As part of RER’s continuing interviews with earthmoving manufacturers, we interviewed Mitch Tobias, Caterpillar Inc. customer enterprise digital manager; Steve Brown, Caterpillar, global rental marketing & operations manager; and Jason Hurdis, Caterpillar, senior market professional about how advanced digital technology has impacted earthmoving equipment.

RER: What are the latest technological developments with your equipment?

Tobias: We recently launched our 988K Wheel Loader and D8T Dozer remote control systems as a part of our Command technologies.

What trends do you see and do you expect to see in earthmoving equipment in the near future?

Tobias: We would expect the use of technology in many areas to continue to increase and become more common practice. Some of the most recent advances that would be built upon are Grade Control, Payload, and Intelligent Compaction. Customers will continue to migrate to the use of these tools to assist in improving productivity, lowering material costs, increasing safety of their workforce, and reducing time of projects. A great reference video is: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6nF2YIf9r-k&feature=youtu.be

There was a lot of interesting technology at the Conexpo show, such as use of drone technology in earthmoving equipment, virtual reality training and more sophisticated use of telematics. What were some of the new technological advancements you have made?

Tobias: Also at the show, we had a D8T Dozer located in Peoria, IL being controlled remotely from the operator station at the exhibit in Las Vegas. The new Cat Command remote control system for the D8T offers a choice of two operator interfaces--- a portable operator console designed for line-of-sight use and an ergonomically designed operator station that can be located remotely when the dozer is equipped with the Command Vision system. Wireless connectivity enables the operator to work from a safe location, whether nearby or far away. Additionally, we demonstrated a remote control skid steer loader at Conexpo as well.

It appears that hybrid machines are now more popular than in the past? Do you find more of a demand for them in the rental market?

Brown: From an OEM perspective, we see rental demand often mirrors retail. Hybrid machines are becoming more popular in rental fleets as customers are seeing value in the technology.

Are you finding increased demand for any particular kinds of machines from the rental market?

Brown: We are seeing an even distribution in demand across our product segments. Increased investment in infrastructure and commercial construction are pulling products across our portfolio into dealer rental fleets.

What kind of knowledge of technology is necessary for rental companies to help their contractor customers?

Brown: Customers interested in productivity have a strong preference for technology enabled solutions. Also, regulatory compliance, such as Tier 4, adds new technology to machines. Rental companies now become a key partner in helping customers understand and optimize these technologies. It’s critical that rental companies train their teams to become a trusted advisor to customers when it comes to technology.

Are earthmoving machines more fuel efficient than in the past? If so, how, and to what degree?

Hurdis: Earthmoving machines produced in the last two years are significantly more fuel efficient than previous machines. Fuel consumption reductions have come from advantage powertrain systems such as our XE’s platforms, hydraulic system improvements, cooling system improvements, engine improvements and basic technology controlling all the systems for maximum production with the least amount of fuel consumption. As a general statement, today’s machines are easily 10% more fuel efficient than previous machines with gains up to 25% on specific machine platforms.