As a Top Woman in IIoT, Caterpillar's Terri Lewis Is Changing Power and Empowerment


Terri Lewis, Technology and Digital Director for Electric Power at Caterpillar, is advancing the company’s utilization of the Internet of Things (IoT) by effectively combining her technical background and broad business understanding. With five years of experience in this role, Terri has integrated IoT into all sectors of Caterpillar’s Energy and Transportation industry vertical including Oil and Gas, Power Generation, Rail, Marine, and Turbines.

Terri’s education began when she earned her Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering (1982-1987) before earning her Master of Business Administration in International Business at EM Lyon Business School in France the following year. Attending IMD Business School, Terri then undertook and completed an Executive Leadership Program while transitioning into the workplace.

As the Founder of IoT Peoria, Terri focuses on bringing together innovative thinkers to collaborate on overcoming profound problems through the usage of the Internet of Things. Terri has also been named as ‘Women of M2M’ in 2016 by Connected World Magazine and listed as one of ‘21 Women Making an Impact in Industrial IoT’ in 2018.

As the first woman in our series, we were excited to reach out to Terri to share her insights into IoT and IIoT, a subject that she is passionate about.

What drew you to IoT?
I’ve had the unique opportunity to have eight different “careers”; marketing, product development, supply chain, software development, M&A, etc. My current “career” is in I-IoT execution. I love the technology space, but I get really excited to see how the digital transformation is impacting every aspect of business and leveraging my different functional experiences, passing on that passion, and to help those areas transform and benefit from IoT, ML, AI, AR/VR, etc.  

When were you first introduced to IoT?
I started in a strategy function in 2013 when IoT was really at the peak of the hype phase. There was no well-accepted industry definition of what IoT was, but according to many the connected things by 2020 would be in the billions.

What was your first IoT project?
It was a role across our Energy & Transportation industry vertical to help develop our strategy. Our E&T industry vertical covers marine, O&G, Electric Power, Rail, and Industrial segments. It was fascinating for the scope, but also on the different commercial and technical challenges. In 2015 the strategy was well into execution mode in a hybrid type organizational approach.

What are you doing/working on today?
I kicked off a project, while in the strategy role, to define explicitly, the strategy and development of an I-IoT solution for our Electric Power divisions. That project grew significantly, and I moved in 2018 into the Electric Power business organization, charged with the execution of one area where we were furthest behind but with the most significant opportunity for growth. My team is delivering digital services for electric power assets across the globe for diesel and gas generators, balance of plant equipment, microgrids, etc. Squarely focused on helping Cat customers be successful; the adoption has been exponential.

What are your predictions for IoT?
Fun question. In 2013, I worked on a project to break down the global projections for IoT growth into the specific projects for E&T businesses. I revisited the projections early last year, and the adoption has gone faster than expected, in fact 2-3 years faster for all industries. Going forward, I anticipate that adoption will continue to accelerate as new technology mature to be able to create value from data. Things like Machine Learning tools will develop to be usable by a broader group of people. Broadening data ingestion to include thermal and photo imaging will enable increased ability for condition monitoring analytics. Of course, cybersecurity will remain at the forefront of every group. The geopolitical issues of cyber terrorism, but also how to treat data from a trade perspective. When is too much data an antitrust issue?

Where do you see the most value created?
We look at four basic value drivers for customers; equipment management, productivity, safety, and sustainability/compliance. From an ROI perspective, improving productivity, or “sweating the asset” is the highest. It is interesting to see, across all types of businesses, that we can find 15-30% improvements in productivity. That is significant profit opportunity to the bottom line.

What are the most inspiring/meaningful IoT initiatives you've seen?
The 2014 World’s Greatest Problem Solvers conference, that Chris Rezendes invited me to in Boulder, brought together technology enthusiasts to look at how IoT can tackle some of the biggest problems of society; Water, Global Warming, Food, Crime, Energy, etc. The passion in the group and the initiatives were truly inspirational. With technology comes great responsibility and believe it is all our responsibility to strive to tackle these and other challenges. Helping local start-ups pursue solving these problems, and creating jobs locally, takes up my time outside of work via connections with the Peoria IoT Meetup that I started almost three years ago.  

Is there anything that you would like to see change, i.e. regulations, policies, etc. in the current way the development of IoT initiatives/solutions are undertaken?
It is sometimes said that “the EU regulates, and the US litigates.” The US really needs to look at how to protect Personal Identifiable Information. Is it, like it is in Europe, a right that is called out in the Constitution? Should we drive this change, before there is some major catastrophic abuse that happens?

In your opinion, what is the most significant risk associated with IoT?
Ethics in data science.

What is one piece of advice that you would offer a business leader that is interested in IoT?
I see a lot of companies worried that their organization doesn’t have the culture to be successful and/or lacking in talent. I’d suggest that they allow their organization to innovate, empower their people, and foster a learning culture. Any company can transform itself with IoT. All of them should.

Arti Loftus is an experienced Information Technology specialist with a demonstrated history of working in the research, writing, and editing industry with many published articles under her belt.

Edited by Ken Briodagh
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