[HOW TO] Deliver What Your Customer Wants, from Caterpillar's Chief Engineer
The most successful enterprises are those that maintain a comprehensive focus on their target as seen through the eyes of their customers. In this vein, Caterpillar carries out the Cat® Connect program to better understand their customers, improving global strength through this growth acceleration program.
Granted, there are a significant number of measures businesses can undertake in the name of market research in an effort to better understand their customers. However, Caterpillar is committed to digging down even deeper to attain a much more comprehensive, powerful and farther reaching penetration into what it is that truly makes their customers happy, keep them happy and create additional referral opportunities as well.
Caterpillar has collaborated with Kiewit, a large client of the Company, conducting a rotational job exchange over the last two years. This job exchange opportunity is the brainchild of Caterpillar’s Vice President Tom Bluth, borne of his desire to develop and strengthen the Company’s engineers through a more comprehensive focus on their customers. “The start of the program grew out of our desire to drive a deeper understanding of our customers and also enhance the development of our key leaders,” says Bluth.
One might consider this highly unique program akin to a glorified apprenticeship opportunity. Caterpillar’s Chief Engineer (mid-sized wheel loaders) Tim Graham had the honor of being the test pilot for this opportunity. Graham worked with Kiewit for a year, rotating through a range of projects and tasks. This collaboration afforded Graham a very intimate and thorough understanding of exactly what their customer needs, their challenges, daily and long-term implications of specific tasks – he was gifted with a very special view of exactly how to best serve Kiewit.
This approach gives market research an entirely different meaning. “Not only did I gain a deeper understanding of the customer, what their needs are and how we can serve them better, but there was a lot of character building and leadership growth that naturally happened through this experience,” says Graham.
Of course, sales volume, length of client contracts, etc. would largely determine the economic viability of executing this program with other customers. However, Caterpillar is an intelligent enough of a business to understand that even sales and contracts can easily be surpassed by the importance and value of relationships. “If our customers are successful, we will be successful,” says Caterpillar's Darren Knutson. “The value of our relationship with Kiewit is about much more than sales; it is about the relationship and both parties working toward common goals geared toward technological advances in the markets we serve.”
A particularly precious aspect of this Cat® Connect exchange program is that it’s completely replicable. The program’s principles form a fundamental template that can be applied to any of their clients. “This is just the beginning; we're just scratching the surface in developing a deeper understanding of our customers,” says Caterpillar Vice President Karl Weiss who continues ownership of the program. "We have the opportunity, as our understanding grows, to help our customers be more profitable through improved Cat® products and solutions.”
5 Mins With... Arun Narayanan, CDO, Anglo American
Arun Narayanan, Group Chief Data Officer, Anglo American, introduces VOXEL, the mining industry's first digital transformation platform for data-driven decisions...
What is VOXEL?
"VOXEL is the mining industry’s first digital transformation platform for data-driven decisions. It is the implementation of the Operating Model with machine learning and artificial intelligence. It encompasses the entire value chain for Anglo American and it helps us really move forward into the future. A platform built in the cloud... It is a very modern platform looking at all of the data that exists in our operations and trying to bring that all together is the first step."
How does VOXEL work?
"The data from digital twins, plus data coming in from our historians as well as geoscience data as well as external data is all pulled in into a modern, scalable infrastructure that we call the data lake. This data lake contains the data of our operations and presents the first opportunity for us to start to integrate things. As we begin to build these integrated models we are cleaning up the data. We are performing data management tasks at the lowest levels from data quality to the highest levels like data management. This cleaned-up information allows us to create data-rich applications... It gives us a great opportunity to leverage the advancements happening in the computer science industry to bring machine learning, artificial intelligence, burst capacity for our applications through cloud computing and much, much more."
What makes VOXEL different?
"The entire system, the entire value chain modelling, has been built specifically by us for mining as opposed to looking at other alternatives which are specifically targeted just to equipment or to other solutions. It looks at the full value chain, it takes in the deep expertise that sits in the T&S (Technical & Sustainability) organisation and the business units and it encapsulates that knowledge in the way these applications and these solutions are designed. It takes all of the digital twins that were built at individual steps of the value chain and pulls together almost a systematic digital twin of the full value chain - and that is really what sits at the heart of VOXEL."
How does VOXEL drive intellectual property and data ownership?
"We are taking a stand on data ownership. The data that we generate as part of our operations is an asset. It is our asset and we have to treat it as you would treat any other asset. We need to protect it, we need to make sure we are using it where it needs to be used and we need to make sure that we are getting the best return that we can get from that asset. And that is what the VOXELTM data programme sets out to do. It gives us a pathway to begin to claim ownership of that data and begin to use that data to drive the best decisions that we can – that we can get.
"The other aspect of this is intellectual property. Intellectual property in this system is owned almost entirely by Anglo American. We do work with industry-leading partners like Microsoft for the cloud solution and we buy other components where they are necessary but they are encapsulated away and the intelligence in the system is owned entirely by us. What that means for us from the scalability standpoint is that we can productise these solutions and deploy them at pace without incurring additional costs to all of our operations."
Arun Narayanan, Group Chief Data Officer, Anglo American