Technology innovation will be a key driver of demand in the $204 billion global construction machinery market through 2025, according to a new Freedonia Group analysis. Industry leaders are currently developing the next generation of construction equipment – ranging from alternative fuel trucks and semi-autonomous excavators – which will be considerably more productive, efficient, and environmentally friendly. New models will feature a variety of innovative technologies, such as advanced sensors, electric engines, and sophisticated data collection capabilities. For example:
- Caterpillar offers excavators with technology that calculates real-time payload estimates without swinging to help prevent over- and under-loading trucks.
- Komatsu offers dozers that are equipped with capabilities that enable automatic tilt steering control and automatic spreading of fill material.
The incorporation of such technologies into new models will spur both new and replacement equipment sales and drive up average construction equipment prices. Below, we examine four key areas of innovation in the global construction machinery industry.
Electric & Emissions-Free Vehicles
To reduce the environmental impact of construction machinery and to comply with more demanding emissions standards, manufacturers have introduced new emissions control systems and have attempted to improve efficiency through innovation. New designs commonly feature increased fuel efficiency and reduced or zero emissions. In addition, the number of manufacturers that offer hybrid or alternative fuel models has increased considerably, and this trend is expected to continue.
All-electric zero emission equipment captures an increasingly large presence in the construction machinery market. Leading companies such as JCB, Komatsu, and Volvo have recently unveiled all-electric equipment. Benefits of electric equipment include:
- vastly reduced noise (useful if working on a site in a populated area or on one with noise restrictions)
- fewer moving parts and therefore a lower likelihood of a mechanical breakdown
- a reduced impact on the environment
Volvo has indicated that electric equipment will be the primary target of research and development in the coming years. Specifically, the company announced it would halt development of diesel engine-based compact models of its excavators and wheel loaders, choosing instead to invest in electric-powered models.
Improved Performance & Reduced Maintenance
Construction machinery suppliers have also made a variety of performance-related improvements in recent years by introducing new models that offer:
- improved traction and maneuverability
- technology that provides more information to the operator via advanced sensors and greater communication capabilities
- increased horsepower and fuel efficiency
- the ability to handle larger payloads
- greater versatility (i.e., ability to perform multiple tasks)
- longer lifespans and predictive maintenance
- more user friendly equipment with new safety features
- machines that automate key functions and are compatible with other technologies (e.g., drones, advanced software)
Improvements designed to reduce maintenance are common too; Caterpillar and CASE (CNH Industrial) recently made these central features of their new graders and rollers. In a competitive market, reduced maintenance costs can be a strong incentive for an end user to purchase a particular model, and major manufacturers have emphasized innovations that make maintenance less common and less expensive, reducing costs over the long term. Caterpillar, for example, claims its use of new filtration technology will extend fuel injector life by up to 45%.
Improved Operator Comfort & Visibility
Producers are also increasingly focusing on operator comfort. This often includes:
- a larger cabin with an improved layout
- increasing the amount of information available to the operator through technology to improve awareness and minimize the chance of error
- easier, more precise controls
While these developments are occurring throughout the industry, they are particularly prominent in loaders. Caterpillar, CASE, Deere, Komatsu, and Liebherr have all introduced new loaders featuring such design changes enhancing comfort and ease of control for the user.
Visibility is also a focus. For example, Caterpillar’s Cat 315F excavator features narrower cab pillars to provide 60% more vertical visibility compared to the previous generation model.
The development of smart technology is made possible by advances in the industrial internet of things (IIoT), which consists of a network of connected industrial devices, including systems that can collect, store, monitor, and analyze information. Producers such as Deere, Doosan Infracore, and Komatsu are increasingly offering information technology that gives the operator more control and precision, as well as information about the machine and the task it is performing. The latest excavator models from each of these companies incorporate smart technology.
Many producers have developed systems that are integrated across their product range:
- Komatsu features intelligent Machine Control (iMC) in some of its products, which employs sensors to feed information to the operator.
- Doosan is implementing its own technological system, DoosanCONNECT, across its lineup of products. DoosanCONNECT allows operators to monitor their fleet using the internet, including from remote locations. The company also introduced Doosan Machine Guidance on its excavators, a system that can give the operator accurate measurements of the work being done.
- Caterpillar has introduced Cat Product Link, which can help operators track equipment and attachments across a jobsite.
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About the Author: Peter Kusnic is a Content Writer with The Freedonia Group, where he researches and writes studies focused on an array of industries.