Caterpillar’s new ‘smart iron age’ machines go way beyond automation

An in-cab display of grade and drill plans shows operators the exact position of their machine within its work zone, along with work to be done and work completed. The display also highlights avoidance zones and other information to enhance job site safety and machine efficiency. (Image courtesy of CAT)

With sales and operations at the ends of the earth, few companies are in a better position to take the pulse of the global economy and the resource sector in particular than Caterpillar.

The new line of “smart” equipment will be able to communicate, instantly, how it’s performing, and what might need fixing soon.

The world’s number one heavy equipment manufacturer has been hit hard by the decline in mining and construction – sales are down more than $20 billion from its peak just four years ago after a drop of over $8 billion last year.

But the company is pinning its hopes on its new line of “smart” equipment, which will be able to communicate, instantly, information on how it’s performing, and what might need fixing soon.

CAT’s digitalization strategy, dubbed “The Age of Smart Iron” was planned with the aim of improving productivity, efficiency, safety and profitability for customers, Doug Oberhelman, Chairman and CEO of Caterpillar said last month, when launching the plan at Bauma 2016, the world’s largest construction industry trade show.

Some of the main innovations include:

  • Cat Connect Technology: Hardware and software available for Cat or competitive equipment that arms customers with information designed to help them optimize their operations. Specific construction technologies on display include:

– LINK, a solution that captures vital performance and product health data and makes that data available on the web to guide decision-making.

– GRADE and COMPACT, two productivity solutions that help operators move material faster, more accurately and with fewer passes.

– PAYLOAD, an on-board system for trucks and loading tools that drives higher efficiency, shorter cycle times and lower cost per ton.

  • Cat 360° Advantage, a collaboration between Caterpillar and Cat dealers to deliver a full complement of expertise, technology-enabled equipment and support services that address customers’ job site challenges.
  • Leverage Every Litre, an educational initiative with tools, tips and resources that help Caterpillar customers improve the fuel efficiency of their products and, as a result, increase its revenue from every liter of fuel burned.
  • Product Support Services that enhance the customer’s equipment investment and help maximize its value.

Caterpillar, which has taken dramatic cost-cutting measures in the last three years, invested $2 billion on developing its smart iron age machines.

The company says it expects to make “major announcements” related to the new equipment in early 2017.

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