BACK IN BUSINESS
Published: 30/12, 2022
Technology and togetherness are recurring themes at Bauma 2022.
No one will ever mistake Munich, Germany, for Las Vegas, Nevada. The differences are fairly obvious—foothills of the Alps vs Mojave Desert, medieval cathedral spires vs high-rise casino hotels, and so on. What they do have in common, though, is their respective triennial role of host to the world’s largest construction trade shows—Bauma and Conexpo-Con/Agg. And for the former event’s most recent edition, there was a bit of gambling involved as well.
You probably already know that Bauma is typically held in April. But for 2022, the organizers moved the event back to October in the expectation/hope that the coronavirus pandemic would be six months further in the world’s proverbial rearview mirror.
Well, COVID-19 receded, but high energy prices and economic uncertainty took its place, driven in large part by the war in Ukraine.
To be sure, the situation with the “hot war” just a time zone away was far different in October than it had been in April. There was little doubt that *some* people would come. But how many, and from where? Bauma’s organizers had rolled the dice; now it was time to see if they would cash in.
As it turned out, Bauma 2022 had the luck that denizens of Las Vegas’s famed gambling dens can only dream of. Though announced attendance of just under a half-million visitors did fall short of the 627,000 recorded in 2019, you would have hardly noticed the difference given the enthusiastic crowds representing more than 200 countries milling through the exhibit halls and outdoor demonstration areas. And there was plenty to see, as the show’s approximately 3,200 exhibitors presented equipment and products big and small, for all kinds of applications, including some one might never think of until the need arises.
That’s another element that distinguishes Bauma—Conexpo is big, but even a somewhat “smaller” Bauma is still massive, almost to the point of overwhelming. And amid the cacophony of languages and accents complementing the wide variety of tools, machines, and vehicles, the show’s lingua franca remains how to do things faster, better, and for less cost—particularly when there is so much more to do now, yet fewer people available to do it.
What’s the buzz
One of the recurring themes of Bauma 2022 was the continuing expansion of electric and alternative-fuel machines, particularly with new inroads into battery-powered mid-sized equipment. This trend is hardly surprising given that Europe is by and large further along the sustainability and conservation curves in both awareness and regulatory perspectives. But with manufacturers such as Cat and Komatsu poised to capitalize on what is sure to be increased emphasis on clean power and emissions reduction certain on the west side of the Atlantic, battery-powered offerings beyond the established compact equipment applications bear watching.
Still, there’s plenty of room for expansion of battery-powered technology, as evidenced by the debut of Komatsu’s fully-electric compact wheel loader prototype, developed in partnership with Moog Construction, an arm of motion-control specialist Moog, Inc., of East Aurora, NY., which has been involved with large-scale projects ranging from the movable roof at Wimbledon’s Centre Court to the Mars Perseverance rover.
Moog Construction Director Dave Chaves explained that the company’s technology replaces conventional hydraulics with a system that includes electric cylinders for the lift, tilt, and steering functions. Komatsu claims that the fully-electric steering system on this loader has made steering the machine much easier and more efficient than a hydraulically driven loader. Moog is now working on creating a version that can be scaled up in production, which will set the stage for the machine to be commercially viable.
“That’s where our experience with motion control and systems integration is really helpful,” Chaves said. “We can design systems to achieve greater precision, and help operators get up to speed more quickly.”
Moog has already played a role in other electric construction machines, such as Bobcat’s T7X compact track loader, and has developed a high-performance mobile work platform to specific user needs. The key to the patent-pending machine’s versatility, explained Chaves, is counter pivot that provides smoother and better ergonomics, plus the ability to get through doors and other narrow passages.
Moog is also active in another technological area, collaborating with Swiss heavy equipment automation specialist Gravis Robotics on systems that will allow remote operations of construction equipment from well beyond the jobsite. Chaves says automation and tec
“We’re in the demonstration phase now, and hope to have some pilot projects underway in 2023,” he added.
Telematics, a more familiar form of technology that seems to have become a staple of mobile equipment and other large machines, has made its way into attachments as well. Italian hydraulic attachment maker Indeco used its traditional Bauma press event to debut its new Indeconnect remote monitoring system.
Designed as the first step toward “the Internet of Tools” with the goals of preventing equipment obsolescence and maintaining high performance over time, Indeconnect uses 4G wireless technology to transmit operational data including location, hours of work performed, working position, even hydraulic oil and ambient temperatures.
Another US company, Road Widener LLC of Delafield, Wisc., made the long trek to Munich to feature their patented FH-R material placement attachment, which allows the operator of the host machine to precisely dispense topsoil, gravel, asphalt, limestone, and other material via remote control—all with an attachment compatible with common machines that contractors already own. The attachment includes most skid steers, compact track loaders, road graders and wheel loaders.
Road Widener’s stand also included the Offset Vibratory Roller attachment that now includes a spray bar system that aids in suppressing dust particles, compacting aggregates, and preventing clumping when rolling hot mix asphalt. The roller is designed easily compact slopes at angles that would tip a traditional compaction machine.
Even with CONEXPO just a few months away, Road Widener President Lynn Marsh said the opportunity to be part of Bauma’s unique global showcase was well worth the trek to Munich.
“Bauma is worldwide stage for brand awareness,” Marsh said. “Having sold several machines in Europe already, we know there’s an international market for the products. Being here enables us to meet with prospective distributors, which will help expand our footprint further.”
Marsh notes that the machines are already ready for the global market, noting that the FH-R is available in left, right, or dual dispensing configurations to take on any roadway around the world. Both the FH-R and Offset Vibratory Roller fits easily on common-width trailers that can be towed by standard pickup trucks.
“Productivity, efficiency, and labor are worldwide industry issues,” Marsh added. “Contractors will embrace any viable solution, regardless of where they are or where the product comes from.”