Environmental News

Solving operator challenges in the technology age

There is no doubting the power and efficiency offered by new technology – it is truly transformative.

Few of us are not affected in some way, everyday, by technology that makes our lives more connected, easier to understand and simpler to record.

Global construction equipment and solutions provider Caterpillar, too, has been transforming industry in recent decades.

With a focus on machinery and systems that can truly change the way we operate and influence our precision and efficiency, the company has been supplying results-oriented solutions to the quarry industry in Australia since the early 20th century.

In April this year Caterpillar released its accelerated technology strategy dubbed “The Age of Smart Iron”.

This captures the essence of our focus – using digital technology designed to transform productivity, efficiency and safety on job sites.

On the go weighing

As Caterpillar Group president Rob Charter explained at the launch of the strategy in April this year, this is not technology for technology’s sake. It is technology focused on solving, and even anticipating, customer problems. What it means on a machinery level is greater levels of machine data analysis and machine control technology.

For example, one focus of the Cat Connect productivity technology is PAYLOAD on the new F-series excavator range. PAYLOAD assists operators by providing on the go load weighing, which translates to precise loading of on- or off-road vehicles every time.

In a quarrying application this will assist operators with meeting and monitoring production targets, and optimising the haul fleet’s efficiency. One of the advantages of this integrated system is it weighs the load during the swing cycle, so there are no interruptions to the digging cycle for maximum productivity.


The excavator operator can simply track production and set target payloads from the cab with ready access to payload weights, load and cycle counts and daily totals, without taking his hands off the controls.

The data is combined with Cat Connect LINK technologies to allow managers to remotely track daily production tonnage and cycle counts and also calculate tonnes per hour and tonnes per litre of fuel burned through VisionLink.

3D site design

Another example of Caterpillar technology adding to work site productivity is Cat GRADE with 3D on the latest track-type tractor range.

Part of the Cat Connect suite, GRADE with 3D is a ready to work factory-fitted technology that helps the dozer operator reach the target grade faster with fully automatic blade control. The modes allow tasks to be completed quickly and with fewer passes to save fuel, time and undercarriage costs.

Capable of boosting dozing efficiency and productivity by up to 50 per cent, the system features “out of harm’s way” cab-mounted dual global navigation satellite system (GNSS) antennas (as opposed to a blade-mounted aftermarket mast and cable systems).

The operator has a grade control guidance screen available at a glance to illustrate the 3D site design. This removes the need for continual grade staking and checking, which in turn lowers costs and improves job site safety.

Operator comfort and day-long productivity are also advanced with intuitive integrated joystick buttons and automated blade movements.

Automating blade movements, such as blade lift and tilt functions, not only reduces repetitive strain by limiting operator input by up to 80 per cent, but also optimises blade loading and prevents grade overcutting during manual blade operation.

Auto-Blade Assist automates the blade pitch and lift movements based on the operator’s preference in load, carry and spread operations.

The AutoCarry setting automates the blade lift function to maintain the desired load and minimise track slip. The Automatic Ripper Control manages ripper height and limits track slip, utilising the GNSS speed and position.


As mentioned above, Cat Connect LINK technologies can be used on GRADE with 3D-equipped machines. This enables “as built” real time data to be sent back to VisionLink, to track progress versus the design and to help owners further monitor their productivity, job site efficiency and project costs.

Importantly, Cat Connect LINK technologies such as VisionLink operators can access Caterpillar’s Age of Smart Iron across their businesses.

Mobile capabilities

VisionLink also supports data export to and from other business applications that comply with a telematics API standard, such as an enterprise resource planning (ERP) system.

This simplifies your fleet management needs by allowing all fleet data to be viewed in a single software solution – VisionLink – as well as automatically updating other applications to keep track of key performance indicators such as plant hours for maintenance and accounting needs.

Importantly, the latest updates of VisionLink make the system easy to use and navigate on most device screens – eg phone, tablet, laptop or desktop – adding to an operator’s “mobile office” capabilities.

Mobile capability is also available via the new Cat Inspect app, a paperless, fully customisable inspection tool that can be used on any fleet of equipment or any brand or size.

Designed to turn your mobile device into a centralised, information-gathering hub for your equipment, Cat Inspect enables operators to perform their daily machine pre-start inspections and provides technicians with more detailed technical analysis and preventative maintenance.

The free app works on iOS and Android devices and Windows 8.0 and provides the operator with an appropriate checklist for the machine inspection, and allows them to record notes and images to highlight any issues.

A simple traffic light system allows them to move through each inspection point with a green mark, identify a problem with a yellow flag that can be checked during the next scheduled maintenance, or flag something for immediate action with a red mark.

Completed inspections can be shared with a dealer and important inspection detail will also be synced with VisionLink, to ensure an up to date information stream about machine health.

Devices do not need connectivity to record information, only to sync the data, so job sites out of mobile range don’t hinder its performance.

In an era when we are connected in so many ways, Caterpillar is focused on harnessing digital technology to readily provide information that ensures safety, productivity and profitability and delivers high-level machine performance. It is truly an age of smart iron. To learn more about Cat technology solutions, visit www.cat.com/moreforyou-au

Chris Barrett is the systems applications specialist for Caterpillar of Australia.

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