Q&A

Taking the IIoT Journey with Caterpillar

There isn’t a day that goes by that we don’t hear about how technology is changing the way all of us interact with new devices that are connected to cars, thermostats, smart meters, and much more. These connected devices and the ensuing services are enriching our experiences and transforming our lives by exposing anomalies through machine intelligence. Terri Lewis, who leads the Caterpillar Digital and Technology group for Energy and Transportation, recently discussed the company’s Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) strategy and vision the commercialization of Cat® Connect, with Editorial Director of Connected World magazine Peggy Smedley.

Peggy Smedley:
How has technology changed the way dealers are interacting with their customers?

Terri Lewis:
Technology is changing the way Caterpillar and our dealers interact together, and with our customers. It is becoming a much deeper, more integrated relationship over the lifecycle of our products. It’s a natural evolution to move from selling just iron to the data and services that help our customers be more successful. We provide this through Cat Connect, our digital offering of technologies and services.

Before the 1980s, Caterpillar provided services exclusively at the product level. Dealers dealt with the physical aspects—they got dirty, cold, and muddy. By the ‘80s, technology transformed the way Caterpillar provided service—we shifted from just a physical company to one that provided electronic and software services as well. Since then, the Internet has revolutionized the way services can be provided, allowing us to increasingly offer our customers opportunities to work remotely. Our services will become even more real and remote over the next years with plans to implement augmented and virtual reality.

Smedley:
How is Caterpillar playing a role in helping dealers leverage technology to interact with their customers?

Lewis:
Our strategic intent is to provide solutions to help our customers succeed with the combination of deep domain expertise and technology. We are investing in digital tools and capabilities to support our dealers to have faster, smarter customer interactions. Unplanned downtime is not an option for our customers so Caterpillar is making investments in analytics to not only detect failures, but predict them before they even happen.

Smedley:
Service has changed to become more realtime and remote? How are dealers responding?

Lewis:
It’s exciting and our our dealers are pulling for us to accelerate

Smedley:
How has the IIoT played a role in service and support?

Lewis:
The IIoT has given us and our dealers the ability to digitally talk to our Caterpillar assets and other customers’ critical assets to monitor and control them remotely. Caterpillar by some of the numbers: a) more than 500,000 connected assets, the largest connected industrial fleet, b) more than 200,000 electronic inspections are performed annually through the Cat Inspect Mobile App c) Caterpillar analyzes more than 5 million fluid samples per year through SOS Web Services; and d) 10 industry-specific apps and growing. Caterpillar is also working to retrofit older machinery with sensors and analytics technology.

Smedley:
How are physical things getting connected and talking to each other remotely?

Lewis:
Multiple ways, Bluetooth, cellular, satellite, Internet, and some low-power communications. The choice is really dependent on the problem that we are trying to solve. It’s good that cellular costs are coming down, as industry has needed communication costs to come down to improve commercial viability of some services.

Smedley:
Let’s talk AR (augmented reality) and how that will impact dealers and customers?

Lewis:
When a generator set gets delivered, people might not be familiar with the product and have to search through the manual. This is where iPads and AR can simplify the start-up procedure. Hold the iPad over the gen set, and a service technician can go through diagnostics to start and utilize the asset.

By using the AR solution, a technician can understand live data gathered from the hardware such as critical fuel levels, service status, replacement parts, etc. This predictive diagnostic approach can prevent expensive downtime and increase jobsite safety, asset utilization, and planning maintenance.

Our products are often sitting in hazardous environments, and it can become difficult and costly to find expertly trained technicians. With AR, our deep domain experts can sit anywhere while walking a technician through a troubleshooting procedure.

However, the benefits of AR solutions for Cat products don’t stop there. It’s also transforming equipment sales in the 21st century.

From a sales perspective, the Cat dealer has the ability to view and experience specific models with the customer without the need of having the model physically present. You can imagine how much less physical inventory this requires while securing an important sale.

I’m optimistic about the future of AR as a product lifecycle and fleet-management tool. Caterpillar has been a leader in technology for decades. We’re positioned to accelerate and adapt to be a significant part of this changing world and deliver great value for our customers in the years to come.

Smedley:
What is the difference between AR/VR (virtual reality) and is there a difference?

Lewis:
The biggest difference is that virtual reality offers the user a completely artificial view. It uses visuals and sounds to make someone feel like they’re in a real situation or environment, when in reality they may be sitting in the comfort of their own home.

Augmented reality, however, is an extension of reality. It layers a computer-generated image over the real, physical world the user already sees. This can change the way the user experiences the real world.

Smedley:
What are the hurdles of AR/VR for commercialization?

Lewis:
It can be difficult to understand and implement the appropriate use cases in order for AR and VR commercialization to be successful. Effective AR development requires a specific skillset that is currently hard to come across. Creating, testing, and deploying augmented reality solutions is often prohibitive to many companies because of the necessary time and investments involved in implementation. Typically, AR visualization tools are not both adapted to harsh environments and commercially viable. Additionally, it can be a challenge to quickly connect realtime data to an augmented reality experience.

Smedley:
What’s on the horizon of IIoT?

Lewis:
IIoT is not just about technologies, but the dreams behind them. Focusing on capabilities of our people and of our dealers will continue this journey. We will continue to focus on a dedicated digital organization, which combines deep expertise in the industry combined with digital, investing in foundational capabilities, R&D (research and development), acquisitions, and strengthened partnerships.

By | 2017-08-01T20:31:03+00:00 7/31/2017|

One Comment

  1. Michael Walton 09/20/2017 at 1:24 pm - Reply

    I think there is so much more still to do in IoT for CAT. Love the progress made.

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