Progress in the construction industry can be measured in machines. On the cusp of a new year, many contractors are wondering what 2016 will bring in terms of machinery that offers new efficiencies for their equipment fleets. Previous generations of construction contractors have wondered the same.
In the late 1940s, contractors were introduced to the overshot loader, which swung a bucket of dirt up and over the engine and cab of a tracked machine to dump the material into a truck at the rear. The advantage was that the tracked machine didn’t need to pivot to unload. Now contractors have the hydraulic excavator, compact skid steer loader, and articulated wheel loader to quicken their unloading chores.
Generations of contractors whose machines were purely mechanical in their gouging, lifting and mobility functions celebrated the arrival of advanced hydraulics, which transformed machinery operation. Then sophisticated electronic systems came along to produce more efficient control of engines and booms. Now some excavators can be controlled by downloaded computer files so they only dig to levels dig stipulated by project engineers. New ideas keep coming.
The tri-annual Bauma Innovation Award that returns to Munich in 2016 showcases equipment and techniques that hold promise for the future, protect the environment, and boost efficiency and performance. One of its winners three years ago was the Herrenknecht Pipe Express, a system that minimizes excavation and soil disturbance immediately ahead of pipe-laying.
Other recent ideas: In 2015, Ford introduced its aluminum bodied truck that reduces weight and boosts performance, a likely harbinger of future truck innovation. The Caterpillar 336E excavator efficiently maximizes its power—first capturing energy generated when its boom structure pivots and then reusing it. Walker Neuson’s 803 mini-excavator runs off its diesel engines—or it can be connected to an electro-hydraulic pump and run emission-free.
What will 2016 bring? More steady work, contractors certainly hope. But they also look for some innovative machinery and components that will make the work easier and more profitable. In R&D shops around the world, engineers and technicians are trying to meet those expectations.