Close your eyes. Picture a manufacturing facility. What do you see? Is it a dark and dirty environment with employees following difficult processes with minimal help from equipment? Or is it a clean, bright and innovative setting with technology that is easy to use?
Manufacturing at Caterpillar has evolved significantly over 90 years due to advancements in automation and robotics. Manufacturing employees no longer just move things along a line with their hands – they solve problems on the job, coming up with new and better solutions.
Off the shop floor, Caterpillar is renowned for our high quality and durable machines, but we have also been leading in technology for decades. We are focused on growing our service offerings, with an emphasis on digital-enabled solutions and aftermarket parts. With more than 500,000 connected assets, we have the largest connected industrial fleet in the world. During the course of our company’s history, we have applied many cutting-edge technologies:
Caterpillar provides technology and technology-enabled services that go “beyond the iron” by connecting customers’ entire fleet in order to monitor, manage and enhance their operations. These technologies allow customers to be more aware of how long a piece of equipment has been working and how healthy it is. They also:
Valerie Wiest, Caterpillar's virtual product development manager, recently joined the Caterpillar Podcast to discuss simulation at Caterpillar. She explained how it has become the primary driver behind virtual product development while saving time and money. By taking information that is readily available and feeding it into a mathematical model, the end result can be predicted. Factors taken into consideration are how a machine or engine is put together, how it is applied and the environment in which it is expected to function. All of those inputs are analyzed in order to predict what will happen next. Once you have the output, the team can change the different factors to see how that changes the result without ever having to cut iron.
Caterpillar is also focused on additive manufacturing, known as 3-D printing, and how to exploit 3-D printing technology as a main manufacturing method. As a result of advancements in 3-D printing, it will soon be possible to print a part right on the job site as a permanent solution. 3-D printing is also a valuable resource for prototypes and tooling as a cost-effective way to trial solutions that could not otherwise be tested without spending more money. In December 2015, Caterpillar opened the Additive Manufacturing Facility in Mossville, Illinois. The state of the art factory represents our commitment to improving our manufacturing environments. It acts as a lab for engineers to learn on production-capable equipment and is set up as a mini-production facility with the ability to fulfill orders on production machines.
Autonomous mining is another technological development that has helped address the dilemma that as mines move into more remote areas, it becomes even more difficult to find qualified people willing to operate equipment in those environments. Offering autonomous vehicles that enable the operation of mining equipment without human operators in the cab reduces staffing costs and eliminates the need for operator training and staff relocation. Autonomy’s video gaming feel may also attract a new generation of employees to work in mines.
“We take innovation seriously. We always have,” Group President Rob Charter said during a press conference at CONEXPO earlier this year. He ended his address by talking about what makes Caterpillar stand apart from our traditional competitors and other startups competing for digital business in the construction industry. “…none of them have what we have: decades of understanding the industry and our customers’ needs; the largest field population in the world and access to the largest connected fleet in the world; and the largest and strongest dealer network in the industry.”