PEORIA — Caterpillar Inc. will open its first permanent office in Chicago — a "Digital & Analytics Hub" that expands upon operations and services currently housed near the company's world headquarters in Downtown Peoria.

The 5,000-square-foot office is expected to house 45 employees and will be located in the Merchandise Mart, the world's largest commercial building at 25 stories and 4.2 million gross square feet of space.

The complex, also known as the Mart and located on the Chicago River, is a center for business, fashion and industry that includes showrooms and offices for private firms and government agencies.

Caterpillar made the announcement as part of Chicago Ideas Week, during which it participated in a "Dirt & Digital" lab to demonstrate the innovation and technology being incorporated into the heavy equipment it manufactures.

“Many of the attendees at our Chicago Ideas labs may only think of Caterpillar as the company who makes big yellow iron seen on the side of the highway,” said Henry Vicary, Caterpillar’s director of guest and community relations. “Our ‘Dirt & Digital’ labs are the perfect way for us to showcase that Caterpillar shares Chicago Idea’s overall vision, keenly focused on technology, innovation and a future that will transform the world.”

Caterpillar debuted its Analytics and Innovation Division in April 2015, co-locating some employees with startup firm Uptake in Chicago at the time to engineer data processing systems that take information from sensors embedded in heavy equipment and relay it to Caterpillar dealers and others.

Among services offered out of Caterpillar Building LC across the street from Dozer Park in Downtown Peoria are real-time updates on operator fatigue gleaned from facial recognition systems in the cabs of heavy equipment.

The Analytics and Innovation Division was folded into the Marketing and Digital Division as part of the restructuring announced in the fall of 2015.

Most employees in the division will remain in Peoria, according to the company.

“Caterpillar already has a presence in Chicago through our work with several universities and tech companies, so opening a permanent and centralized space for our expanded analytics and digital team in the city made sense,” said Morgan Vawter, Caterpillar’s chief analytics director. “While Peoria continues to be Caterpillar’s home, Chicago is an ideal location for continuing to cultivate and grow a diverse, creative digital and analytics work force.”


Matt Buedel is the Journal Star business reporter. He can be reached at 686-3154 and Follow him on Twitter @JournoBuedel.