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Manufacturers implement new technologies

By Stephen Elliott

March 4, 2024

Bobcat Co. electric excavator

Photo courtesy of Bobcat Co.

As technology evolves, off-road equipment benefits, giving both rental equipment owners and their customers more options to maximize productivity, performance and safety.

From advanced software to improvements in digital offerings, the equipment rental industry and its customers/contractors are seeing machines with more options. For example, Doosan Bobcat, West Fargo, N.D., provides a digital offering including a depth check system for compact excavators and is developing a collision warning and avoidance system along with advanced display technology.

John Deere, Moline, Ill., looks at innovation inside and outside its walls by using a Start-Up Collaborator program, building relationships with startup companies whose technology could add value for both Deere’s construction and agricultural customers.

For the equipment rental industry, the latest in telematics, artificial intelligence (AI), low carbon solutions, and electric power are changing how manufacturers look at product development.

“In the rental industry, technology that makes operators, especially inexperienced operators, efficient quickly are key,” says Emily Pagura, product marketing manager, John Deere.

Joel Honeyman, Doosan Bobcat vice president of global innovation, says, for instance, AI will enhance and help support automated or autonomous functions. It is among many advances manufacturers are using.

“But like all new technologies, we will see step-wise progression, because whatever the solution is, it needs to help solve a real customer’s needs,” Honeyman says. “The rental industry has more equipment options than ever before, including battery-powered excavators and other electric machines.

“Battery-powered machines, for example, can be the answer for customers challenged by workplace noise restrictions, emissions restrictions or customers who need equipment that can be operated indoors to replace manual labor.”

Honeyman says the company’s digital offering of its depth check system allows compact excavator operators to accurately measure depth and grade without having to leave the cab. He says the technology helps novice operators be more precise in their operation. It’s also beneficial for more advanced operators, since they don’t need to leave the cab to measure depth, he says.

“This system can be utilized for trenching, installing sewer lines, placing drainage ditches, digging basements and site preparation for footings or pads,” Honeyman says.

John Deere equipment technology

Photo courtesy of John Deere

John Deere skid steers and compact track loaders are implementing features that will benefit the equipment rental industry, Pagura says.

“The first is the boom performance package, which includes the ability to pre-set boom or bucket positions for return to dig, return to carry and boom height kick out,” Pagura says. “Automating these positions can streamline repetitive tasks, especially for operators who are new to operating, or just new to skid steers or compact track loaders (CTLs). The joystick performance package includes a suite of customizable features like switchable controls (from ISO to H-pattern) and a switchable pedal (from acceleration to deceleration).

“This allows an operator who has experience with other machine forms or brands to customize the controls of the John Deere skid steer or CTL to their preference.”

Ditch Witch, Perry, Okla., continues to use the latest technologies to make its stand-on skid steers easier to use, the company says. Among its latest developments is the company’s SK1750 skid steer, which features the TriTrax system, a patent-pending track tension window that allows operators to visually check track tension.

“The TriTrax system helps operators, especially renters, feel confident in their routine maintenance checks,” says Brant Kukuk, compact equipment manager, Ditch Witch.

“Ditch Witch stand-on skid steers are designed to be easy to use, even for novice operators,” Kukuk adds. “The simple controls and intuitive design make it easy to get started with the machine, and their reliability gives renters reassurance they’ll be able to complete projects with minimal maintenance.

“With a stand-on platform, operators receive a 360-degree view of the job site. This increase in job-site visibility and operator comfort helps operators see what is happening around the machine, boosting job-site safety.”

Skyjack technology

Photo courtesy of Skyjack

Skyjack, Guelph, Ontario, Canada, is seeing continued opportunities and offerings for its various technologies. The company has a new range of DC electric scissors featuring AC brushless electric drive motors and other design changes.

“The simply electric range will be launched globally with availability in all regions throughout 2024, replacing the current hydraulic drive models,” says Malcolm Early, vice president of marketing, Skyjack.

“The innovative drive system provides exceptional duty cycles and fully proportional controls, which offer a superior drive experience,” Early says.

Carbon neutral technologies. Manufacturers are continuing to work with low carbon solutions in efforts to reduce the carbon footprint.

“Rental companies and major contractors face increasing demands for sustainability information,” Early says. “This is in part driven by government agendas globally through specific legislation that looks to address emissions and as they look to leverage their policies through their spending.”

Early says one of the largest areas of spending is in infrastructure and construction.

“So, increasingly, they (governments) impose sustainability targets on projects that they sponsor,” Early says. “Contractors carry forward that agenda and rental companies that supply contractors need to meet that demand through their business models. Ultimately, that may come through their machine purchase choices.”

John Deere continues to explore new power technologies and is developing several low-carbon solutions, says Grant Van Tine, John Deere’s product manager, electric vehicles. For the near term, John Deere is focused on four key areas: improving diesel efficiency, adapting engines for the use of renewable fuels, hybrid electric machines and battery-electric machines.

“Each of these solutions will have their place as there is not a single low carbon solution that will work for every machine, application and customer,” Van Tine says.

Honeyman says Doosan Bobcat will continue to develop diesel-powered equipment, but added the manufacturer also has customer demand for alternative-energy solutions like electric equipment.

“With that, we’re developing both avenues, while exploring others, to help our customers accomplish more in their unique ways,” Honeyman says.