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Caterpillar: What Continuous Innovation Looks Like

At Chief Executive’s 2nd Annual Smart Manufacturing Summit held in Peoria, Ill., this past May, Doug Oberhelman, Chairman and CEO of Caterpillar Inc., was presented with the 2014 Leadership in American Manufacturing Award. Oberhelman received this award for driving success at Caterpillar through the company’s mission, innovation, performance and leadership.

With our wheel loader. the 966 KXE, we’re using a new drivetrain that is the first of its kind ever in construction equipment. It offers a 25% fuel savings and a significant reduction in CO 2 emissions. And our excavator is a hybrid, which generates 25% to 35% more fuel efficiency.

Our Tier 4 engines are very clean. No longer will you see smoke or smell diesel fumes. And you’ve heard of driverless cars? We’re already doing that with a 350 ton mining truck. In western Australia, it runs around a mining site 24 hours a day without an operator.

Cat Connect connects our customers to dealers. It monitor everything our machines are doing, so engineers can see whether it has a high exhaust gas temperature or is it running low on oil—all the things the engineer needs to know to run that machine in his fleet more efficiently.

Similarly, I visited a master control room in Atlanta monitoring almost all the machines in their territory. All of this involves software and technology. By the time I got done with that Fortune audience, I felt pretty good about where we were and how we fit in.

I concluded my presentation with a little robot that shot baskets for about 5 minutes and never missed one. It was all computer controlled.

I can’t imagine a job site or canal that doesn’t require iron, engines and fuel, but I wonder if that’s the same a way a farmer felt 100 years ago about a mule and a plow.

Yes, we move dirt. We move a lot of dirt. But this company started on innovation and that continues to be what drives us. When I arrived in 1975, we had a handful of competitors. Today, we have more than 100. The environment has never been more competitive. Disruption and competition are coming and we can’t predict it. [We all need to be ready.]”


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