Equipment Type

Lubes and Digits

Digital and mechanical have combined to create a complex task out of the management of an organization’s fleet of heavy equipment.
February 09, 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.

Engine control modules can adjust a diesel’s performance almost continuously, communicating with not only the engine components but also with other machine systems, such as hydraulics. These tweaks increase fuel efficiency and manage torque, giving the machine operator finer and finer control over the work being done.

Underneath, however, it’s still fuel injected into cylinders that must smoothly fire and return while bathed in a film of lubricant functioning at high temperatures. Although digital information has been overlaid, the basic physics remain the same.

Digital and mechanical have combined to create a complex task out of the management of an organization’s fleet of heavy equipment.

The digital extends beyond the engine, too. Advances in machine control continue to fine tune the smoothness and accuracy of dozing and trenching, both within hydraulic cylinders and through sensors mounted on blades.

At the far end of the digital are remote controls and autonomous machines. Remote controls remove operators from dangerous applications, and autonomous machines remove operators...period. The benefits of both these digital advances for safety and efficiency guarantee that the technology will be incorporated in more machines and more advanced applications.

The equipment management function within even the smallest fleets has expanded beyond what it was only five years ago. Of course, no discussion of digital would be complete without injecting telematics into the mix. Komatsu’s Ken Calvert suggests that increasingly busy equipment managers will continue to struggle with telematics.

“These people, who have a long record of successfully managing equipment and already have a full plate, are being asked to dig into the mass of telematics data and search for the needle in the haystack—that bit of information that results in an ‘aha’ moment and saves the company lots of money. Telematics systems need to make things easier for people, not give them more to do.”

The same could be said for all digital advances, but in the meantime, computerized control and management will continue to be integrated into machines. Equipment-using organizations will keep the pressure on fleet managers to manage the digital as well as the mechanical.

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