At a Paris symposium last week, company executives revealed the wide scope of the company’s shipping digitalisation strategy. All of its manufactured components are of course already digitised, but Caterpillar has now unveiled a programme to retrofit and digitise existing mechanical marine equipment. This is likely to appeal to many of its customers in shipping as they seek to implement more efficient condition-based maintenance systems.
With more than 500,000 connected assets, Caterpillar claims to have more connectivity than any other engineering company. The $38.5bn corporate, with a 175-strong dealer network, already operates the single largest autonomous truck fleet which, it says, is more technologically challenging than autonomous cars.
Now its expertise in other industrial sectors is available for marine clients and over the next three years, will include the adoption of virtual and augmented realities and digital twins, enabling a whole new approach to maintenance management.
Following the symposium, Terri Lewis, the company’s energy & transportation director of digital and technology, told journalists that shipping’s digitalisation is proceeding more quickly than anyone expected. “Digital technologies are becoming commercially viable for our industries, and there is growing acceptance by users,” she said.
“It’s not a question of why or when, but more about here and now. Any businesses that do not adopt quickly will not be competitive for very long.”
Emphasising this point, her colleague Leslie Bell-Friedel, Global Business Manager for Caterpillar Marine Asset Intelligence, pointed out that there are different ways to approach technology adoption which have a direct impact on a customer’s return on investment. “Marine companies, like those that have come before them on the digital journey, are on the one hand failing to capitalise on the true benefit of data and analytics, and on the other hand are experiencing higher than expected costs of implementing technology.”
From the company’s Hamburg base, Caterpillar Marine manages all the marketing and service activities for the Cat and MaK brands of marine diesels, dual fuel, and gas power propulsion systems, and generating sets. Earlier this year, the company commissioned a new LNG test bed in Kiel and has been contracted by Carnival Group to supply MaK dual-fuel engines for the first four gas-powered cruise ships for the two brands AIDA and Costa.