4 Ways We’re Transforming Equipment Operations

May 11, 2023

Equipment operators fulfill a critical role in construction, mining, waste management and other industries. They’re the people operating Cat® dozers, compactors, haul trucks and excavators — getting big jobs done in a way that is efficient and safe. While people have been working as equipment operators for decades, advancements in engineering and technology provide an entirely new experience inside and outside the cab. Machines’ safety features are getting enhanced. Cabs are becoming more comfortable and ergonomic. And, through cutting-edge training and equipment enhancements, operators are elevating their skills and expanding their opportunities.

Explore a few ways our Caterpillar engineers are transforming our equipment to give operators the tools they need to succeed. 

1. Creating a more comfortable environment

Many equipment operators work long shifts in intense outdoor conditions, from mine sites in the desert to construction sites on steep, windy slopes. To enhance operator safety and comfort, our engineers are transforming new equipment with cabs designed for the future. These cabs include heating and air conditioning, Bluetooth radio and intuitive touchscreen displays. They also feature adjustable seats, center consoles and increased legroom.

Another popular feature is Stick Steer, which enables operators to transfer the travel function of a machine to their lefthand joystick rather than using floor pedals and levers. Options for HEPA filters and more stabilized cabin pressurization can also reduce respirable dust.1

Man operating with joystick in cab
Remote control operating excavator


2. Keeping operators safe and engaged

Poor visibility and fatigue can also contribute to jobsite incidents. Our technology-enabled safety solutions support enhanced operator attention and awareness while on the job.

Caterpillar has developed Cat Detect with Smart Camera to identify people in zones with poor visibility around machines and notify the operator with escalating visual and audible alerts. In addition, our Cat MineStarTM Driver Safety System, or Guardian 2, technology will nudge the operator back to attention with a vigorous seat vibration and audible alarm when a distraction or fatigue is detected.2

Some jobsites can be especially challenging, presenting workers with above-average safety risks. For these situations, Cat Command Remote Control allows operators to physically remove themselves from a machine’s cab and control that machine from a remote location.

Today, there are more than 7,000 Driver Safety Systems in use at over 200 mine sites worldwide. The Cat Monitoring Center Safety Advisors have intervened over one million times to further help sites mitigate risks associated with operator fatigue.

3. Working smarter

Operators can now benefit from creative training solutions that help them reach their full potential. For instance, Cat Simulators provide a safe and high-tech environment where operators can develop and improve their skills. This is a game changer for operators preparing to work in highly challenging conditions, such as those learning to maneuver underground mine sites.

Cat Simulators leverage machine and engineering data to simulate real-world tasks and challenges and feature controls that are authentic to each machine and model. They also offer motion capabilities that react to the user’s maneuvers and terrain and a virtual reality option to create an even more immersive learning experience.

Whether new apprentices or long-time operators, those who embrace technology can boost their performance. For example, if a paving machine operator is good at navigating complex work sites by feel, upgrades like Cat Paving Technology can make them even better. The suite of solutions includes Cat Grade with Thermal Mapping, which uses an infrared camera and Global Navigation Satellite System that can be used to find inconsistencies with the process. With the Grade and Slope technology, automation creates more consistency and allows the operator to focus on other tasks. Together, these tools enable operators to optimize compaction, fine-tune their paving practices and achieve better consistency.3

Paving equipment with thermal mapping
Female operator at Command remote control station.

4. Breaking down barriers  

Recent product advancements aren’t just enhancing productivity and safety — they’re also creating solutions to help more diverse people enter and succeed in equipment operator careers. This presents an opportunity for positive change in industries such as construction, in which 97.5% of U.S. equipment operators are male, and 70.8% are white (non-Hispanic).4

Caterpillar engineers have taken proactive steps to work with a broad range of people to understand better the different workplace challenges to aid in developing more inclusive solutions. For example, in Japan, female employees from Caterpillar’s Women’s Initiative Network were recruited as operators of new equipment to gain more diverse feedback and to understand the suitability of new equipment to reflect the needs of today’s and tomorrow’s workforce.

Caterpillar also has partnered with Segs4Vets, a non-profit that supports disabled veterans, to develop solutions through Cat Command,which enables operators to remotely control heavy equipment used for construction, mining, drilling and more. It’s a safer solution that creates new possibilities and enhances workplace flexibility.