this was a welcome boost to our order book as well as those of our supply chain.

“We remain focus on continuous improvement as a core philosophy and will continue to adopt a very collaborative approach towards working with our suppliers.”

Mr Cairns said the firm was hopeful the growth in the UK's economy and rising construction market confidence would lead to increased work throughout the year.

He said: “There are indications the economy is growing and we hope it will soon lead to an improved level of demand within the European construction industry.

“That would in turn increase the demand for our products.”

Komatsu's North-East workforce has produced about 60,000 machines.

Bosses previously revealed they chose the region to centre its UK operations due to its highly skilled workforce and transport routes to mainland Europe.

Last year, the firm invested in the future of its senior workforce, putting eight members of staff through Institute of Leadership and Management training.