Caterpillar Senior VP Talks About the State of the Construction Industry

Among areas that may see the most innovation in 2024 are electrified equipment and machines using alternative fuels.

Herwig Peschl
Herwig Peschl

The Equipment Today team discussed the state of the construction industry with Herwig Peschl, senior vice president, global construction & infrastructure, for Caterpillar. He looked ahead to 2024 for the State of the Industry Report where he said that electrification and alternative fuels are likely to see the most innovation.

What was the construction industry’s biggest challenge in 2023?

The biggest challenge we continue to hear from construction customers is the shortage of skilled operators. To help address this challenge, we’ve developed new technologies on our machines to make them easier to operate with enhanced safety features. One potential solution some customers are turning to is our Cat Command technology which allows an operator to run multiple machines from an indoor station or use a remote console to operate equipment onsite but outside the cab.

We’ve also developed programs to promote this profession, including Caterpillar’s Global Operator Challenge. More than 10,000 operators worldwide signed up to compete in local events organized by Cat Dealers which culminated with Caterpillar crowning a champion at the finals in Las Vegas at CONEXPO/CON-AGG in March 2023.

In what technological areas do you see the potential for the most innovation in 2024?

A couple of areas where Caterpillar continues to make strategic investments are around electrification and alternative fuels. We’re excited about our first electric machine coming to the construction segment, starting with the Cat 301.9 Electric Mini Excavator, which will be followed by the 906 and 950 GC Electric Wheel Loaders and 320 Electric Excavator in the coming years. At the same time, we continue to invest in our current line of products to make them more fuel-efficient.

What innovations or improvements do you anticipate in construction equipment in 2024?

We expect more … adoption of technology by customers and operators as they are interested in minimizing costs by improving productivity, enhancing safety, and increasing jobsite efficiency. Equipment management is becoming an important part of all operations, no matter the fleet size. Caterpillar, with the support of the Cat Dealer network, has solutions and services, from VisionLink to remote flash to help customers utilize these technologies to be more successful.

Which construction sectors face the most hurdles in the move toward electrification? Alternative fuels? Automation?

Since construction sites are not static, there are challenges when it comes to making these transitions. We’re excited about the developments Caterpillar is undergoing with autonomy and automation. We’re taking our years of experience and expertise in the mining space with more than 6 billion tons of material safely moved autonomously to other applications, starting with the aggregates industry.

We are collaborating with Luck Stone, the largest U.S. family-owned and operated producer of crushed stone, sand and gravel to first expand the company’s autonomous truck fleet to include the 100-ton Cat 777. That solution is scheduled to be implemented in 2024 to allow Caterpillar to gain greater insights on quarry operations … to tailor the next generation of autonomous solutions specific to quarry and aggregate applications.

How are the Industrial Internet of Things, software and connectivity affecting your company specifically and the industry as a whole?

With more than 1 million connected assets, Caterpillar can help more customers now than ever with managing their equipment. Caterpillar’s new VisionLink, released in 2023, comes standard with any Cat machine and takes the guesswork out of managing construction equipment to maximize performance.

Whether customers are working a landscape project or a large construction site, VisionLink provides them with timely equipment data to their desktop or mobile device, so they can make informed, timely decisions that lower cost, boost productivity, simplify maintenance and improve jobsite safety. In short, customers [can] get more done in less time for less money using VisionLink regardless of fleet size or even equipment manufacturer.

What will be the biggest challenge in 2024 for the industry?

The shortage of skilled operators will likely continue to be a challenge for our customers. The U.S. infrastructure bill is providing new funding to upgrade the nation’s roads, bridges, airports and ports; ensure climate resiliency in new infrastructure projects; and expand and improve the country’s transportation and power systems. We need operators to help us build a better, more sustainable world.

Are there any other insights looking toward 2024 that you’d like to share?

Caterpillar is excited about the future. There is a healthy pipeline of construction projects in North America, and Caterpillar has invested in innovative new products, technologies, services and solutions to support our customers' success.