PODCAST: Bonnie Fetch on 3D Printing Parts, Drone Delivery and the Glass Ceiling

Bonnie Fetch’s view of Caterpillar has been an interesting one. 

Her father and grandfather were welders at the company in the 1980s when she was thinking about her career choices, and they were laid off more than they worked during the decade. They still encouraged her to join Caterpillar, but she instead opted for management roles in the restaurant industry and running a travel agency. 

She followed her family’s footsteps and ended up working at Caterpillar, eventually left the company for a few years and then came back. 

“Two and a half to three years later I got a random phone call asking if I wanted to help start up HR shared services,” Bonnie says. 

Today, she is Caterpillar’s Director of Aftermarket Parts Distribution, a crucial sector of the company that’s ripe for innovation. 

In The Caterpillar Podcast, Bonnie talks about the importance of 3D printing parts moving forward, delivering parts via drone and the opportunity to better collaborate on distribution with Cat® dealers. 

She also discusses her eye opening experience as a female leader. 

“I learned to assimilate and fit into a male dominated environment, and if you had asked me prior to 2008 if there was a glass ceiling, I probably would’ve told you no that women held themselves back more than just a glass ceiling,” Bonnie says. “My eyes have since been opened.”  

Show highlights are listed in the program guide below. 

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Program Guide

1:10 – Bonnie’s path to Caterpillar began with her family: “My father and grandfather were both welders at Caterpillar in Joliet – and much of the ‘80s they were laid off more than they worked...they told me I should work at Caterpillar, and I said, ‘I’m not working at Caterpillar.’ So I went into the restaurant industry…”

3:10 – Transitioning from HR and labor relations to the business side: “I wasn’t sure it would ever happen, but a boss took a chance on me and moved me over to Europe in 2008 to run our small drivetrain business.” 

5:30 – Why Bonnie left Caterpillar, and why she decided to come back. “Two and a half, almost three years later, I got a random phone call asking me if I would be interested in helping to start up HR shared services at Caterpillar.”

7:18 – On being a female leader: “I learned to assimilate and fit into a male-dominated environment, and if you had asked me prior to 2008 if there was a glass ceiling, I probably would’ve told you no that women held themselves back more than a glass ceiling. My eyes have since been opened.”  

10:00 – The importance of having men as advocates for females: “Until we engage men in a meaningful and respectful way in the conversation, we’re going to be scratching our heads in 20 years wondering why we didn’t make any progress.”

14:40 – Bonnie’s hobbies outside of work: “The running helps me to burn off energy; it helps me to get into a state of mindfulness…yoga helps to relax me and keep me centered…a good glass of wine is always helpful...”

16:10 – How she believes culture drives business results: “The only way to learn quickly is to leverage the collective capability of the group, to break down silos, to run projects that are cross functional to really get a difference of perspective and a willingness to change.”

17:40 – How aftermarket parts will be impacted by Caterpillar’s refreshed strategy: “Aftermarket parts plays an important role for the enterprise – there’s a lot of discussion about the things that we do well, and frankly the things we’re going to need to do to change.”

18:30 – The importance of 3D printing moving forward: “It seems a little bit science fiction, and there are a lot of people admittedly even around Caterpillar that have a hard time imagining this is the future.”  

24:30 – Delivering parts via drone: “The technology is available today, and the only thing, in my opinion, that’s going to hold us back from leveraging drone technology is regulation.” 

26:00 – How a part gets from Caterpillar to a customer

27:40 – Improving dealer collaboration with parts distribution 

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