Cat’s Oberhelman: “Welcome to the age of smart iron”

Marcia Doyle Headshot
Updated Apr 13, 2016
Oberhelman speaking at Cat’s Bauma 2016 corporate press conference.Oberhelman speaking at Cat’s Bauma 2016 corporate press conference.

In the coming years, the talk from Caterpillar will be technology, technology and more technology, if the remarks Cat Chairman/CEO Doug Oberhelman made at the Munich, Germany, bauma trade show today are any indication.

“We talked about technology at the last bauma in 2013, and the digital transformation is even more important now,” he commented during Caterpillar’s corporate press event. “We are going to lead that transformation; we’re accelerating our digital focus, but we’re also aiming at our customers getting the most out of it.”

Cat’s theme for this continuing thrust: “Welcome to the age of smart iron.”

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The emphasis going forward will be analytics and applications to take advantage of the big data Cat is gathering from the telematics on its machines: Oberhelman said it now has this data from more than 400,000 Cat machines, engines and locomotives – “the largest connected industrial fleet for the industries we serve.”

The vision is that, along with their dealer network, Cat will build one technical platform that will power multiple applications. It will then be able to put every machine, whether Cat or not, along with each piece of ancillary equipment, tablets and laptops—everything on a jobsite—on one common tech platform. The approach will involve multiple solutions to meet the demands of customers in different markets.

Rob Charter, group president, told those gathered that “we are truly in the middle of the next industrial revolution. This isn’t tech for tech’s sake, but solving customer problems. It’s all about making the data usable.”

Oberhelman said Cat is currently spending $2 billion a year in research and development.

“In six years, this industry will have changed in ways that are remarkable,” he said, going on to liken the change to that which was experienced after Apple’s introduction of the iPad. “The door is now opening. We have the biggest opportunity to make the change and we’re going to do it,” he commented.