Earthmoving Equipment for the Digital Jobsite

Heavy construction equipment is essential on any type of construction job to execute tasks on a project. Now, a number of factors are impacting how the equipment is used on construction sites around the world.

Currently there is a rise in infrastructure development, which is resulting in increased construction activities and creating a greater demand for heavy duty construction equipment, according to Grand View Research. The market research and consulting company predicts the overall market for heavy construction equipment will grow, due to the infrastructure sector, particularly airports, and earthmoving machinery will be the largest segment to help with the rise of projects across the globe.

In turn, many of the major manufacturers are coming to market with new technologies on equipment that will ultimately impact how operators interact with it at the job.

“Technology allows contractors to get the job done more efficiently and with improved accuracy,” explains Brian Stellbrink, product application specialist, Caterpillar.

A number of different technologies are beginning to emerge on new equipment that will impact how operators do business at the jobsite.

Earthmoving Equipment Advances

Grand View Research predicts earthmoving machinery will be one of the fastest growing segments in heavy equipment for the construction industry. At the same time, the equipment is continuing to advance, enabling operators to work more efficiently and safely.

One example of this is a wheel loader designed for tunnel construction, which is one of the most demanding civil engineering applications for construction equipment. Liebherr has new piece of equipment that has features designed to ensure safety and machine availability in tunneling, which includes roll over protection system (ROPS) and diesel particle filter, which minimizes the emission of particles and contaminants in tunnels.

Another type of equipment that is becoming more advanced are hydraulic excavators. Caterpillar, for example, recently introduced its Next Generation of 20-ton class hydraulic excavators.

Stellbrink explains that this piece of equipment is “built with a digital heart so it can work efficiently at the digital jobsite of today and tomorrow.”

All three models also feature standard Cat Link technology, which captures machine operating data and connects the machine to the office through VisionLink. This helps with machine management and fleet planning. These models also come standard with Cat Grade with 2D, Cat Grade with Assist, and Cat Payload.

“These technologies are scalable to grow with companies through available technology such as grade with advanced 2D and grade with 3D,” Stellbrink says. “Additionally, sensor technology mounted on the boom, stick and bucket work in concert with standard excavator technologies to increase operator and machine performance and advance safe operation.”

When looking at the benefits provided by all this emerging technology on earthmoving equipment, some of the top benefits include safe operation, increased accuracy, greater productivity and lower operating costs, just to name a few.

Stellbrink adds that lower operating costs are a significant benefit of the technology offered in these excavators, since new design features take advantage of the latest in design technology, which can help reduce fuel consumption by up to 25 percent over previous models. One example of this is a smart mode power setting that automatically adjusts engine and hydraulic power for the highest fuel efficiency.

Improving fuel efficiency is another big advantage on the construction job, as fuel oil costs account for a large part of the machine maintenance cost. Proper operating techniques and technology can improve working efficiency and fuel consumption.

Another instance of this comes from SANY, which has self-developed EPV engine-pump-valve control technology to largely reduce the fuel consumption, while the working efficiency increases by 7.5 percent.

While these are just a few examples, a number of the major manufacturers are offering advanced technology features in new equipment to help improve productivity and fuel efficiency.

Improving Interoperability for Mixed Fleets

While the equipment is advancing, so too are the other technologies in the office and at the jobsite, and it could have a big impact on how operators interact with equipment.

Tim Ashman, senior consultant, Tilson, a company that provides consulting on complex telecommunications and construction technology, points to another hot technology that is beginning to come to the construction jobsite: BIM (building information modeling).

While this is still in the early stages on heavy equipment, last year Trimble and Komatsu began a collaboration to improve interoperability for mixed fleet earthworks. The aim is to give operators and construction professionals the ability to exchange 3D construction site data between the equipment and the construction software.

This type of interoperability offers a number of different benefits to the construction industry. Construction professionals can have a complete view of site productivity including materials quantity movement, volume and compaction data. They can also access fleet and asset-management information. At the end of the day, the biggest benefit is the real time sharing of project data.

This is something Komatsu has had its eye on for years, as it introduced its SMARTCONSTRUCTION in Japan back in 2015. This is an Internet of Things (IoT) solution for construction site operations that allows visualization of site operations and information about workers, machines and surfaces.

Ashman explains this type of technology and advancement on the construction jobsite will ultimately lead to “better planning, less rework, and more accurate estimates.”

Still, one of the biggest challenges to implementing any new, emerging technology on the construction jobsite is implementing the technology and training the operators to use and embrace the new systems.

Ashman has a unique suggestion for construction companies: “Make sure colleges are creating new course curriculums. Allow for training activities. Find the brightest people and put them in charge.”

Another option is to work closely with the manufacturing companies and dealers, as they are able to assist with technology training and implementation at the jobsite.

“Much of the technology is intuitive and easy for operators to learn and implement,” explains Stellbrink. “Cat dealers are there to assist with expert advice on equipping the machine with the right level of technology to meet the company’s needs. Contractors can also depend on their Cat dealer for assistance with machine performance monitoring and preventative maintenance programs.”

At the end of the day, all this new emerging technology is coming and it is going to disrupt the way business is done at the jobsite; but are you ready?

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