What’s the next big thing? It’s hard to say in a world that’s rapidly changing and getting harder to predict each year.
In an age where information is king, we need to use it to predict what’s next. That’s why Volvo Group have identified three future technologies we think will ride the next wave: connectivity, electromobility and automation. We see a convergence of these three new technologies, and we’re using them to work on future worksites that are more sustainable, more connected and more efficient than ever before.
o Volvo Assist Programs & Co-Pilot Display: These in-cab productivity services from Volvo CE (Dig Assist, Haul Assist, Load Assist, Compact Assist) help operators be more productive, efficient and safe. With Haul Assist, for example, we can tell an operator in real-time how much weight is in the back of his truck so he knows when he’s fully loaded. He’ll also know when he’s overloaded and can avoid unsafe situations. We also transmit this information to his head office so they know the production rates in real-time. Volvo Dig Assist tells an excavator operator where he is and how deep to help him dig a trench or profile that he sets up on an in-cab tablet. Fewer mistakes upfront lead to higher efficiency and more accurate work — plus, the jobsite is safer.
o Uptime Centres: By having machines connected, we can monitor data on individual units as well as an entire fleet. This benefits our customers because we can analyse the data and learn more about our equipment, such as determining whether there are correlations between different types of equipment failures, duty cycles and more. Gathering data constantly strengthens our predictive analytics, enabling us to let our customers know when something is going to be a problem before it happens. Keeping customers up and running — and decreasing maintenance costs and downtime — leads to more efficient sites.
o At Volvo CE, we have a hybrid loader called the LX1. The engine is half the size of a conventional loader — it has a 600-volt supplementary drive. But, more importantly, it’s a 20-ton loader that can do the work of a 25-ton loader. We were able to do this by taking up the axle and replacing it with two compact hub drives. That allowed us to lower the lift unit and give it a lot more capacity. The combination of the more efficient hybrid drive and more capacity makes this loader over 50% more efficient than a conventional 20-ton loader.
o At Bauma 2019, Volvo CE unveiled two fully electric machines: the ECR25E compact excavator and the L25E compact wheel loader. They’re 48-volt machines that an operator can plug in at night or over lunch, charge, then get to work — and they operate the same as a conventional machine.
o Volvo CE also developed the HX02, an automated 15-ton hauler. It uses what we call a “swarm concept,” which means we use many small machines very carefully coordinated on the site rather than two or three large machines. The trend in the past has always been to go bigger and bigger with higher-capacity machines because it was more efficient. We’re now finding, because of battery, power and site limitations, that it’s better to utilize more machines around the site.
Bringing Them All Together
Volvo CE and its partner Skanska drew on the emobility and automation expertise of the Volvo Group and created a research site in Sweden called the Electric Site. It aimed to electrify each transport stage in a quarry — from excavation to primary crushing, and transport to secondary crushing.
With electrification, a lot of the benefits aren’t actually in the machine. While we made them more efficient and reduced some costs, the significant advantage is in how the overall site operates.
At the Electric Site, we replaced a 50-ton diesel-powered wheel loader with a 20-ton hybrid loader; three 40-ton articulated haulers with eight 15-ton autonomous articulated haulers; a 70-ton diesel-powered excavator with a grid-powered excavator; and a diesel-powered crusher was converted to draw power from the electric grid. Our goal was to reduce CO2 emissions by 95% and the total cost of operations by 25%.
Our tests showed a 98% reduction in carbon emissions, a 70% reduction in energy costs and a 40% reduction in operator costs — and together, these results support the potential for more than a 25% reduction in the total cost of operations. The results also show that the Electric Site project is a big step toward helping Volvo CE achieve its future vision: worksites that are ten times more efficient, with zero accidents, zero unplanned stops and zero emissions.
From a concept point of view, the Electric Site has proven very valuable as it relates to utilizing connectivity, electrification and automation. But a reminder, this was a 10-week trial — it didn’t happen in one day. A lot of logistics went into getting this site to work, which is the exciting part. As we work to electrify more sites and use newly automated machines, our way of working must adapt to these emerging technologies.
An Exciting Future for Construction
There are a lot of key change drivers that will disrupt many of our industries. Still, we know the technologies that can deliver appropriate solutions, and how “traditional” sites and jobs may be affected. Companies like Volvo are investing heavily to bring more new solutions like these to solve tomorrow’s challenges.
While the construction industry in general has sometimes been slow to adopt (and adapt to) new technologies, our goal is to not only embrace them but to use them to our full advantage — otherwise, companies like ours risk being pushed out by substitute solutions from entrant companies. The jobsites of the future will require evolution and adaptation as our world continues to change around us at a rapid pace — but we think it’s a future that’s very exciting.
For more information visit cjd.com.au