Despite the futuristic technology at play, Caterpillar’s self-driving trucks are an example of incremental business improvement rather than revolutionary change.

The data spinning off these giant computers of wheels will unlock the potential revolutionary changes.

That’s the view of James Scott group executive director of technology and innovation for Seven Group Holdings, whose operations span industrials services, media and energy. Seven Group businesses include Caterpillar dealer Westrac, SGH Energy and its Seven West media assets. And all are facing disruption.

“We are facing disruption across all of our industries and have experienced that no industry is immune to disruption,” Scott said during a presentation at the AWS Summit in Sydney yesterday.

“When we think about the appropriate strategy within each of our companies we think about the rate of change that’s required: do we need incremental change? Or do we need revolutionary change?”

Incremental change is viewed as operational improvements, for example the support in the deployment of autonomous mining trucks by Westrac’s Caterpillar business.

Over four years at Fortescue Metal Group’s Solomon Hub, Caterpillar’s autonomous haulage vehicles have moved more than 200 megatonnes of material and driven a 20 per cent productivity increase over its traditional manned fleet. The autonomous haulage program has helped Fortescue reduce their production costs by 43 per cent Scott said.

Westrac has now supported the deployment of 80 autonomous vehicles operating in the broader Pilbara region.

“While we still refer to that as incremental innovation,” Scott said. “The data that these platforms are producing is driving us to look at what’s the revolutionary change that we are now going to drive into our customers’ operations. Through access to real-time data and insights we can optimise our operations and more importantly our customers operations, specifically in areas such as safety, productivity and costs reductions.”

Seven Group has embedded three core themes — customer, data and culture — into the day-to-day operations and strategic decision making in each of its businesses, Scott said.

“While technology is at the heart of what we are driving, for us it is about that customer enablement and that cultural change that we have to drive into our businesses.”

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