Equipment Type

Conservative Yet Collaborative

As fleet-using organizations accept and integrate technology across the operations front, equipment will become integrated more closely with operations.
October 06, 2016

Rod Sutton is editorial director of Construction Equipment magazine. He is in charge of editorial strategy and writes a monthly column for the magazine, The Sutton Report. He has more than 30 years in construction journalism, and has been with Construction Equipment since 2001.

A MINExpo visit just a few months before Conexpo provided a peek into what equipment manufacturers will be emphasizing in March. No surprise, really: Technology was generating much attention.

We saw a haul truck and a drill rig without cabs, because they are totally autonomous. We saw remote-controlled dozers operated from several hundred miles away. We saw load sensors and site-management systems that promise productivity efficiencies. Of course, mining and aggregate fleets are natural test cases for such technology because the equipment operates in a single location, doing much the same task 24/7. Automating these tasks pays large dividends for these types of operations.

Conexpo promises more of the same. Indeed, the exhibition’s moniker for 2017 is “Imagine What’s Next.” Equipment managers who attend in March can expect to see more than new equipment. Also on hand will be the sorts of technology exhibited at MINExpo plus others geared to the organizations for which the equipment fleet does work.

The Association of Equipment Manufacturers, which runs Conexpo, is expanding the scope of this equipment show to include construction technology in general. Its buzz-generating 3D-printed excavator will be a showpiece of that new scope.

Conexpo’s premise presages the changing equipment environment for fleet managers. As fleet-using organizations accept and integrate technology across the operations front, equipment will become integrated more closely with operations. That future is inevitable; managers do well to prepare.

Yet, Construction Equipment's most recent research study reveals that 80 percent of backhoe loaders users do not use telematics. Telematics, and other machine-mounted software, are key parts in an organization’s ability to integrate fleet into site-management and financial-management technologies.

Ironically, new-equipment sales are soft, which also restricts the integration of telematics into fleet-management practices. A different group of technologies—less digital and more mechanical—are causing equipment managers to be cautious about buying new machines. Engine technology associated with Tier 4-Final has not built enough of a historic record for managers to be comfortable with maintenance and operating-cost trends.

The silver lining in this conundrum is that equipment buyers have time to let technology filter in, settle down, and prove itself. But as construction technologies become more a topic of discussion, equipment professionals—who tend to be conservative in nature—should collaborate with their organizations’ leadership.

Machine control changed the earthmoving game, and the construction technologies seen at MINExpo and expected at Conexpo will change asset management. Consider and evaluate them. Investing in fleet doesn’t need to be any riskier, and the payoffs will be substantial.

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