The manufacturer of heavy equipment for construction and mining operations sees opportunity to differentiate from competitors through digital applications like mobile apps for managing fleets and ordering parts, head of services, distribution and digital Bob De Lange says.

Caterpillar Inc., one of the world’s biggest makers of construction and mining equipment, is making a big push to become more digital.

There is a tremendous opportunity for competitive differentiation with new digital capabilities.

In a key part of that strategy, Caterpillar, based in Peoria, Ill., is expanding e-commerce, especially for mobile commerce, says Bob De Lange, group president of services, distribution & digital.

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Bob De Lange, group president of services, distribution and digital, Caterpillar Inc.

Speaking late last month at an investor conference in New York, DeLange told attendees that Caterpillar, which generated 2017 total sales of about $45.5 billion, sees investment in more digital technology—including e-commerce—as a strategic investment.

“You might have seen the recent Cat App,” De Lange told attendees at the Credit Suisse 6th Annual Industrials Conference in New York, referring to the company’s new fleet management mobile app that customers can use for such things as monitoring equipment performance and ordering spare parts. “We are investing in e-commerce.”

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Caterpillar didn’t break out many specifics about how much money it will further invest in e-commerce and mobile commerce or the return on investments. But the manufacturer is launching a series of new initiatives.

Caterpillar-CatApp_companyphoto-1-CM20181122-08412-47529Last month Caterpillar released an updated version of its fleet management Cat App, which allows users w to remotely monitor their equipment, request parts and service, and connect with a Caterpillar dealer. The app tracks and shows the location of equipment and displays a machine’s number of operating hours, health and utilization data, the manufacturer says.

The Apple and Google versions of the app are available in 35 languages and include such features as push notifications that alert users of a machine’s operating condition. The Cat App also lets customers view upcoming planned service indicators based on a machine’s operating hours and receive warnings of critical service issues they need to address to avoid downtime.

“There is still a tremendous opportunity for competitive differentiation in years to come [by] just bringing new digital capabilities that you’re seeing in many other industries … to our construction and mining and energy and transportation businesses, and then make sure we use them to develop our business,” De Lange told attendees.

Caterpillar offers more than a dozen specialty apps for customers, including one designed just for ordering spare parts, Cat PartsToGo, which complements the e-commerce site Parts.cat.com. It also is planning other mobile commerce initiatives for early 2019. Next month Caterpillar plans to release a newly redesigned CatUsed.com, a 17-year old website for finding and making offers on used equipment available through the manufacturer’s network of dealers. The site features more than 22,000 used pieces of available construction equipment, power systems, attachments and agricultural equipment.

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Updated features will include a responsive design that renders content to any device and quicker access to account information, request a quote, or a service request.

“Digital holds the promise of being able to allow us to create a lot of competitive differentiation in the future,” De Lange said.

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