Caterpillar and the Age of Smart Iron

By Erika Malzberg May 22, 2017

Caterpillar has been in the business of building tractors, engines, and other machinery for over ninety years. But as Caterpillar CEO Jim Umpleby notes, today priorities are shifting towards “what goes around the iron,” or the technology and services that wrap around Caterpillar’s core offerings to drive greater productivity for customers.

Welcome to the Age of Smart Iron.

Instead of gas and diesel, Smart Iron is powered by digital solutions. Caterpillar is transforming the construction industry with smart machines, analytics, drones — anything and everything that will help their customers be successful.

The core of Caterpillar’s digital solution is Cat® Connect Technologies and Services which helps customers monitor, manage, and enhance job sites in four key areas: Equipment Management, Cat Safety, Cat Sustainability, and Productivity. Cat® Connect connects customers not just to Cat equipment, but to other equipment across their fleet.

As Greg Folley, VP, Industry Solutions, Components & Distribution for Caterpillar notes, “The individual product is not going to be nearly as important as the management of the entire fleet through effective connectivity and being able to manage that effectively and well.”

Caterpillar knows that providing equipment isn’t enough. As John Carpenter, Construction Digital & Technology Manager, Construction Industries for Caterpillar noted, “What customers want is a little bit more visibility to their own business.”

Towards this end, Cat® Connect is continuing to innovate on ways to connect all of their customers’ assets, including their people, materials, tools, and equipment. As they expand their menu, everything ties back into a common ecosystem that provides a comprehensive solution for customers on a work site.

Today Caterpillar is cooperating with work site managers on solving for specific outcomes, rather than simply managing equipment. The question has changed from “How many trucks do you need?” to “How much dirt do you need moved?”

But Smart Iron extends even beyond the boundaries of a physical job site. So Caterpillar is now tackling the challenge of getting involved in customers’ businesses even before there is a site. They’re asking big questions around how they can analyze data from one project to another and even help customers win more business.

The history of Caterpillar is all about doing: creating, building, problem solving, innovating, testing, servicing, and improving. And, as Umpleby says, Caterpillar is always “going to continue to provide world-class iron, all the time, constant innovation.”

But in 2017, iron — even world-class iron — just isn’t enough. “Old paradigms can kill you. Innovate or die. If we do not change with the world — and ahead of the pace of the world — we are very much at risk,” says Folley.

So, goodbye product-based economy. Welcome to the Age of Smart Iron.

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