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Helping the Environment with Software

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Truck and landscape ©Finning Canada. Used with permission.

Finning header

Truck and landscape ©Finning Canada. Used with permission.

Angela Wu, Finning Canada

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Learn how software engineers from Finning are helping companies reduce their environmental impact.

As a software engineer, my team and I work to solve problems.

At Finning, multiple teams work together to help our employees and customers. We also work with our customers to listen to their ideas. We come up with new and improved services that help them run their businesses. Through software, our job is to make life easier for the end user and create solutions for problems they have.

When we talk about software, or programming, it can be almost anything, from a simple program to a complex application . It can be a program that calculates how many hours a machine has worked. It could also be an application that helps track and manage orders for machine parts. These are some examples of work we do at Finning. They make up parts of a large web application that we call CUBIQ.

Website screenshot

Screenshot of CUBIQ introduction page (©2022 Let’s Talk Science).

One of CUBIQ’s most exciting and important jobs is to help our customers reduce their carbon footprint. That means reducing the amount of carbon they emit. This is better for the environment. It contributes to things like improved air quality and less pollution.

More people and companies are realizing that our environment is very important. CUBIQ’s users are companies that care about the environment too. They want to make improvements when it comes to their impact on the world around them. One of their biggest opportunities is to have their machines consume less fuel. Although it sounds easy, it’s not as simple as we might think. How do you reduce fuel when you have equipment spread across the country? How do you even begin to track it?

Those are a few of the problems that we worked to solve for our customers by creating CUBIQ.

Today, our customers can see a lot of details in CUBIQ related to their equipment that they couldn’t see before. These details help our customers make decisions that are better for the environment. CUBIQ can report data like how much fuel they are burning, how much load a machine should carry, and the distance a truck travels. With this, customers can make sure their machines are being the most productive while using the least amount of fuel. Customers can measure progress like how much less fuel they used in one year vs. the one before. They can see where there is opportunity for improvement.

Shown is a colour photograph of two large yellow vehicles in front of a pile of gravel.

A hydraulic shovel (right) loads a haul truck (left)(©Finning Canada. Used with permission.)

Image - Text Version

Shown is a colour photograph of two large yellow vehicles in front of a pile of gravel.

The vehicle on the right has metal tracks instead of tires on the bottom. The top part of the vehicle is wide and rectangular. There is a dark glass cab on the top left, and a ladder below that reaches to the top of the track. A thick mechanical arm with a bucket on the end, bends over from the right vehicle to the left one.

The left vehicle is a truck with large black tires. The bed of the truck is long and yellow.

As a team, we are very proud of CUBIQ. When we started five years ago, it was just an idea. It was a journey that took a long time and a lot of work to make it what it is today. We encountered and solved problems along the way and had many successes and failures. 

We learned how to take the data that comes off the machines, called telematics, and organize it in a way that helps our customers solve their problems. We had daily meetings to brainstorm and discuss advantages and disadvantages. We talked about different technologies and different designs, called software architecture, that were best suited for a particular problem. We tried new technologies and came up with creative solutions too. We also thought about performance and security. We made sure it could handle a lot of data and information without crashing.

This brainstorming involved creating algorithms. These are sequences of instructions that can be used to process the telematics. Sometimes creating these instructions can involve coming up with simple math formulas. It can also involve creating diagrams to show how each instruction will follow the next, or creating a short code snippet for testing. We do this to make sure that the algorithm will actually work in real life, not just in our minds!

Shown is a colour photograph of a pair of hands typing on a laptop.

A software engineer writing code (Source: Pixabay [public domain] via Wikimedia Commons).

Image - Text Version

Shown is a colour photograph of a pair of hands typing on a laptop.

The hands are reaching out from the bottom right corner of the image. The fingers are over the keyboard of a silver coloured laptop. The screen is black and filled with lines of small text in several different colours. A teacup is out of focus in the background.

As you can see, we use a lot of STEM skills in our work. We use computer programming, coding, math, engineering, problem-solving and different technologies. We also use many soft skills to achieve our goals. These are skills like communication, teamwork, and creativity.

If you talk to anyone on my team, they will tell you that CUBIQ is more than a product. It is a tool that is helping companies change the world. It’s important to know that we make a difference when we go to work everyday.

Some people think that as a software engineer, we sit behind a screen all day or that we work alone. It is part of our job, but we do much more than that. We work as a team on projects that have big impacts. We also brainstorm ideas together, and we learn and grow from each other.

Being a software engineer is an exciting, inclusive, and rewarding career path. It is for anyone!

Let’s Talk Science appreciates the work and contributions of Angela Wu, a software engineer from Finning in the development of this Backgrounder.

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About Finning
Finning Canada is a division of Finning International Inc., the world’s largest Caterpillar equipment dealer. Headquartered in Edmonton, Alberta. Finning Canada sells, rents and provides customer support services for Caterpillar equipment and engines in British Columbia, Yukon, Alberta, Saskatchewan, the Northwest Territories and a portion of Nunavut. They serve a diverse range of industrial markets, including mining, forestry, construction, pipeline/oil field construction, agriculture, government sector, marine, transportation, fisheries, and the commercial transport industry.

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