Editor's Comment: Look at components if you want to see the machines of the future

By Chris Sleight11 April 2013

International Construction editor Chris Sleight.

International Construction editor Chris Sleight.

If you’re going to the Bauma exhibition later this month, I hope you’ve got a comfortable pair of shoes. There is nothing quite like it in terms of sheer scale. In fact, with even more outside space having been added since the last time it was held in 2010, this edition of the show will be the biggest construction equipment fair ever held anywhere in the world. It will cover an area equivalent to about 80 football pitches.

The construction equipment industry had a tough year last year. As this month’s news report, our annual Yellow Table ranking of the world’s 50 largest construction equipment manufacturers illustrates, the recession in the Chinese market meant global growth was only +2.6% in revenue terms.

But whatever the state of the industry, Bauma is a show where you can always expect new machines and innovations. In terms of new equipment this year, there will be a lot of focus on low emissions models, as the current Stage IIIB/Interim Tier 4 legislation comes into full force in Europe and the US and manufacturers look ahead to next year’s implementation of Stage IV/Tier 4 Final.

Controlling pollutants from diesel engines has been a big issue since regulation was first introduced for the off-highway industry in 1999, and over the intervening years many of the launches at major exhibitions like Bauma, ConExpo-Con/Agg and Intermat have been driven by what is demanded by the legislation.

The cost of this has been huge – billions of Dollars across the global industry – and it has also taken up the majority of many companies’ R&D resources. But it has all been to a good end. By the time the final laws fall into place next year the exhaust gasses coming out of construction machines’ engines will in some cases be cleaner than the air going in. And along the way fuel efficiency has also been improved.

But with the end in sight for the current round of emissions legislation, equipment manufacturers have the opportunity for the first time in 15 years to step back from the heavy focus on pollutants and look at other issues. Fuel efficiency is perhaps the biggest issue at the moment, as oil prices remain high and the prospect of some sort of regulation on CO2 emissions rumbles on in the background.

This is another area where a stroll around Bauma might be informative. There will be plenty of hybrid machines on display, mainly excavators from the major earthmoving equipment manufacturers.

However, for a look further into the future, it might be interesting to visit the halls populated by components manufacturers. Here you can see some of the technologies being offered to original equipment manufacturers that might see the light of day in finished machines a few years down the line. They include things like new hybrid transmissions, hydraulic accumulator systems to capture and store waste energy and off-the-shelf start-stop systems. Claims of 25% fuel savings are not uncommon among companies offering these components, which adds up to significant amounts of money on equipment as big and thirsty as construction machines.

So for a real glimpse of the future at Bauma, maybe you should start your visit in halls A3 – A6 and the other areas for components manufacturers.

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