Patented Innovation - Caterpillar Engineering

May 10, 2021

Driven by a passion for innovation, engineers use outside-the-box thinking to solve customers’ most complex issues. It’s this drive for innovation that has led to the filing of tens of thousands of patents at Caterpillar. According to Cat Electronics’ engineer Yanchai Zhang, an inventor of over 35 patents during her 15-year career, patented technology can provide a competitive advantage that make our customers more successful.

The Cat Electronics team was approached by the Cat Marine group to create an engine optimization solution to reduce fuel consumption and emissions for Caterpillar customers.  Large marine vessels have multiple engines that are operated together or individually to power the ship but knowing when to use which engine hasn’t always been an exact science.  To help make the operators of these ships smarter, global teams from Cat Electronics and the Cat Marine Business Unit developed Multi-Engine Optimizer (MEO) with Yanchai leading the optimization algorithm development. MEO leverages a complex algorithm driven by data and technology to operate the right engine at the right time to ultimately reduce fuel cost and emissions. Today, this innovation is a key solution that helps Caterpillar customers operate marine vessels more efficiently, and the team’s work was recognized by receiving the Caterpillar Chairman’s Excellence award.

Caterpillar Tech Center Patent Wall
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Caterpillar Tech Center Patent Wall

Chairman's Award
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Caterpillar Tech Center Patent Wall
Chairman's Award

At Caterpillar, collaboration and teamwork are key components to developing solutions.  For her work on MEO, Yanchai was an inventor on several patents but emphasizes this wouldn’t have been possible without the contributions of the project team who leveraged their different skills and expertise to turn an idea into reality. “I’m so proud of our team. We have all these interesting projects in front of us that keep us motivated to come to work. However, my end goal is not receiving a patent. My end goal is to create an improved product that helps our customers succeed.”

This project relied on the expertise of many teams within Caterpillar, including those who specialize in solution integration and market needs. The idea of MEO as a solution served as the starting point for others to bring their specialty to the stage so that the end result would be successful and useful for Caterpillar customers while also supporting environmental and sustainability goals. Caterpillar Program Manager Mo Dust says, “The work our Caterpillar engineers do everyday impact our customers. There’s never an end to the ability to drive value and think of ways to provide even more value. Right now, we are merging MEO with electrification, for example. Many ships are a hybrid of electrification and engine-powered or all electrification.  So, by enhancing MEO we will be able to better serve more customers in the future.”

At Caterpillar, we are focused on delivering innovative, quality products and solutions, while constantly challenging ourselves to help our customers build a better world. Are you ready to join the team?