Cat technology customers hear success stories from peers at Users Conference
A recent Caterpillar Mining Technology Users Conference gave attendees the opportunity to learn more about how Cat® technologies are delivering outcomes — hearing directly from other miners who have hands-on knowledge of what they can do.
Cat technology users from mine sites in four different countries presented to their peers during the Users Conference, sharing success stories, best practices and helpful information about the Cat MineStar™ suite of technologies: Fleet, Terrain, Detect, Health and Command.
“It’s exciting to hear how the mine sites are using Cat technologies, combined with people and process changes, to drive significant improvements to their operations,” says Bill Dears, Caterpillar commercial mining manager. “It’s gratifying to know that our customers are experiencing real benefits and that they were willing to share with their results with other miners.”
No matter what type of technology they were discussing, nearly all of the presenters shared real results on the efficiency gains that they are seeing on their sites. They focused on incremental productivity and utilization, improved machine health and safety, and how they were able to use technologies to lower costs. They also described how they’re using the reporting features — customizing the data they’re pulling and using it to solve specific challenges.
“At the conference, users were hearing first-hand how our technologies — when leveraged to the fullest — deliver real, proven value," Dears says. "And as our offerings continue to grow, these opportunities will grow, as well.”
The presenters gave credit to the Caterpillar and Cat dealer teams that worked with them to ensure a successful technology implementation — from initial set-up to helping with change management to developing initiatives to help them get more from their investment.
Growing through partnerships
When it comes to expanding its technology offerings, Caterpillar believes velocity is essential. The company is bringing on partners and integrators, and leveraging other existing technologies, to develop new products and rapidly expand its core products — ensuring they work on other brands of equipment and integrate into miners’ existing systems, technologies and processes.
During the Users Conference, Caterpillar introduced a number of these partners and set up a “partner fair” outside the meeting area where attendees could get more information and better understand the value of these collaborations.
“We’re proud of the relationships we’re building because of what they are making possible for our customers,” says Dears. “That’s why we thought it was important to bring these partners to our conference — to introduce them to our customers and show them that we’re doing all we can to deliver what they need in terms of technology solutions.”
Partners participating in the Users Conference included:
- Trimble. The Caterpillar partnership with Trimble spans decades, starting with a collaboration in 1996 that resulted in the Cat Terrain machine control and guidance technology. Trimble positioning technologies such as GPS are used in many of Caterpillar’s semi-autonomous and autonomous system. Today, Trimble has a platform that integrates data from the mining enterprise and feeds it to the mine’s ERP system, providing one single data source for multiple sites.
- Alight Mining Systems. This partnership gives Caterpillar customers a tool to help them make better business decisions. Alight combines data from technology-enabled machines with financial forecasting software to help miners understand the cost impact of any decisions as well as the true costs of current operations or performance.
- FTP Solutions. This partner provides end-to-end network and infrastructure monitoring services for Cat technology applications including office, servers, switches and onboard components. FTP also monitors wireless infrastructure.
- Cisco. This large IT network provider helps mining companies get the data off of their Cat equipment and incorporate it into their office software. Reliable communications networks like those provided by Cisco are essential to keeping mines up and running.
- Minesense. Caterpillar developed this relationship to help customers get access to real-time information about their ore bodies. The system integrates into existing shovels to provide data that enables ore sorting and enhances mine planning.
- CSE Software. Caterpillar partners with CSE to create heavy equipment simulators that give customers a safe, cost-effective option for building and maintaining a team of skilled employees. A simulator was on site at the Users Conference to give attendees the opportunity to see firsthand how simulated site applications and conditions are combined with realistic controls.
- Torc Robotics. Torc Robotics and Caterpillar have been working together for more than a decade. Caterpillar was an early adopter of Torc’s autonomous vehicle technology and today partners with the company to enable Cat Command for hauling to autonomously operate a Komatsu 930E truck.
Learning about the future
In addition to hearing from their peers, Users Conference attendees heard from Caterpillar subject matter experts who participated in panel discussions and answered questions about current and future developments, They heard about the company’s overall technology strategy from General Manager Jim Hawkins, and got updates on specific Cat solutions for manned equipment, automation, data analytics and equipment health.
Their look into the future also included a special closing presentation with a keynote speaker from NASA, another long-time Caterpillar partner. Robotics Engineer A.J. Nick shared an overview of the space program’s focus on exploration — including its upcoming Mission to Mars. Nick joined NASA 10 years ago and is a co-founder of the organization’s Swampworks research and development lab at Kennedy Space Center.
NASA and Caterpillar have been working together since 1969, when Caterpillar engines supplied power for the Apollo 11 mission to the moon. Caterpillar most recently has participated in a NASA program to develop technologies that will eventually lead to a permanently-manned base in space. The use of in-situ resources is an integral part of the plan.
Joint research efforts focused on the areas of robotics and semi-autonomous/remote-operator systems, both of which minimize the danger people might face in hazardous environments on Earth — such as mining environments — or in space. The teams developed technologies for planetary infrastructure development with remote operators and positioning technology that supplies location information without the use of GPS. Specific projects included:
- Development of a multi-terrain loader to meet lunar surface requirements
- Remote control technology development, including an operator center and a long-range remote that worked from the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, USA, to Caterpillar facilities in Peoria, Illinois, USA
- Work on automated blade controls for grading in a remote operator control environment to work in tele-operation and semi-autonomous lunar surface operations
These research programs concluded successfully in 2013, but NASA and Caterpillar continue to explore other collaboration opportunities. Caterpillar also works closely with NASA on educational outreach, including sponsorship of a collegiate competition during which teams build remote-controlled and autonomous excavators.
“Continuing to work with NASA is a logical step,” explains Dears. “Like NASA, Caterpillar employs some of the greatest engineering minds on the planet. By collaborating, we can deliver value to our customers and to NASA’s future space explorers.”