Caterpillar, Paling use telematics to save the day
30 June 2021
Going remote: OEM uses telematics to resolve software issue in advance of COVID-19 lockdown.
Paling Transporter Ltd. is focused on innovative engineering to help make material handling at steel companies as efficient and cost-effective as possible. But when the COVID-19 threatened the completion of large order for a steel mill, both the manufacturer and its engine distributor had to get creative in a hurry.
The Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, specialty equipment manufacturer has evolved from operating gas stations in the 1950s to building machines capable of hauling 200 imperial tons of steel around mills worldwide. Pumping fuel in Hamilton transitioned to heavy truck repair and transporter maintenance for a local steel mill. Then the Paling team decided to develop their own prototype. That first transporter, built in 1986, is still in use at a steel mill.
The transporters have been powered by Cat diesel engines for more than 30 years, and Paling engineers have worked closely with its Ontario-based dealer, Toromont Cat, the entire time.
“Quite honestly, our equipment is very unique, and the only engine that can stand up to our quality and reliability standards is a Cat engine,” said Cameron Evans, general manager, Paling Transporter. “Even when we tell our customers about the life that we’re getting out of these Cat engines, oftentimes they have to ask questions about whether or not I’m being honest with them.”
Evans said one of the company’s transporters that is equipped with a Cat C15 diesel engine has logged 80,000 hours.
Teleportation via telematics
The Paling team said it doesn’t hesitate to pick the Toromont team’s brain when something unexpected occurs.
When the COVID-19 pandemic put the world on lockdown in March 2020, Paling had been working on an order of transporters bound for a local steel mill for 14 months. It was in the home stretch, so to speak, when it ran into a fan controller issue that would shut the machine down. Time was running out, because all work was about to be stopped due to virus restrictions, and that would eliminate the ability for Toromont to safely visit the Paling factory to diagnose the issue.
Paling was on the verge of missing a ship date, which would result in very unhappy customers and a whole lot of money tied up in equipment that would be parked on the floor in limbo.
The engines in Paling’s transporters were equipped with Product Link Elite (PLE) 743, a Caterpillar telematics device that talks to the engine control module over a specific network or two-wire ethernet. The PLE743 uses a 4G cellular radio to communicate to the Caterpillar office and allows the engine maker as well as its dealers to remotely access the engines, diagnose fault codes and flash engine software.
A Caterpillar engineer, working from a home office in Illinois, was able to remotely log into the transporters as they sat on the Paling factory floor in Ontario to perform a software update that was required for the engine to work with the machines. Once the software was updated, the sale could be finalized and the machines made it safely to their new home. Then Paling shut down its production floor as part of its region’s pandemic compliance.
The work was done without the Toromont or Caterpillar team needing to risk anyone’s safety by violating social-distancing or shelter-at-home rules.
“It was spectacular to even be involved in this process with Caterpillar and to see the capabilities that are possible with the telematics,” said Evans.
During the pandemic and beyond, Caterpillar said PLE technology will allow the Paling team to remotely log into the transporters and see customers’ data in real time, as well as significantly shorten response time—no matter how much physical distance there is between technician and machine.
“That’s going to be the benefit for us in this new normal,” explains Evans. “This allows us to meet our customers’ requirements and potentially even leads to further sales.”