By Gerald L. Green
Caterpillar Inc.

Technology does not work unless good process is in place. However, technology can make preventive maintenance (PM) and equipment management easier, more automatic, and more intuitive so equipment managers can get more done with fewer resources.

At Caterpillar, we have and are continuing to develop technologies that combine on-board, mobile, PC, web and cloud technologies to enable a solid PM, equipment management, and repair program. The key is to use the technologies together to develop a "Manage by Exception” equipment management process and system.

No one is capable of processing all of the data available. Knowing that, Caterpillar has developed a system that highlights the important exceptions on which the equipment manager needs to take action.

When these exceptions appear, customers can take action right from the screen. This eliminates the need to run a report, do an analysis, and then decide what action steps to take.

Here are some examples:

Inspection App – Utilized by Cat® dealers for a few years and now available for customers, the Cat Inspect app provides all the standard customer inspections a customer would need: daily walkaround, PM, and what we call TA-1, a visual (no tools required) complete inspection of the equipment.

  • All of these inspections are pre-built to engineering specifications to guide customers to critical areas where potential problems can occur. They are also designed to make best use of the technician’s time.
  • Should the customer want custom inspections, either we or the supporting dealer can build them. These inspections also have a security model that protects the results. Coming soon is a new feature that will automatically update PM schedules once a PM Inspection is complete.
  • There is a quick-rate capability (Green) when an inspection step is okay, but when the technician selects “Yellow” or “Red,” the app forces the user to add comments or pictures. That way, the equipment manager can take immediate action.
  • For more information on this app, visit

Product Link Elite – Caterpillar is now using an on-board network to deliver multiple channels of information to a telematics system. The new Product Link system can then push this information off the equipment by the best technology available (Wi-Fi, cell, GSM). The key is to make this information actionable, not only for health and maintenance monitoring, but also for improved production. Soon this new system will be able to push software file updates remotely.

S•O•SSM Fluid Analysis system – Pulling the sample is still a manual process, but when it arrives at the Caterpillar network labs, state-of-the-art technology is used to analyze the condition of the lubricant, the wear metals in parts per million, and other critical analysis that give key clues into what is going on in the life blood (fluids) of the equipment. This is available for all fluids, lubricants, coolants, and even fuel, and again, data is interpreted to a “Manage by Exception” format (Red, Yellow, and Green).

VisionLink – VisionLink is our ongoing development system that brings the right data, at the right time, to the right view. Again, some examples:

  • Developing and managing preventive maintenance programs – This includes the needed parts and, via Cat Inspect, the steps to complete a thorough PM Service.
  • Obtaining accurate hours and location on a regular basis – Telematics systems bring this in via GPS and SMU (hours, miles, and kilometers) readings and update the PM schedule.

Major component tracking – We provide suggested major components to track along with a range in which the component may be due for an overhaul.

Fuel utilization – VisionLink delivers critical information such as idle time, loading cycles, and total fuel consumed.

In addition, there is much more capability coming, including production information, backlog management, OEM data input feeds (the ISO Standard being developed by AEM and AEMP), and other critical information needed to effectively manage an equipment fleet for maximum utilization while minimizing cost of ownership.

As equipment manufacturers, we hear our customers loud and clear. Technology is good, but it has to be delivered in a way that is useable, actionable, and helpful. We cannot just bury our customers with data and give them more to do. By providing user-friendly applications and reports, we can turn customer data into actionable insights.