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How Caterpillar’s Product Link keeps the diggers digging

This story appeals to my inner geek: Web-based Caterpillar software that monitors all the machines at a work site. From a profile at Associated Construction Publications:

EquipmentManager is a secure, web-based application that uses key indicators from equipment such as hours, location and diagnostic codes. Combined with tools such as mapping, maintenance scheduling and troubleshooting instructions, EquipmentManager quickly sorts through machine data to identify events that require attention and delivers information in a meaningful and actionable manner. Using satellite technology, Product Link is the hardware that enables information flow between onboard systems and EquipmentManager. The remote management system provides machine location and hours, as well as time and geo-fencing capabilities.

Equipment Manager demo here. The story also recounts how the latest doo-dads — CrackBerries — are keeping machinery up and running. Error codes sent by BlackBerry alert managers when men and machines go awry:

“A year ago, for example, Joey and I received an error code on one of our Cat 5110 excavators – loss of coolant flow,” says Walker. “The engine could have blown apart. We called the foreman and told him to shut down the machine. If we hadn’t, we would have been faced with a $120,000 engine rebuild.”

While Product Link is not really an operator training tool, it can be used to determine when corrective action must be taken by monitoring operator activity. This also helps extend equipment life.

“I received a fault code on an IT38H wheel loader that the operator had applied the parking brake while the machine was in motion,” says Walker. “I called the superintendent to go out and talk to the operator. On a 777 in West Virginia, it came across that the operator was overheating the back brakes on a long, steep haul. We were able to tell the operator to go to a lower gear to avoid overheating and losing the brakes. You don’t realize how much damage can be done to a machine’s engine or powertrain due to operator error.”

Sure, blame it all on the operators….

Anyway, it’ll be technology like this that gives Cat an edge when the economy turns around.

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Tom Mangan posted at 11:46 pm December 21st, 2008 |

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