The last question, admitted Unser, can be the most difficult. “We have a lot of expertise in pockets [of knowledge] like welding,” he said. “We have very few people who know about composites. We need to train our engineers so they are comfortable using composites.” To do so, Caterpillar offers quarterly forums to display supplier capabilities, monthly lunch-and-learn webinars and a “plastics 101” class run by a local university.
Unser summarized that lower costs and other advantages will drive the increase in composite usage at Caterpillar. But, he added, the company can’t do it without partners. “Supplier collaboration is key for Caterpillar,” said Unser. “In the world of composites, we need collaboration. We look for suppliers with strong engineering backgrounds that will work with us to develop the market.”