Jason Hurdis, Senior Market Professional, Construction Materials Industry, Caterpillar Inc.
I’m fortunate enough to spend a good portion of my work life interacting directly with Caterpillar customers—on jobsites, at industry events and through social media. We had some interesting conversations in 2017, ranging from big stuff like the economy and infrastructure spending to everyday challenges like finding good people and controlling costs. Although no two discussions were exactly the same, a few key topics emerged time and again.
- Automated grade control. More people seem to be talking about and testing out this technology. Companies that use it say it’s easy to learn and can deliver productivity gains of 45 percent or more. And with so many options available—2D, 3D, factory-integrated and dealer-installed—it looks like there’s a product to accommodate most applications and budgets.
- Connectivity. Even though grade control is getting more mainstream, there’s still reluctance to go all-in with connectivity technologies. The biggest hurdles, I’m told, are access to information about costs and benefits, lack of skilled staff in your business, and poor internet or cell coverage where you work. These are tough challenges we’ll all need to work on together.
- Rental. The construction and aggregates producers I talk with are using rental more often to solve short-term problems. Whether the issue involves capacity, cash flow, capital restrictions or all of the above, rental can help. It’s also a simple way to control maintenance costs or try out new technology.
- Attachments. Versatility continues to be a priority. The ability to do more types of work with a single machine is viewed as good for the top line as well as the bottom. When I discuss versatility with equipment owners, excavators get high praise, particularly when paired with quick couplers and work tools. Favorite attachments: buckets, thumbs, hammers and grapples.
- People and safety. As we bring new products to market in an industry where skilled labor is in short supply, it’s more important than ever that new features help less experienced people work safely and productively. Equipment owners are encouraging us to focus on a few key areas: maximizing visibility, improving cab ergonomics, using automation to improve operator efficiency and incorporating ground-level service points to reduce the risk of falls.
Are these the same issues you’re thinking about today? We’re always interested in hearing what’s on your mind, so share your thoughts and ideas with your local Cat dealer or connect with Caterpillar on your favorite social media app.