Denise Johnson, Caterpillar Inc. Resource Industries Group president, recently presented on her company’s progressive digital transformation to the Massachusetts Institute of
Smart Industry: What was the motivation for Caterpillar to aggressively adopt digital-transformation initiatives, such as automated mining trucks?
Denise: Our company has been successful for over 90 years by making our customers more successful. We saw three major issues in the mining industry that we could help resolve with autonomous machines:
- Safety—Removing people from the mine site and precisely tracking and controlling machine movement is a massive improvement in mine safety.
- Productivity—We saw the potential to maximize the utilization of a large capital asset. Autonomous trucks only need to stop for fuel and maintenance.
- Shortage of Qualified Operators—This was driving wages sky high during the last super-cycle. In addition, we saw the opportunity to reduce process inconsistency caused by human error. As a result, we started investing in autonomous-machine technology in the 1980's, and by the early 90's, had a functioning autonomous truck.
Smart Industry: What are the unique challenges/opportunities with digital transformation in the world of mining?
Denise: Among the industries we serve, mining has been an early adopter of digital technology. Mining was among the first users of laser-based grade and slope-control