Smart Iron - How Caterpillar is Leveraging Data to Maximize Customer Experience

Jan 17, 2017
7 Min Read
Smart Iron - How Caterpillar is Leveraging Data to Maximize Customer Experience

Smart Iron - How Caterpillar is Leveraging Data to Maximize Customer Experience


Staying competitive in this digital economy at the enterprise level requires that you leverage data analysis to maximize your organization’s ability to meet customer needs. The quest for real-time data is the driving force behind the Internet of Things (IoT), which embeds IP addresses into objects to communicate with a variety of other devices and systems.

When most people think about IoT, they think about wearable devices, household items, and appliances. But the truth is that IoT is scaling up — all the way up to some of the largest, most complex manufacturing products on the market today.

Caterpillar’s “The Age of Smart Iron” program is transforming the heavy equipment industry, by infusing it with digital connectivity. Caterpillar’s Chief Marketing Officer and Vice President of their Marketing and Digital Division, George Taylor, recently shared with me how IoT is completely changing the way that “Cat” is doing business.

Creating a Digitally Connected Fleet

Taylor says, “Caterpillar has always utilized state-of-the-art technologies and innovation to help solve customer pain points. Now we’re expanding what we’re known for by increasingly utilizing digital technologies.”

While Caterpillar is known as an equipment manufacturer – well known for its “iron,” company leaders believe that Caterpillar is better described as a customer experience company. Taylor explains, “We’re merging our expertise in iron with new and evolving digital capabilities by connecting entire fleets, analyzing data, and creating services that help our customers run, grow, and innovate their businesses in the Industrial Digital Revolution.”

“The Age of Smart Iron” is at the core of Caterpillar’s strategy. “Our vision is that by enhancing our Cat Connect Technology and Services offerings, entire fleets and worksites – every machine, engine, truck, light tower, smart device, and drone – will eventually share data on one common Caterpillar technology platform and speak the same language. Today we have over 500,000 connected assets, making it the largest connected industrial fleet in the world.”

Taylor says that IoT is providing Caterpillar leaders with the significant insights that will result in even more powerful, innovative, and durable products. “The data off this connected fleet allows Cat to see our fleet's location, hours and health, providing rich data which not only benefits our customers’ worksites, but also supports our product development, parts, product demand, and support strategies.”

Maximizing Customer Experience

IoT is providing the tools necessary for customers to gain maximum benefit from their Cat equipment. Taylor says, “No one knows our customers like we do. We understand their businesses, preferences, and pain points. We are also teaming with cutting edge companies that provide Caterpillar a broad range of data analysis technologies that enable us to gain deeper customer insights and provide better analytics and consultative services.”

Caterpillar leadership says customers get a very quick return on investment because Smart Iron enables them to predict and quickly respond to any issues to optimize safety and efficiency. Taylor shares, “Operators can perform daily inspections with Cat Inspect that are sent immediately to an equipment manager to ensure the machines are running efficiently and safely. They can also set up Cat Product Link to notify them or their training manager when any techniques or operator-induced conditions adversely affect the performance or health of the machine. This real-time feedback can trigger training to keep their skills sharp. Operators can also get reports that show how they perform against others in the areas of idle, utilization, fuel burn, and other key metrics.”

Taylor adds, “Cat is working very hard to provide value, not data, through our IoT strategy. Our Cat Connect suite of products and services provide benchmarks, recommendations, and, ultimately, a user-friendly way to interact with a customer’s fleet.”

Lessons for Leaders

While Caterpillar’s IoT strategy is well underway, many other companies are just getting started implementing IoT initiatives. Gartner warns that it’s essential for leaders to prepare themselves for a tidal wave of data from IoT by optimizing their data management capabilities.

Most leaders are finding that cloud architectures offer them the best way to leverage IoT data. PaaS solutions, like QuickBase, not only facilitate rapid analysis and sharing of real-time data but also provide application development capabilities to further streamline workflows and apply data to a broad range of use-case scenarios.


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