by Neil Opfer*
ConExpo 2017, held March 7-11, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada, is the largest construction-oriented event in the United States with 130,000 in attendance. The event covered 2.8 million square feet of both indoor and outdoor exhibit space. This event is so costly for manufacturers to move in and move out their equipment displays that it is only held once every three years here in the U.S. Conversations with a number of contractors found many in a buying mode given the current U.S. emphasis on the political front with increased infrastructure spending.
So what was new and interesting? Numerous manufacturers are engaged in line extensions with new entries of both largest-size equipment and smallest-size equipment. John Deere exhibited its largest front-end loader, the 944, a 9-cubic yard hybrid machine. JCB had on display scissors lift units. Liebherr unveiled two rough-terrain (RT) cranes, a 90-metric ton unit and a 100-metric ton unit. Notably, Liebherr is the world’s largest manufacturer of cranes with numerous truck, crawler and tower-crane units. The RT crane has been an American-bred invention but now is being adopted throughout the world and Liebherr is following suit. Other manufacturers have had these types of equipment and sizes out for some time but firms such as Deere, JCB, and Liebherr are extending their lines.
Definitely the emphasis across the board with equipment manufacturers was on technology enhancements and upgrades. Telematics have been around for a number of years for items such as engine and equipment monitoring. The cost of telematics both for initial installation as well as remote monitoring data transmissions continues to come down, putting this technology within the reach of more buyers. There are also additional applications for this technology coming to the forefront such as crane monitoring. Therefore, a contractor with a 200-ton crawler crane on the jobsite can see over the course of the job how many times this sized unit is really necessary. It may be that the job site would be better served by a much smaller mobile crane or perhaps if the telemetry shows that the 200-ton crane is lifting near maximum-capacity loads that perhaps a 250-ton or larger crane may be a better choice. Having a “black box” recording data also means that the crane operator can turn down requests from supervisors and crew members for overloads with the crane since they just point to the sealed black box as their protection.
Equipment across the board was seen with added features to improve safety, fuel economy, reduced pollution, and productivity. Such items as larger cabs for improved visibility, easier-shifting transmissions, more comfortable seats, and better sealed cabs against dust improve conditions for operators meaning that the operator will be more productive over the course of the day. New car purchasers are familiar with options such as heated seats. More equipment is now out with both heated and cooled seats for operator comfort and therefore better productivity. The better productivity is measured not only in increased quantities per shift, such as more cubic yards per hour, but in fewer mistakes.
Hydrostatic drive has been out for decades but more machines were seen with this feature at ConExpo 2017. The goal with hydrostatics is to take lesser-skilled operators, or average-skilled operators, and make them better operators. Also, those contractor operations with more “operator-friendly” equipment will be better able to recruit and retain equipment operators. Equipment is getting larger to accomplish both heavier lifts and longer load radius efforts. And equipment is getting smaller to be able to eliminate hand labor or make that same labor more productive or get to places where previous larger equipment could not access.
Across the board, manufacturers were seen to be adding complexity to equipment functions such as more precise control while at the same time making it easier to achieve higher productivity on the part of operators. In addition, the equipment is easier to maintain on the part of mechanics with such features as remote trouble shooting.
*Neil Opfer has extensive experience in the construction industry in various construction positions and as a construction faculty member and construction consultant. He has been employed in the construction divisions of such firms as Inland Steel (Arcelor-Mittal), Morrison-Knudsen, CE Lummus, and Standard Oil of California (Chevron). He has been on the faculty of the Construction Management Program – College of Engineering at UNLV since 1989.
Forest of Crane Booms at ConExpo 2017
JCB Boom Lift with Auto-Level Feature for Negotiating Rough Terrain
Maeda Compact Crawler Crane That at 30-Inch Width Will Fit Through a Standard-Size 3-Foot Doorway
ConExpo 2017 a Forest of Cranes and Other Equipment
Volvo Display of Their A60H 60-Ton Articulated Dump Truck (ADT) Which Is the World's Largest ADT Model
Volvo Display of Their 60-Ton Articulated Dump Truck (ADT) Which Is the World's Largest ADT Model
Huddig Rail-Mounted Loader-Backhoe Unit Demonstrating Precision of Remote Controls By Picking Up a Glass Bottle with Metal Tongs
JLG EcoLift 50 & 70 Units With 10-foot and 13-foot Heights That Replace Ladders for Improved Safety. Stored Power System Eliminates Oil, Hydraulics, and Batteries for Quiet Inside Operating Environments
Avant Compact Loader Demonstrating Low Center-of-Gravity Design
Machine System Tracking Excavation Progress
Machine Control System Improvements That Enhance Ease-of-Use for Operators
Machine System Showing Excavation Progress
Manitowoc MLC 650 Crawler Crane with High-Visibility Cab for Improved Operator Productivity
Equipment Firm JCB Known for Backhoes, Skid-Steers, Loaders and Forklifts Now Entering Aerial Work Platform Business
Volvo MCT 135C Compact Track Loader with Rotary Cutter Attachment
Wacker Neuson Exhibit with Elevated Compact Track Loader and Skid-Steer Loader to Attract Attention
Ausa Compact Dump Unit with Rotating Dump Body
Equipment Maker Liebherr (World's Largest Crane Manufacturer) with First Rough-Terrain Crane 100-Metric Ton LRT 1100 to Compliment Their Other Crawler and Truck Crane Models
Drone Sightings Were Common Throughout ConExpo 2017
Leica Systems Survey-Applications Hexacopter Drone
Liebherr LTM 1450 (450 Metric Ton) Hydraulic Truck Crane That Can Outlift Their LTM 1500 (500 Metric Ton) Model When Not Equipped with "Y-Guy/Super Lift-Type" Attachment. Advantage Here Is This LTM 1450 Crane Has a Fully-Loaded Cost of $3.4 Million Versus The LTM 1500 At $4.4 Million. On a Conventional Lift, Without the "Y-Guy" Attachment, One Less Truck Is Needed for Equipment Transport And Crane Erects Faster Saving Time
Equipment Simulators Were Common Throughout the Show Floor from Numerous Manufacturers and Can Realistically Simulate Equipment Operation to Train Operators at a Lower Cost