Another in a series of byte-sized one-on-one visits with construction industry insiders. Caterpillar’s chief technology officer, Gwenne Henricks, was on hand at the opening of its Innovations Lab at the University of Illinois in Champaign. I asked Henricks how she expects the Innovations Lab to address customer needs.
1) You are likely ahead of the majority of your customers when it comes to machine data. What are one or two things you hope the Innovations Lab will do to help close the gap?
Some of the solutions I’d like to see coming out of this lab will help our dealers help our customers, so our customers don’t have to be tech-savvy and…know how to do all that. We’d like transparent solutions where the dealer is the partner in making recommendations to them on how they can be more profitable and successful in their businesses.
As we develop new solutions, we collaborate with our partners who manage the dealer relationships. We have an organization that is responsible for customer and dealer services and support. We’ll deploy it through the Caterpillar organization.
2) How does this lab fit into the existing suite of products Caterpillar offers for asset management?
I would anticipate that some of the solutions that are born here will certainly add value by being able to provide proactive information through the solutions we offer today.
Some of the ideas here will enhance those, they’ll add to the portfolio of what’s available. Others might even disrupt some of those, might take us to the next generation.
3) Technology (hardware and software) is becoming as much a component of the machine as hydraulics. What one or two things are you focusing on to make sure Caterpillar has in the technology componentry equal to what it has in hydraulics, for example?
We have a great organization of talent in both the hardware and software and [in the] systems space. Some of the things we’re doing is taking advantage of exponential increases in access to compute power in small enough packages that we can put on our product; in sensing technologies that we can embed in our product and create new information; and in the ways we integrate all of that.
We like collaborating with partners in the automotive industry so we can leverage what’s available. We work closely in all the domains there, whether it’s wireless connectivity, or compute power in the control modules, sensors, architecture.