If you’ve ever seen a product demonstration at Caterpillar’s facility in Edwards, Illinois, chances are you walked away impressed at the skill of the equipment operators. But you might be surprised to learn that demos represent only a small portion of the job for these talented professionals—technically known as demonstrating instructors.
“The job is incredibly diverse,” says Chad Cremeens, operations supervisor at Edwards. “Demonstrating instructors give input to New Product Introduction programs. They put on demos to help Cat® dealers sell equipment. They train operators to run machines effectively. And they perform production studies to help customers improve onsite operations. They truly touch the product from beginning to end.”
When Caterpillar engineers are designing new equipment, they often turn to the instructors for the operator’s perspective. What they get is expert knowledge—each instructor spent at least 10 years working as a machine operator in the field before joining Caterpillar.
“We’re able to provide real-world input,” says Senior Demonstrating Instructor Ryan Neal. “That allows us to serve as a voice of reason for the engineers—we help keep them grounded.”
Being able to offer that type of feedback and see it reflected in the final product is one of the most rewarding parts of the job for Neal. “When you see a customer running a machine, and you know you had input into that machine’s design, that’s pretty cool. It’s gratifying to know your opinion matters.”
The showroom floor
After equipment has moved from the design stage into production, customers often see it in action for the first time during a product demonstration. The Edwards facility features two arenas, a rotating grandstand and a Power Parade site, along with several smaller areas for specialized operation. That’s where the instructors get to showcase their talents at the controls of Cat machines large and small.
“We work in a big sandbox,” says Demonstrating Instructor Nathan Myers. “There’s not a demo where someone doesn’t say, ‘You guys have the coolest job in the world.’ It’s true. We do.”
But product demos aren’t just fun for the operators and spectators—they’re also a key sales tool for Caterpillar and its dealers.
“We serve as the showroom floor,” says Marty Dains, the facility manager at Edwards who once worked as an instructor himself. “We give dealers a mechanism to show customers what our equipment can do.”
Once equipment is in the hands of customers, the instructors often find themselves back inside the cab—this time training the operators who will use the machines on the jobsite. According to Myers, they love “seeing the light bulb come on” for their fellow operators—both new and experienced.
“I’ve worked with a couple of guys who were really struggling to run machines,” says Demonstrating Instructor Erik Esposito. “It’s great to be able to give them some tips and pointers and help them turn it around.”
Ryan agrees. “Sometimes you go to a site and the guy there’s been running machines for 35 years, and you just know he’s thinking, ‘You’re not gonna teach me anything.’ And then you show him something and he says, ‘I never knew that.’”
The demonstrating instructors don’t just help operators work more productively and safely—serving as key members of Caterpillar’s production analysis teams, they also do the same for entire jobsites.
Essentially, anything that digs, loads or hauls weight or volume over a measured distance in a specified amount of time can be studied. The demonstrating instructors might help a customer make payload comparisons or measure production differences between specific machines, for example.
“We help customers analyze production at mines, quarries and heavy construction sites,” Cremeens says. “We identify efficiencies or the lack thereof, along with changes they can make in their equipment or operation to increase productivity and safety.”
No typical day
Asked to describe a typical day or week at Edwards, the team laughs and rattles off a laundry list of tasks in addition to those described above: talking to reporters, filming videos, prepping the show floor, fueling and washing machines, even completing expense books and arranging flights for their next trip to a customer jobsite.
“Every day is something different,” Cremeens says. “But it all boils down to helping the customer. We’ve been there—we were all customers once. That’s what makes this job so extremely gratifying.”
Interested in joining the Edwards team? Email Edwards Demonstration & Learning Center.