Failing to Heed the Lessons of the Past

New construction equipment takes a hit on the wallet and productivity, explains Construction Digital contributor Mark Anthony
 Capital changes can hurt production as well as a budget

Written by Mark Anthony

It is a problem that will be all too familiar to anyone that has ever wanted to switch allegiance in their brand of high-end camera ownership; buying a new camera of a different brand will effectively render a valuable and perfectly useable array of lenses and filters redundant.

The construction equipment industry has fallen into this trap on numerous occasions, most recently with its move to embrace newer types of quick hitches and couplers.  With each change, the industry has supposedly grown safer with the advent and acceptance of each new type of hitch.  And with each change, the industry received a huge bill for the conversion or replacement of existing attachments.

At a recent press conference held at London's world-famous Savoy Hotel during which the manufacturer gave an impressive iPad-based demonstration of its impressive Air Connect remote-monitoring system.  This system, which has already found favour in the mining industry, allows equipment owners and fleet managers to maintain a watching brief on the performance, productivity and state of repair of a wide range of Atlas Copco equipment via a combined GPS and computer software system.

Like Komatsu's Komtrax system, Liebherr's Lisat and a whole host of other remote monitoring, eye in the sky solutions, the Atlas Copco Air Connect is, not surprisingly, designed specifically to monitor the operating parameters of equipment produced by the manufacturer itself.

This is the system's greatest strength - it is pre-loaded with details of all Atlas Copco equipment - and also its greatest weakness.

For all the manufacturing sector’s attempts to engender an all-encompassing brand loyalty among its customer base, construction equipment users and owners remain stubbornly fickle and selective; cherry-picking machines from a variety of manufacturers on the basis of application, efficacy and, increasingly, cost.

A construction company could, therefore, run Caterpillar excavators, Volvo dumptrucks, Liebherr wheel loaders and Atlas Copco compressors.  From an operational and productivity standpoint, this equipment combination might be the most cost-effective and productive solution on the market.  From a remote monitoring standpoint, the fleet manager will need a mainframe computer, a masters degree in applied computer science, and a bank of monitors that wouldn't look out of place at a NASA Space Shuttle launch.

It is highly unlikely that any equipment fleet operator would ever attempt to embrace multiple sets of remote monitoring software to keep watch on a mixed equipment fleet.

Against this background, surely the time has come for a software specialist to develop an over-riding system that can readily accept performance data from a variety of equipment manufacturers.  Or, perhaps more sensibly, manufacturers should set aside their competitive differences to produce an industry standard system that is to the genuine benefit of customers.  Or is that just asking too much?

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