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Voice of Users

Construction equipment diagnostics system

Customer : Caterpillar Central Japan Ltd.

The indispensable TOUGHBOOK: for on-site computerization of everything from construction equipment diagnostics to energy efficiency

For the mechanics at Caterpillar Central Japan, Ltd., who are at the front line of on-site construction equipment maintenance, the Panasonic TOUGHBOOK field mobile PC has already become an essential item. Progress in IT is being made even in the world of construction equipment used in severe environments. Almost all maintenance work that includes checking engines, hydraulics, and making adjustments, is being carried on the job site using computers. This company has been using TOUGHBOOK PCs for over ten years and now Panasonic has taken this opportunity to see how they like the compact new CF-U1.

Compact and light, it’s easy to carry around at the job site

Mr. Shinichi Takahashi, Service Technology Section, Service Department, Caterpillar Central Japan, Ltd., holding a Panasonic CF-U1 TOUGHBOOK ultra mobile PC.

Mr. Shinichi Takahashi, Service Technology Section, Service Department, Caterpillar Central Japan, Ltd., holding a Panasonic CF-U1 TOUGHBOOK ultra mobile PC.

TOUGHBOOK CF-U1
Able to rest on the palm of one’s hand, this extremely rugged ultra mobile PC has a small body and runs Windows Vista/XP.

TOUGHBOOK CF-U1 Able to rest on the palm of one’s hand, this extremely rugged ultra mobile PC has a small body and runs Windows Vista/XP. As the name TOUGHBOOK implies, it goes without saying that this PC has a rugged design that’s resistant to drops, shock, dust, and water.

U.S. based Caterpillar Inc., the dominant world maker of construction equipment, has numerous dealers throughout Japan that handle marketing and maintenance. These dealers use approximately 600 TOUGHBOOK PCs. One of these dealers, Caterpillar Central Japan, Ltd., has been using the complete line of TOUGHBOOK PCs since introducing them during the Windows 95 era.

 

For Mr. Shinichi Takahashi of the Service Technology Section of the Caterpillar Service Department, who is in charge of maintenance in Niigata and other prefectures in the Hokuriku region of Japan, the TOUGHBOOK is indispensable when he goes out to service one of their machines at a customer premises. He states, “We have 172 mechanics handling construction equipment maintenance and 102 of them are using a TOUGHBOOK.”

In 2008, the compact CF-U1 was added to the TOUGHBOOK lineup. In July, 2009, Mr. Takahashi brought a CF-U1 to Kashiwa Kogyo Co., Ltd., a gravel plant located in Nagaoka City in Niigata Prefecture. For moving gravel and loading it into dump trucks, this company uses about ten Caterpillar wheel loaders.

 

The first thing Mr. Takahashi did when arriving at the gravel plant was to go up to the CAT 966H wheel loader. This enormous machine, which has a 4.1 m3 capacity bucket and can carry 7.25 tons of gravel in a single load, requires an operator to climb a ladder the height of a man just to get into the driver’s seat. Mr. Takahashi says, “Compared to the models up to now, the CF-U1 is extremely compact and light, which makes it easy to carry.”

Caterpillar wheel loaders being used at the gravel plant of Kashiwa Kogyo Co., Ltd.

Caterpillar wheel loaders being used at the gravel plant of Kashiwa Kogyo Co., Ltd.

You can’t get into the driver’s seat unless you climb a ladder that’s around the height of a man.

You can’t get into the driver’s seat unless you climb a ladder that’s around the height of a man.

Checking equipment “health” with the TOUGHBOOK

After sitting down in the wheel loader and pressing the power switch, the PC quickly starts up in less than one minute.

After sitting down in the wheel loader and pressing the power switch, the PC quickly starts up in less than one minute.

In the driver’s seat, Mr. Takahashi begins by connecting the CF-U1 and wheel loader with a cable and then turning on the power. He says, “The startup time is really short now. Up and running in about half the time of previous models, I can get right down to work.”

The software that does the equipment diagnostics is called ET and was developed by Caterpillar Inc. Construction equipment maintenance conjures up images of opening the hood, removing plugs and bolts, and visually inspecting parts. Using this software, the computer does the work of checking things such as rotation speed and temperature of engine, pressure in the hydraulics, displacement of moving parts, and operating time. The results are stored as electronic data.

