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Equipment Veteran Duo Seeks to Bridge the Gap Between Dirt and Technology

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GPS machine control has been around for many years. It should be easy to buy or install a system on your machines, train your people and see the cost savings roll in. After all, your competitors are doing it.

That’s exactly the mindset that gets contractors so frustrated, says Construction Technology Partner co-founders Zach Morehead and Scott Brown.

“We bridge the gap between dirt and technology,” Morehead says. Their approach is simple: whatever your comfort level with machine technology, they can help not only get up to speed but do it at your own pace.

And they’ll help with any machine that has any GPS system. “They might have a Cat dozer, but they want a Topcon system,” Brown says. “We saw there was a lot of opportunity here to support people with just more than just one product.”

“If someone has something that’s 10 years old and it works for them, let’s get that working for them,” Brown says. “Then we can help them make the next step.”

CTP also offers aerial drone mapping services.CTP also offers aerial drone mapping services.Construction Technology PartnersEquipment veterans

The two come to CTP with equipment technology bonafides. Morehead started out as a diesel mechanic at Dean Machinery, worked the rental counter for Foley Equipment and then ended up in sales for a Sitech Central. Brown worked for eight years as an equipment manager for Kiewit Energy then started turn wrenches for Foley Equipment, was a field technician for Sitech Central and worked as technology solutions expert for Roadbuilders Machinery. The two started their firm in January 2020.

For now, CTP is concentrating on small to midsize contractors. “The larger contractors have people dedicated to managing technology; these guys don’t,” Brown says. “Our goal is grow them and train them to the point they don’t need us anymore.”

 “They might have a Cat dozer, but they want a Topcon system,” Brown says. “We saw there was a lot of opportunity here to support people with just more than just one product. We’ll take care of them with whatever they’ve got.”

Of course, contractors themselves are multi-brand, and may use Cat excavators, Komatsu dozers and Deere motor graders, for example. Each OEM has its own technology solution, which can add complexity to contractors just wanting to get up to speed.

Technology roadblocks

“All of this technology is amazing, but without the people or processes to support the technology, it’s useless,” Brown says. “None of this stuff makes sense if you’re not getting the ROI.”

They see contractors, spurred by competition, jump into technology, and end up having a bad experience that costs rather than save them money. “It’s really about setting realistic expectations of what you can do, how long it’s going to take to get there and establishing the processes,” Brown says.

It doesn’t help that contractors may have had early bad technology experiences when the industry didn’t have the support structure it does now.

“We’ve seen technology create bad situations due to poor management,” Morehead says. “It’s the rush mentality; construction isn’t known for its patience. They look around and see that their competitors have it and think they’ve got to get it now. If they just throw it out there and put a lot of guys in the fire trying to learn it, nothing is going to turn out well.”

CTP offers everything from a complete technology handhold to training company employees to take on part of the tasks to serving as an overall consultant. They can do it all and then then gradually step away as the contractor gets more comfortable. “Every contractor is a bit different in what they want,” Brown says. “A roadway contractor lives in a different world than a guy who’s building terraces for farmers.”

Room for everyone

Although the two use a multi-brand approach, servicing and selling used GPS systems, they are now a dealer for Hemisphere GNSS and the iDig system, drawn to the lower-cost solutions that both companies offer.

“But we also work with everybody else,” Brown says. “If you have a problem, whether it’s hardware or software, we either have a solution or know someone that can help you out.”

Not all the action is on the contractor side. “We see a ton of opportunity with dealers, to help them help their customers with technology support,” Brown says. Dealers could also call on them as a third-party consultant.

The technology space is a large one, with room for everyone, say the two. “Contractors who are currently using technology are a small part of the pie chart,” Brown says. “With the market growing at the speed it is,” Morehead adds, “we have more work out there than we know what to do with.”

