Sustainability is an Innovation Enabler In Construction

CASE and CNH are building sustainability into their machines with an eye on enabling use of today’s and tomorrow’s latest technology innovations

Case Universal Machine Control 5ad7bc8eb7075

By Richie Snyder and Max Winemiller, CASE Construction Equipment of CNH Industrial

Digital innovation is not only changing the construction industry but it’s simultaneously making it safer and more efficient: GPS makes it possible to improve people and resource allocation; sensors yield more visibility into geography and structures; and strategic use of prebuilt 3D printed components improve site efficiency.

There are a variety of businesses contributing these technologies to construction projects, and many of them are not traditional suppliers but rather firms that specialize in big data, connectivity and precision tools.

This technology renaissance still faces one major hurdle, which is the challenge of incorporating some of these key innovations into heavy machinery.

There are good reasons why it is tough to innovate large pieces of earthmoving equipment, most notably that no customer wants to take a risk on reducing core functionality and therefore a project’s success. The physics of moving dirt won’t change anytime soon, nor will the economics for what can be a customer’s or contractor’s largest expense line, so why roll the dice on change?

Another barrier to adoption is the inherent rigid structure of machinery architecture, which often incorporates technology in a manner that is not subsequently adaptable to the future tech application opportunities for the customer, contractor or fleet. This approach can often require that new machines be built a particular way or cost significant amounts of time and labor to change the internals and mounting points on existing ones. Unfortunately, upgrading a piece of heavy machinery is not as simple as updating an app on a smartphone.

I’d like to suggest that we use sustainability as a way of overcoming this hurdle and, with the global construction equipment market at nearly $192 billion in 2017, unleash the potential for a new era of scalable and intuitive innovation in our industry.

Broadly speaking, a business practice is sustainable if it accomplishes the intended work reliably and efficiently while minimizing waste and providing the user with the ability to adapt growing technological advancements without replacing existing equipment. This idea of sustainable and scalable technology adaptation is just as applicable to business practices themselves.  

At CASE & CNH Industrial we have embraced this idea of sustainability in the design of our equipment, most recently on our bull dozers and motor graders, to allow customers to customize machinery with universally adaptable precision tools from a provider of their own choosing. We call it Universal Machine Control (UMC), and it means that we’re building usability, reliability and upgradability into the equipment, with an eye on enabling use of today’s and tomorrow’s latest technology innovations.

Our research indicates such an approach will impact almost every aspect of machine purchase, ownership and resale, and could be significant. We think we might see: 

Increased adoption of new tech by 30% to 40%, by customers who aren’t early adopters who are more comfortable applying tech that they are familiar with or have used in the past. A flexible upgrading capability allows them to ease into more advanced technologies while lowering acquisition costs. For innovation to make a difference on construction sites, it has to be made palatable, practical and affordable to operators.

Increased operational efficiencies by 15% to 20%, by swapping out tools for newer tech which can impact fuel and oil consumption, and improve performance uptime, allocation of operator time and safety. These outcomes speak to the very nature of sustainable operations, in that they enable efficient use of resources which is both responsible and financially beneficial.

Reduced maintenance costs by 30% to 40%, especially when condition monitoring and practice maintenance tools can be added to existing equipment. We believe that equipment lifecycles will be extended, as machinery encounters fewer extremes of stress (and, thereby, risk damages that impact the overall integrity of systems).

Improved resale value, since the UMC purchasers can swap their own tools and therefore find new functionality for the equipment without extensive systems customization, as well as improve the functionality that might otherwise require the purchase of new equipment to accommodate.

Accessibility for a new generation of operators who could benefit from the operational simplification enabled by the latest technological innovations. Such an entry level system allows operators to grow their skills along with their level of precision tool integration, without the concern of the operator’s capabilities or the requirements of technology outpacing each other.

With increasingly diverse hardware and software being used to sense, collect, analyze and apply control, it’s distinctly possible that entirely new ways to operate today’s machines may come about tomorrow, such as semi-autonomous or fully autonomous systems. It’s just as likely there will be new entrants into the services available to equipment operators, perhaps some that we’ve yet to even imagine.

The idea of sustainability as a development model for heavy equipment — that extends beyond environmental impact to include such business-specific requirements as usability, reliability and upgradability — could prove to be the enabler for customers to embrace and benefit from this future innovation.

The physics of moving dirt won’t change anytime soon, nor will the economics for what can be a customer’s largest expense line; big machines can cost a lot of money, and therefore deserve innovative thinking to maximize their value.

So, if a novel innovation sometime down the road can make moving that dirt faster, cheaper, more reliable, or more environmentally sound? We want construction site operators to be able to embrace those innovations and enable them to put them to work.

While the laws of physics aren’t going to change, digital technology certainly will.

Richie Snyder, Marketing Manager, CASE Construction Equipment and Max Winemiller, Director of CASE Construction Equipment’s Road Building & Site Prep Products Division, Global & North America Dozers, Motor Graders & Compaction, are at the helm of CNH Industrial’s quest to apply new technologies and sustainability innovations to its Road Building & Site Prep Product portfolio.