Are You Using Tech to Its Fullest? OEMs Say Yes... and No

Dec. 6, 2017

In the course of our work at CE, we ask OEMs a lot of questions about their products. It’s one of the ways we strive to help you make informed buying and asset-management decisions.

The most obvious—and continuous—change to machines in recent years is the addition of technology. Just to name some of the advances in excavators alone, there are multiple work modes for multiple functions and fuel savings, sensors and settings to help operators stay on grade and control depth, machine telematics, and more.

For an upcoming Buying File feature on excavators, we asked manufacturers if they thought you were properly using all the technology provided. Yes, you.

What we heard was a mixed bag.

“I would say many customers do not fully utilize the technology available, and the best example of this is the available working modes in the monitor," says Andrew Earing, product marketing manager, excavators, for Komatsu. “Customers set the machine to operate in Power Mode providing maximum production, power, and multifunction. But oftentimes, maximum production is not required and Economy Mode could be used save fuel while meeting the performance needs.

“Another example is the use of operator ID’s,” Earing says. “An operator ID can be input into the monitor to track job hours, fuel consumption, and idle time. Not only can this information be used to monitor an operator’s performance, but also to manage a specific job. And using an operator ID for a specific job will provide detailed machine information to improve quoting accuracy.”

Aaron Kleingartner, marketing manager at Doosan, says the next generation will lead the way in usage. We'd agree that's no cliche.

“We see an increased adoption of technology in Doosan excavators, especially as the next generation of heavy equipment owners and operators enter the industry,” he says. “For seasoned construction professionals, telematics fleet-management systems may not seem worth the time it takes to understand how they work. On the other hand, younger, tech-savvy owners and operators are more likely to want access to more data to better utilize their equipment and partner with their dealer to ensure they are operating in an efficient manner.

“The more construction firms embrace collecting and analyzing data, or working with their local dealer to help review it, the better companies can assess their equipment needs,” Kleingartner says.

Dealers indeed play a key training and advisory role, and may be able to get a large operator segment, the “under users,” to increase their stake in technology. Jay Quatro, field application and training specialist for Wacker Neuson, feels telematics is particularly underutilized.

“When most users hear 'telematics' they think about simply locating or tracking the machine,” Quatro says. “However, as technology has increased over the past several years, telematics services go beyond simple location tools. Users are also able to monitor critical machine functions, such as fuel level and battery voltage, as well as set up maintenance schedules and automatic alerts. Service departments should be taking full advantage of this technology to manage machines that spend the majority of their time in the field.”

Tyler Peterson, JCB’s product manager for large excavators, concurs.

“If there is one technology or capability that I would judge to be underutilized, across all brands, it is telematics,” Peterson says. “We are seeing strong indicators, however, that owners and fleet managers are beginning to understand the full potential value of telematics systems for enhanced asset utilization, maintenance planning, and improved machine security.”

So not everyone is equal in his or her command of technology, but most manufacturers think the tide is turning. And they’re here to help.

“Many owner/operators today are very tech savvy and utilize as much of the technological advances as possible,” says Michael Shebetka, product manager at Takeuchi. “However, to some, the newer technology may not be as important or they are simply unsure how to utilize the technology their machine offers. Information and training are keys for the customer to make an informed decision.”

“We understand that sometimes the owner’s manual never comes out of the bag, so the biggest challenge is making sure all our customers know about the new features,” says Matthew McLean, GPE product manager, Volvo Construction Equipment.

“So, a lot of our focus is on making sure our sales teams understand the latest machines quite well, and can share all the new features with the customers.”


About the Author

Frank Raczon

Raczon’s writing career spans nearly 25 years, including magazine publishing and public relations work with some of the industry’s major equipment manufacturers. He has won numerous awards in his career, including nods from the Construction Writers Association, the Association of Equipment Manufacturers, and BtoB magazine. He is responsible for the magazine's Buying Files.