A Publication of WTVP

A new partnership will use big data to take performance to the next level.

Caterpillar Chairman and CEO Doug Oberhelman feels most at home in his work boots visiting a customer job site. He sees the familiar yellow iron of Cat machines and work tools, and wants to know what else Caterpillar can do to help that customer make more money with Cat equipment. Through the years, Caterpillar, along with its dealers around the world, has been committed to providing the best products, services and support. Now, the company has embarked on a plan to serve its customers even better—and that is through big data.

A Partnership in Data
It’s more than a buzzword to Caterpillar; it’s a great business opportunity. That’s why the company has entered into a technology and predictive analytics agreement with Chicago-based firm Uptake to jointly develop an end-to-end predictive analytics solution. Uptake CEO Brad Keywell is a venture capitalist and cofounder of Groupon, the data-driven consumer deal platform.

Oberhelman describes the new venture this way: “This agreement is something new for us, and since we didn’t grow up in data analytics, we’re partnering with Uptake to bring their expertise to us. We’ll combine the best of what we do—designing and assembling durable, great products—with the best of what Uptake knows, assembling, analyzing and presenting data so it’s easy to utilize.”

Together, Caterpillar and Uptake will develop a platform to help customers optimize their fleets by making recommendations for potential repairs before a machine may have a critical issue. Caterpillar already has technology that can tell a customer where a specific machine is located and how that machine is performing. But the company is going to take that to the next level and determine whether a machine needs a part replaced or requires a repair—before the machine stops operating. All of that equates to more uptime for customers, which in the end, helps customers be more competitive and adds more to their bottom line.

Driving the Industry
The positive news for customers doesn’t end there. From a research and development perspective, data will flow back into Caterpillar to help its engineers develop better products. For instance, if a component on a product continuously has the same fault code, an engineering team will be able to diagnose and repair the problem more quickly and make sure new products don’t replicate the problem.

“Uptake can help us move faster and bring highly technical capabilities around data analytics with data scientists,” says George Taylor, Caterpillar vice president with responsibility for the Customer Services Support division. “We’re really looking forward to how we commercialize this going forward in a world where information is increasingly valuable.”

Then there’s the topic of disruption—a positive word, in Oberhelman’s view. He thinks Caterpillar’s entry into predictive diagnostics may just disrupt the entire industry, and other Caterpillar leaders share his view. “I think we’re being aggressive, and we’re looking to take this technology and this new venture and drive the industry,” notes Rob Charter, Caterpillar group president with responsibility for Customer & Dealer Support.

“We’ve got to step up our speed,” adds Oberhelman, rounding out the conversation with a final thought. “We’ve got to step up the way we think about disruption, and keep those who want to disrupt us out of the picture.” iBi