Disruptive Forces Threaten Equipment Triangle

By Al Cervero, AEM Vice President, Construction, Mining and Utility  

Strong disruptive forces are on a collision course with the industry’s “equipment triangle.”

The equipment triangle says OEMs manufacture equipment, distribution and rental provide sales, service, support and availability, and contractors use equipment to build all the things that give us the quality of life we enjoy today. 

But in the next decade, three disruptive forces will become the yang to the previous period of progress and productivity. Left unchecked, these forces will prevent us from fully achieving the efficiencies and growth we could – and should – experience.

None of these forces may seem that threatening at the moment. However, based on what I’m hearing, they have the potential to change the way we all do business within the very near future.

1. Manufacturers are building more and more sophisticated equipment daily. 

Equipment today can communicate not only machine performance data, but also tell its human masters in real time how much road it paved, how much fiber or pipe it installed, how many tons of dirt it moved to achieve foundation work, and the list goes on. 

Today’s equipment can be personalized to provide operators with whatever data they deem most important to accomplish the work at hand. It does this while performing the unbelievable task of taking in air for combustion and then sending it back out (in some places around the world) cleaner than when it went in.

2. Supporting technology is moving at the speed of light. 

We can launch drones connected to site CAD drawings, measure topography and continuously update the dozer to shape the earth according to design. The dozer, for all intents and purposes, becomes the point of an earthly 3D printer. Drone capability will soon (2018) be available via web, connected to satellites. 

We have data from machines on past projects to create a 3D video simulation of a new project, its phases, traffic patterns and ultimately, its completion before it is even out for bid. 

We are connecting people on the site with VR CAD overlays built into hard hats, and RFID or Beacon technology that improves safety by telling machines where humans are located. We have robotic mates, software for autonomous equipment with pre-programmed traffic patterns and more. 

3. We have an aging workforce not interested in training the next generation to support this site work or machine repair/general maintenance.

There’s no full court press on our education system to provide the needed understanding that would make the other points above a spear to the future. We have little coordinated effort within the industry to build our brand for future generational interest, whether it be site work, maintenance or factory floor personnel. We have little understanding of what is coming, excuse me, what is here. We have no coordinated industry vision to make people understand how exciting our story will one day be. 

On a Collision Course

These three disruptive forces are on a collision course with our traditional way thinking about the equipment triangle. Phenomenal equipment innovations, true visionary technology impacting everything on the jobsite, the lack of interested or knowledgeable people – they tell us the collision is coming, dead ahead.  

Most in the industry will not be able to stop it. A few will find a way to avoid it through engagement and being proactive, but others will not yield to it and will strike it head-on.

Let's not talk about this problem for decades – let's solve it.  Watch for AEM's awareness programs, including both our vision for infrastructure in 2050 and an experience at CONEXPO-CON/AGG 2017.

Take that vision and pass it on. Get involved in adoption. Find a way to promote the industry to your lawmakers, schools (middle, high school, technical) and friends and family. Train on what you need now, train on what you need tomorrow. Tout your work and avoid that collision, no matter what it takes. 

Let's beat these disruptive forces and turn them into a road to the future!

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