Welcome to The Cat Tablet Generation

For its latest reveal, Caterpillar has surprised the industry by introducing the world to its next generation of Cat 20 tonne excavators, full of technology that operators can access by tapping an in-cab tablet. To find out more, Finning News went to its EMEA press launch at its Malaga training facility, where we caught up with the Caterpillar experts.

In total, three machines were launched at the event, the technology packed Cat® 320 and 323 tracked excavators and a new Cat 320GC model. With some nice remodelling touches, including a plastic fuel tank with built in steps and a completely new air filter system, the biggest surprise was inside the ROPS cab itself, which now boasts not one, but two tablets for the Cat 320 and 323 models.

Connected to an array of machine mounted sensors and an operational integrated 360 degree camera system, the new spacious cab design comes with improved visibility, thanks in part to a new fuel tank.

The Big Numbers

But it’s the technology that is set to make this new range popular with customers and operators, as the big numbers are set to increase profitability and reduce running and maintenance costs, whilst increasing site safety. Up to a 45% increase in productivity comes with decreases in fuel consumption of up to 25% and reduced maintenance costs of up to 15%.

As we delved into the detail, we discovered that both the new Cat 320 and 323 models are factory fitted with integrated Cat Connect Technology. The first of these technologies is the Caterpillar 2D grade control system, which can also be upgraded to Cat Grade with Advance 2D or Cat Grade with Advance 3D.

The standard Cat 2D Grade Assist, provides guidance to the operator in order to improve accuracy when grading. On the optional Cat Grade Advance with 2D, the boom and bucket functions are automated, allowing the operator to achieve final finish grade by controlling only the stick function. This feature enables excellent, first-pass accuracy on grading jobs.

In addition, Cat Production Management, an on-board weighing system, comes as standard on the 320 and 323 models. In simple terms, this allows for on-the-go weighing and real-time payload, helping to ensure optimum truck loading.

To improve real-time data transfer, all of the information from each machine on site can be relayed to site or plant managers through the in-built Cat LINK™ hardware and software, providing machine-critical operating information at the touch of a button.

Smart Fuel Savings

Most operators are used to eco modes or reduced power modes and Caterpillar has recognised this and has developed a Smart Mode operation. This automatically matches engine and hydraulic power to digging conditions and therefore optimises both fuel consumption and performance.

In practical terms, when it comes to idling, further fuel savings can be made, as engine speed is automatically lowered when it recognises there is no hydraulic demand. New hydraulic and cooling systems now use electrically driven fans, contributing to lower operating costs, with fuel savings up to 25%.

Filtering out Maintenance Costs

When it comes to improvements in filter service life and performance, the new hydraulic, air and fuel filters offer significant benefits. When we looked at the new air filter system that will feature on future models, the design was dramatically different. Featuring integrated pre-cleaner and primary and secondary filters, the Caterpillar product specialist confirmed that service life will be extended to 1,000 hours, a 100 percent increase over previous designs.

Operator Focused

Talking to the operators demonstrating the equipment, it was clear that the new range has been designed to support and protect operators of every skill level, as well as offering excellent visibility by means of a larger cab.

Accessibility and Identity Comes With its Own Benefits

Thanks to some clever design, daily maintenance checks can now all be carried out from the ground. When the operators are ready to work, it all starts with accessing the machine using a Cat key, which from then on in isn’t required. Now, in order to start the machine, an operator will have the option of connecting with a new smart phone app, entering their specific code into the tablet touch screen or using a Bluetooth fob to identify themselves, before using a push button ignition. Identity also comes with benefits for up to 50 regular operators of the machine, who can save their setup preferences, similar to new car drivers, making them feel at home the minute they login. They can even programme in their preferred radio station.

Safety First

In addition to the optional 360 camera system available ex-factory, which displays really clear images around the machine through the first of the large cab mounted tablets, there are some really interesting safety features that can be altered and setup by the operator.

Labelled by Caterpillar® as its E-Fence solutions, the operator can set the height, slew, depth and forward limits, which automatically prevent the machine swinging into traffic, hitting walls or overhead cables or digging up utilities. One really important additional safety feature is the new Cab Avoidance feature, accessible from the touch screen. This one touch command ensures the bucket (or any other attachment) can’t go within a programmed distance from the cab. Similar to the other E-Fence solutions, the excavator smoothly stops the boom movement to avoid hitting the cab.

Look out for more range changes in the future Caterpillar also confirmed a simplification of its overall excavator range will be rolled out in the future, so watch this space for more details.