The four big takeaways from ConExpo 2023
By Andy Brown23 March 2023
Some 2,400 exhibitors showed off new technology and construction equipment to a record-breaking 139,000 visitors to ConExpo in Las Vegas last week.
There was a vast array of new developments on display at the year’s largest construction tradeshow, but a few key takeaways and common themes nonetheless emerged.
Here are four of the biggest:
1) The era of driverless machines is drawing closer
Companies have been talking about automation for some time now and in some sectors, this is already a reality – mining has had automated trucks for over a decade, for example.
But that technology looks set to start working its way into the wider construction market, with several manufacturers showcasing their automated machines.
Bobcat unveiled its Rogue X autonomous loader concept, which the manufacturer said “explores the idea of operating where humans cannot go”. The machine does not feature a cab and Matt Sagaser, director of innovation accelerated at Bobcat said it “sets a framework for what is possible. Our team is just getting started on what is next”.
Meanwhile, Develon (formerly known as Doosan Construction Equipment) displayed comprehensive updates of its driverless Concept-X2 autonomous machines, including the DD100-CX dozer and the DX225-CX crawler excavator. Both machines also incorporate a cabinless design.
2) Telematics and AI will help drive sustainability
Telematics is nothing new. But at ConExpo not only were the telematics systems on display able to access data from different equipment manufacturers, but almost all contained information on a project’s carbon footprint.
This means that it will be much easier in the future for this information to be easily accessed (and consequently measured and evaluated) on all projects.
It wouldn’t be a surprise if, in the future, contactors received either a financial bonus or a penalty at set stages of a build as standard, depending on if they emit more or less carbon on a project than they estimated that they would.
New technology in construction has ever-higher levels of artificial intelligence in it.
We are already seeing how AI can improve process and operations but at ConExpo we got a glimpse of a future where AI interacts with BIM and digital twins models as well as the actual construction equipment itself on the site.
The use of AI will play a key role in construction sustainability – by the time of the next ConExpo in 2026, contractors may be able to open their phone and, at a click of a button, see the total cost per unit of material moved by each piece of equipment as well as the carbon emissions of all of the equipment on site and be offered solutions on how to reduce it.
3) Alternatives to diesel are proliferating
Electrically powered construction equipment is also continuing its march, with new models on display from a host of manufacturers. But combustion engines capable of running on alternative fuels garnered plenty of interest too. And there were new hybrid offerings on show.
Gradall unveiled an electrified concept model of its multipurpose, highway speed XL 4100 V wheeled excavator, powered by Volvo Penta’s electric driveline.
And Cummins unveiled its fuel-agnostic 15-litre engine at the trade show. The single platform is capable of supporting various fuel types, including hydrogen, natural gas and diesel. JCB also launched its hydrogen combustion engine at the show.
4) Manufacturers are reorganising their supply chains
After three years of disruption to global supply chains, due in large part to the Covid-19 pandemic, several construction equipment manufacturers have re-evaluated how and where their products are made.
Skyjack president Ken McDougall told Access Lift & Handlers and Access International how the company has revisited its supply chain and logistics with a view to more localisation. The company has invested $85 million in a new plant in Mexico, as well as investing $40 million in a plant in China.
And Terex CEO and president John Garrison, speaking during ConExpo 2023, explained how it would move production lines for its access equipment brand Genie to a facility in Monterrey, Mexico later this year. It is moving a range of the company’s scissor lifts currently being produced in China, as well as some of its vertical mast lifts from its Redmond, WA facility. Eventually, the company will also manufacture all of its telehandlers from the plant as well.