 

“When the air cleaner element gets clogged, the engine intake pressure lowers. This pressure data can also be verified with ET, so we know when it gets close to replacement time”. Mr. Takahashi goes on to say, “If, in the unlikely event that a failure in the electrical system occurs, messages such as ‘This wire is cut.’ appear so we can immediately find where the problem is.”

The CF-U1 is connected to a dedicated plug in the driver’s seat via a USB conversion connector.

The CF-U1 is connected to a dedicated plug in the driver’s seat via a USB conversion connector.

Engine rotation speed being displayed as a graph on the CF-U1 monitor. It was verified that the accelerator pedal response is good.

Engine rotation speed being displayed as a graph on the CF-U1 monitor. It was verified that the accelerator pedal response is good.

Built-in digital still and video cameras

Opening of the hood is power driven.

Opening of the hood is power driven.

In the cockpit, after checking things such as oil pressure and operating time of each part, Mr. Takahashi opens the power-driven engine hood. Pointing the back of the CF-U1 toward the engine and various drive-related parts, he then begins repeatedly pressing buttons on the CF-U1.

 

He is using the CF-U1 as a digital still camera. As an option, a 2-million pixel digital camera can be built into the CF-U1 (special order). The lens is located on the back of the CF-U1 and video is also possible in addition to still photos. Mr. Takahashi says, “We’ve been using the digital camera feature of mobile phones to take pictures up to now, but now, being able to do this directly with the CF-U1, which also collects data from the equipment, we have the convenience of being able to uniformly organize picture files with the diagnostics data.”

 

Even with the advances made in IT for construction equipment, it is still expected of a mechanic to not depend entirely on data collected by a PC. It is still expected that they be able to conduct maintenance as a technician based on experience, using the five senses for observing sounds, vibrations, smells, and other things. That’s why it’s important to use photographs and video to record external appearance and to determine the extent of use of certain parts.

The CF-U1 being used as a digital still camera that is built into the rear of the unit. Video recording is also possible.

The CF-U1 being used as a digital still camera that is built into the rear of the unit. Video recording is also possible.

Even in dark places, pictures are bright and clear thanks to the two LED lamps located on each side of the lens.

Even in dark places, pictures are bright and clear thanks to the two LED lamps located on each side of the lens.

For computer-enabled construction equipment used in severe environments

Progress in IT can be found even in the construction equipment used in
severe environments. Computers for on-site maintenance have become
indispensable.

Progress in IT can be found even in the construction equipment used in severe environments. Computers for on-site maintenance have become indispensable.

Mr. Takahashi (left) holding a CF-U1 and Mr. Tanaka (right), in charge of sales, holding a CF-30, the model used for regular maintenance.

Mr. Takahashi (left) holding a CF-U1 and Mr. Tanaka (right), in charge of sales, holding a CF-30, the model used for regular maintenance.

For over the past ten years, Caterpillar Inc. has been implementing IT into their construction equipment and has added sensors throughout in places including the engine, hydraulic mechanisms, and other moving parts. The sensor data is collected and organized on an onboard computer called the Electronic Control Module (ECM).

Owing to this computerization, not only has maintenance work performed by mechanics been sped up, but breakdowns can be prevented beforehand and efficient operation has become possible based on data derived from the habits of experienced operators.

Mr. Tsukasa Takeuchi of the Product Support Development Section, Product Support Department, Caterpillar Japan, Ltd., the place in Japan where Caterpillar develops and manufactures its products, explains, “For example, a function is built in that automatically controls the engine rotation speed so that it doesn’t exceed a certain level when the engine overheats. Also, the accelerator pedal and excavation technique of experienced operators is stored as data and used as the basis for providing advice to other operators for the purpose of saving energy.”

He goes on to explain, “The mechanics can envision, up to a point, the status of equipment that they are not actually looking at visually.” Now we are in an era in which even the operation status of construction equipment can be stored and managed using log data, in the same way as a computer. Construction equipment is used mainly outdoors at places such as construction sites and gravel plants. These are severe environments where equipment can be rained on and subjected to wind-blown dust. As a tool for the purpose of conducting computerized maintenance, it looks like the TOUGHBOOK will be playing an ever more important roll throughout Caterpillar Central Japan.


Customers
Caterpillar Central Japan Ltd.
Address
7-41 Higashimukaiyama Imahonmachi Anjo-shi, Aichi
Caterpillar Central Japan Ltd. homepage 

http://nakanihon.catjd.com/
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Specifications subject to change without notice.
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