Tech­nol­ogy: In­tel­li­gent au­toma­tion

How can the earth­mov­ing and con­struc­tion in­dus­tries take full ad­van­tage of in­tel­li­gent au­toma­tion?

Earthmovers & Excavators - - Contents -

In­ter­act Analysis re­search di­rec­tor Alas­tair Hay­field says tech­nol­ogy has the power to make con­struc­tion cleaner, smarter and more ef­fi­cient, but progress has been slow.

“Con­struc­tion typ­i­cally lags three to five years be­hind the au­to­mo­tive sec­tor,” he says.

“The tech­nolo­gies that are hap­pen­ing now in con­struc­tion were first seen in these seg­ments a num­ber of years ago, but we are see­ing a pretty strong adop­tion of them in con­struc­tion now that these tech­nolo­gies are be­com­ing more robust and proven.”

There has been a grad­ual in­crease in drone use and fo­cus on low emis­sions within the earth­mov­ing and con­struc­tion in­dus­tries.

“At the In­ter­mat ex­hi­bi­tion ear­lier this year, there were a much larger num­ber of com­pa­nies of­fer­ing ae­rial sur­vey­ing soft­ware and drone ser­vices than we’ve seen be­fore,” Hay­field says. “This sec­tor is fore­cast to be one of the largest ap­pli­ca­tions for drones, with com­mer­cial un­manned ae­rial ve­hi­cles [UAVs] used in con­struc­tion set to be val­ued in ex­cess of $2 bil­lion by 2022.”

Elec­tri­fi­ca­tion is also a big trend, but it will take longer to bring to mar­ket.

“The in­tro­duc­tion of ur­ban low emis­sion zones (LEZs) will su­per­charge this process,” Hay­field says. “There are now around 200 LEZs, par­tic­u­larly in Europe, so if man­u­fac­tur­ers want to con­tinue to op­er­ate in major con­struc­tion cities then they re­ally need to fo­cus on lowe­mis­sion ve­hi­cles.”

Man­u­fac­tur­ers re­ally do need to be pre­pared for a shift in ma­chine de­sign, ac­cord­ing to Hay­field.

“A great ex­am­ple is the Volvo pro­to­type ex­ca­va­tor EX2,” he says.

“Although still a work­ing con­cept, it com­pletely re­places the hy­draulic sys­tem with electric ac­tu­a­tors and that’s quite a big de­par­ture be­cause ev­ery other piece of con­struc­tion equip­ment re­lies on hy­draulics.

“A move to­wards elec­tri­fi­ca­tion like this does bring with it some de­sign chal­lenges, but as we solve some of these is­sues it frees up en­gi­neers to be far more cre­ative with ma­chine de­sign.”

The chal­lenges as­so­ci­ated with electric ma­chin­ery in­clude reli­a­bil­ity, par­tic­u­larly around the bat­tery and over­all dura­bil­ity of the ve­hi­cle it­self, as these ve­hi­cles get used in harsh en­vi­ron­ments.

“Also elec­tri­fi­ca­tion tends to be more ex­pen­sive at the time of pur­chase, so mov­ing the con­ver­sa­tion to­wards to­tal cost of own­er­ship will be im­por­tant.”

There are also a lot of con­cerns over how in­tel­li­gent au­toma­tion might im­pact the role of the op­er­a­tor.

“Over the next five to 10 years what we will see is the aug­men­ta­tion of peo­ple’s jobs as ma­chines are used to as­sist, rather than re­place site ac­tiv­i­ties.

“For the com­mer­cial ve­hi­cle mar­ket, the driver still has to get out of the cab in many in­stances and do a job and we’ll see the same for con­struc­tion, where au­toma­tion will free them up to do the things they don’t have time for.

“It is more about in­creas­ing safety and pro­duc­tiv­ity than about re­plac­ing op­er­a­tors.”

A move to­wards elec­tri­fi­ca­tion like this does bring with it some de­sign chal­lenges.

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