PODCAST: Tom Bucklar on Digital and Why Caterpillar Cares About IoT

May 1, 2018

Tom Bucklar, Caterpillar’s director of IoT and channel solutions, joins the Caterpillar Podcast to talk about how we’re expanding connectivity to make our machines and customers’ mixed fleets more valuable.

What is "digital" to Caterpillar? What is our digital strategy?

Our digital strategy is customer centric. We started in the mid-90s connecting equipment, we now have one of the largest install bases of connected equipment, which gives us a lot of rich data to build customer solutions. When we start to talk about our digital strategy, we really look at digital as an enabler. At the end of the day, we're not trying to build a digital business. We’re trying to make our customers more profitable.

What about someone who owns a mixed fleet of equipment, Cat® machines and otherwise – what can we do for that customer?

We have our Cat Connect technologies and services that we provide our customers. Anytime we talk about digital, we’re actually helping our customers transform the processes on their job site. We can't just focus on the Cat equipment, we need to help our customers with all their equipment. 

After connecting one specific customer's entire fleet – beyond just Cat equipment – that customer came back to us and said they got a 10-15 percent increase in utilization across the entire fleet. That was just off a little data from these newly connected machines.

Why does the Internet of Things (IoT) matter to us and our industry?

Within IoT, it has grown with other industries; with the cellular networks becoming more ubiquitous across the globe, you now have access to better connect fleets around the globe more efficiently. And then there's the fact that we're building the roads and infrastructure in places where there aren't cellular towers and relying on satellite communications, but now cellular is providing a better experience.

What IoT does is bringing all that data from connected machines into one place. You can start to get massive amounts of insights, and with analytics can really start to build some rich solutions and customer value.

What does Caterpillar offer professionals who are working in or entering into the digital field?

They can really build digital tools and solutions that can make a difference across the globe. While our machines do amazing things, it's our customers who have helped build much of the infrastructure to bring higher quality of life in places where you can't take roads and basic needs for granted. You're going to help make people’s lives better.

We're not going to build the next Angry Birds app, we're going to build something that we think has a little more impact than that.


Listen to the podcast to hear more from Tom Bucklar. Show highlights are listed in the program guide below.

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Program Guide:


  • 1:40 – Tom shares about upbringing, his time at Motorola, and his 20 years at Caterpillar
  • 3:10 - "We started our telematics in the 90s – we've been at some of these things for a long time"
  • 4:05 - Three things Tom focuses on when helping develop digital talent
  • 5:50 - FIVE BACK, FIVE FORWARD SEGMENT - Caterpillar's connected fleet, five years back, and five years forward – including connectivity, analytics and machine learning
  • 8:15 - What is digital? How Caterpillar approaches digital
  • 10:26 - Cat Connect technology and services, including story of what it can do for mixed fleet customers
  • 12:05 - Importance of Internet of Things (IoT) in our industry, contrasting satellite and cellular connectivity
  • 14:28 - What can Caterpillar offer digital talent? Let's talk about purpose and making people’s lives better
  • 17:35 - "So we've got our people back here that are building the digital tools, then we have our experts out in the field that are leveraging those tools to really help our customers be successful – both areas are really fun.”
  • 19:08 - Tom talks about how a mine customer has benefitted from predictive analytics reducing downtime
  • 20:00 - How our customers experience has changed from mostly physical, to an integrated digital experience

Listen to or read about other episodes of The Caterpillar Podcast