Equipment Type

Tech, Low and High, Has Its Place

Financial pushback to high-tech advancements has been the impetus behind the return to simpler technology.
October 30, 2017

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.

An interesting technology phenomenon is playing out in the equipment universe. On the one hand, high-tech tools such as data analytics and machine control promise to increase financial as well as production performance. And on the other, a move away from some high-priced machine technology to a more basic, work-a-day type of machine attempts to cut cost and maintenance out of machine management.

Both have a place within the market, and in some cases within the same fleet.

The high-tech side has received much attention over the past decade. Tier 4-Final engines have boosted performance while reducing toxic gasses from exhaust. Machine data and machine control promise more efficient machine performance, more accurate fleet management, and digital communication across job sites and organizations.

Yet emissions technology has also added new fluids, electronics, and hardware to engines, and telematics has integrated sensors and collection devices into the base machine. Both have driven up machine prices; both have challenged fleets to evaluate performance gains.

Financial pushback to high-tech advancements has been the impetus behind the return to simpler technology. Two new categories of machines have emerged: value brands and under-74 horsepower.

Value brands, such as the SDLG loader that we Field Tested this Spring, may use less-sophisticated components, may not have as many electronic controls, and may be designed for applications not requiring high-production utilization. Engines below the 75-horsepower threshold are able to meet Tier 4-Final emissions requirements without some of the hardware. Engine advancements help the machine perform better, though, so productivity doesn’t suffer much.

The other response to the high-tech and high-cost developments in recent years has been an increasing reliance on rental machines. Managers who rent don’t have to worry about acquisition costs elevated by emissions technology and electronic sensors. They rent it, they use it, they return it.

The current technology landscape has opened up acquisition options for fleet managers. Both low- and high-tech have their places, as does rental. How to meet the fleet’s need, however, still requires a savvy equipment professional to make the call.

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