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Nimble & Productive: Bobcat’s New L65 and L85 Compact Wheel Loaders

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Compact wheel loaders continue to grow in popularity as contractors discover their many attributes: how they can dump higher, travel faster and turn tighter than skid steers and compact track loaders. And did we mention they do all this with a smaller engine and great fuel economy?

Bobcat’s latest entries into the compact wheel loader field include the L65 and L85 with standard bucket capacities of up to 1 cubic yard and a Z-bar front linkage. In addition to buckets and pallet forks, the new loaders hook up to a wide range of Bobcat tools and attachments using the powered Bob-Tach system.

The new loaders run on a redesigned Tier 4 Final Bobcat engine with improved cold-weather starting capability and components simplified for routine maintenance. The 2.4-liter turbocharged diesel engines put out 55 and 68 horsepower on the L65 and L85, respectively. The attachment control mode enables you to vary the engine and travel speeds separately to optimize auxiliary hydraulic performance.

Bobcat L85 compact wheel loaderBobcat L85 compact wheel loaderDoosan BobcatA large fuel filter protects the engine from contamination and results in a longer filter life and increased holding capacity. The lift pump and self-priming fuel system offers continuous forced air outflow and eliminates the need for a primer bulb. And a pre-filter protects the lift pump from debris and particles that increase wear and degrade performance.

Articulated steering on the new L65 and L85 loaders delivers high maneuverability and a tight turning radius. The electronic hydrostatic transmission (E-HST) makes quick forward-reverse direction changes efficiently, increasing acceleration and delivering seamless speed control. The combination of the E-HST transmission and horsepower management automatically adjusts the loaders’ drive system to maximize pushing and loading power while minimizing the chance of stalling. Unlike other anti-stall systems, operators can maximize engine and drive torque on the L65 and L85 to match the demands of heavy lifting and digging.

Standard features include two-speed travel, differential lock, inching pedal, LED work lights, bucket level indicator and a 5-inch display with jog shuttle. Upgrade options include an attachment control device (seven pin connector), automatic ride control, enclosed cab with HVAC, rearview camera and a cloth suspension seat.

Quick Specs

Bobcat L65

• Rated Operating Capacity with Bucket (Straight) 3,133 lb.

• Rated Operating Capacity with Bucket (Articulated) 2,618 lb.

• Rated Operating Capacity with Forks (Straight) 3,759 lb.

• Rated Operating Capacity with Forks (Articulated) 3,172 lb.

• Operating Weight 9,944 lb.

• Auxiliary Std Flow 19.8 gpm

Bobcat L85

• Rated Operating Capacity with Bucket (Straight) 3,974 lb.

• Rated Operating Capacity with Bucket (Articulated) 3,257 lb.

• Rated Operating Capacity with Forks (Straight) 4,786 lb.

• Rated Operating Capacity with Forks (Articulated) 3,977 lb.

• Operating Weight 11,164 lb.

• Auxiliary High Flow 27.34 gpm

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The Future of Paving? Volvo Unveils Its CX01 Concept Compactor

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Asphalt compactors aren’t known as the most difficult machine to operate on the job. Although compactors perform a critical function especially when smoothness specs are at stake, many contractors put their less-seasoned operators on them.

But what if these machines didn’t even require an on-board operator?

Enter Volvo Construction Equipment’s CX01 asphalt compaction concept, a planned ConExpo reveal that had to wait until the recent Utility Expo to get in front of contractors.

“We just wanted to examine what the future of compaction would look like,” Justin Zupanc, head of Volvo CE’s asphalt compaction development team, told Equipment World at the show. “We wanted to create a better operator’s environment, reduce fuel consumption and exhaust emissions and boost productivity.”

“Better operator environment” translates to no cab. Instead, a connected fleet of CX01 single-drum units directed by a downloaded compaction plan would be either be remotely controlled by an operator or controlled autonomously.

Volvo already has an autonomous system on its TA15 haulers, now in customer testing, and the plan is to test a similar system on the CX01, Zupanc says.

