50 years of International Construction part 3 - the 1970s

11 April 2012

Looking back through iC's it is clear that many of the modern challenges faced by construction equipment manufacturers, from fuel efficiency and pollution to fierce competition, were also challenging the industry over 40 years ago.

Some of today's most advanced road-building technology, for instance, can be directly traced back to the first prototypes that were revealed in the 1970's. The September 1979 Conpex Asia exhibition featured the world's first compaction meter, for example, which was developed by Dynapac.

Called the Compactometer, it allowed the operator of a vibratory roller to keep a constant check on compaction results. The device could be pre-set to signal when the surface being rolled had reached a specified level, and could also print out permanent records of the measured values - concepts which remain in place on modern compaction machinery.


Another illuminating feature appeared in the October 1972 issue of iC and considered the options available to make diesel engines less polluting.

The article was written at a time when the polluting effects of nitrogen oxide (NOx) were not fully understood, but there was a realisation that these emissions would need to be reduced, and the solutions suggested have since been adopted.

"A satisfactory solution might well be a turbocharged diesel engine with modified direct injection with cooling of the induction air and perhaps with exhaust gas recirculation," the author wrote. It was a far-sighted prediction that ties in with the emissions control systems found in today's engines.

More advanced high pressure hydraulics were also being developed in the 1970s, and these were finding new applications. One example was the use of hydraulics for variable width excavator undercarriages.

Competition between manufacturers was also hotting- up, with new entrants to the market diversifying quickly. In January 1973, Caterpillar was seen as being in the thick of its battle to protect its worldwide market dominance.

Pressure was coming from the likes of Japan's Komatsu, whose growth through the 60's was been matched by no other company, and was widely acknowledged to be a serious international competitor to Caterpillar by 1974.

A 1973 iC feature noted, "With an intensely competitive market, one type of product is not enough. The tendency is towards the one-name package of construction equipment - a marketing approach which benefits both the distributor and the customer."
This has certainly been true over the last few decades, as acquisitions have seen many old names acquired by major international players intent on offering ever wider ranges of equipment.

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