Defining victory as a strong showing at Conexpo 2020, Caterpillar’s VP responsible for Cat Digital says in a company podcast that a key piece of the strategy is enticing tech talent into the earthmoving world.
“We need to get the best and brightest people…that are eager and willing to help bring digital into the physical world,” says Ogi Redzic, who joined Caterpillar in August 2018 and set up the company’s digital headquarters in downtown Chicago. “You won’t get better implementation of the physical world than Caterpillar and the digital enablement that goes on top of it.”
A Chicago Business report suggests that will be a tough task: “He's competing for talent with everyone: tech companies, from startups to giants such as Google and Amazon, and non-tech companies, such as McDonald’s and [John] Deere.”
Redzic came to Caterpillar from Renault-Nissan, where he headed up its connected car activities, including driverless vehicles. He said Cat’s track record with autonomous mining trucks is one way to emphasize the digitalization of the physical world.
“There are a lot of digital jobs that are, frankly, boring,” he says. “[But if we can say], ‘Look, we already have mining trucks that are operating completely autonomously. You could be working on automated machinery for construction.’ There are some real cool new areas where digital meets physical where people will get excited.”
In his first six months, Redzic has realigned Cat Digital, which includes digital marketing, e-commerce, analytics, and the digital solutions department, and employees about 600 people. The new model has three layers: a layer of connectivity, a platform layer, and a layer of applications. He told Chicago Business that the company has been “building a common cloud-based technology for new digital products.”
Redzic says he’s looking for software development expertise as well as more specialized talent such as machine learning, analytics, and system architecture.
“Especially for complex systems like ours, it’s critical to have the right level of system engineering in place,” he says. “We also need people to have a good product and business acumen. I want people who can interface nicely with our internal constituents.”
He has already set some expectations for Caterpillar’s global distribution network on where Cat Digital is going.
“I explain to [dealers] that we are developing and put a lot of effort into the platform, but you are going to be experiencing this platform primarily through the applications that Caterpillar is going to build for you, be it Cat App or Equipment Care Advisor,” Redzic says. “But you will also have the ability to have access straight to the platform. So if you want to build your own tools for service dispatch or something, you will be able to get direct access to the platform.”
For the customer, Redzic says Cat Digital has set a high bar for success.
“Our customer has, at minimum, the same level of expectation for the digital solutions that come with the machines that they buy from Caterpillar as they do when they buy a car or a refrigerator that comes with an app and its own set of tools. We not only need to hit his minimum expectations, but it is really our job to delight him.
“As we develop and further improve our digital solutions,” he says, “we will really be able to save them a lot of money as well. Looking at some of the predictive tools we’re building, it should help them lower cost of ownership.”
Redzic points to Conexpo, which will mark 18 months for him with Caterpillar, as a milestone. He would like to be able to compare Caterpillar products that are digitally enhanced with other manufacturers’ and “feel like Caterpillar is really head and shoulders above everybody else. For me, that would be a nice way to declare victory.”