The CX01 does not have an articulation joint “so there’s no balance point, there’s nothing that we can steer away from,” Zupanc says. Volvo solved this by using a split-drum — which has two halves that can be operated independently   kept upright by using a self-balancing control system. (The split drum comes off of its current 9-ton class machine sold in Europe.) To turn, operators can vary the rate of speed of each half of the drum. “You can make a fairly tight turn,” he says.

And while it wouldn’t be used while the unit is on asphalt, users also would have the ability to pivot steer the machine. 

Rethink the paving processVolvo CX01 prototype compactorThe Volvo CX01 prototype compactor features guarding and emergency stops on each corner.Equipment World

Volvo says the CX01 which stands for compaction experimental unit No. 1  provides the means to “fundamentally rethink the paving process.” By removing the operator, you’re also removing their exposure to vibration, noise and dust. 

As envisioned, a fleet of CX01s could be deployed on larger jobs and communicate not only with each other but with other machines on site. The machines could survey the job, report on mat conditions such as density, temperature and passes (which intelligent compactors are already doing) and determine when and where to compact. “They can shift over if an area is already compacted,” Zupanc says. “All information is available to the crew and to other machines. You could even send it to the asphalt plant.”

The machine’s compact design and maneuverability could also lead to streamlined compaction cycles, reduced costs and more agile work patterns, Volvo says. The rolling pattern, weight and number of rollers could be adjusted to match the width, thickness and speed of the paving operation. Using Volvo’s existing Co-Pilot system, operators can use a touchscreen to remotely control the compactors.

Flexible power

The CX01 has a flexible power system. It has both a 1.7-liter diesel engine and an energy storage system that can be operated indiesel-only, hybrid or fully electric modes. “The diesel is only there to spin the 20-kilowatt generator,” Zupanc says. The generator in turn powers two 48-volt ultracapacitors placed on each side of the drum, which in turn are powering three 14-kilowatt electric motors, one for each side of the drum, and another to power the vibration system eccentrics. 

“You can run it with the diesel engine on, and it’s always charging the ultracapacitors,” Zupanc says. When the ultracapacitors are charged, the engine can be turned off, and the machine becomes fully electric. The engine will cycle back on when the ultracapacitor charges get low. “They charge very quickly, within a couple of minutes,” he says. The downside: the capacitors don’t have the capacity of a lithium-ion battery; runtime is around 20 minutes, depending on your speed.

“We had never used them before, and we wanted to see how they worked,” Zupanc says, explaining why Volvo was using ultracapacitors on the CX01. “While they don’t have the capacity of lithium-ion batteries, they are good for vibration and they have a long lifecycle. They may not be the right solution because they don’t have that longevity, and who knows, we may couple them with a lithium-ion battery pack down the road.”

Because the ultracapacitors need a constant charge, it’s unlikely that the diesel engine will go away as long as they are used. 

Volvo is also exploring using a low-friction water-reduction polymer-based coating on the drum surface now theoretical — which could also be used on its other compactors. This would combat the common problem of asphalt sticking to the drum, now solved by using water. The CX01, however, has limited water storage.

Volvo produced =the following explainer video of how it envisions the CX01 being used:

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Video: Do Big Profits Have You Overlooking Your Biggest Threat? | The Dirt #41

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Missing deadlines because you can’t staff projects adequately? Stopped bidding because you’re backlogged? The story is all too familiar.

In this episode of The Dirt, Aaron Witt, chief dirt nerd at Buildwitt, joins host Bryan Furnace to discuss a paradigm shift in the construction industry. The most urgent threat is not going out of business because of a recession or lost bids, but rather, a lack of employees.

So, what’s the solution? Aaron may only be 26, but he has a few ideas. Find out where he’s hedging his bets to solve the dirt world’s people problem.

Equipment World serves up weekly videos on the latest in construction equipment, work trucks and pickup trucks—everything contractors need to get their work done. Subscribe and visit us at equipmentworld.com!

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