The following transcript was edited from one of two concurrent discussions at this year’s Pit & Quarry Roundtable & Conference. The transcript from Part 1 begins here. Both conversations were edited for brevity and clarity.
P&Q: With labor shortages enduring and existing plants and equipment fleets aging, more aggregate producers are actively making investments to prepare their operations for the decades to come. For producers: What transformational equipment and technology are you investing in that you expect to shore up the business? In what ways are you ‘doing more with less’ these days? Also, how are you going about purchasing here in 2022? For manufacturers, dealers and others: In what areas are you investing resources to develop or provide solutions that make producers more efficient? For everyone: AGG1 2022 was very well attended, and ConExpo-Con/Agg 2023 is next March. What are your expectations for ConExpo? Will producers return after largely bowing out of ConExpo in 2020? What sorts of new offerings should the industry expect at the trade show? Similarly, are your companies looking at June’s Hillhead and October’s Bauma as opportunities?
CURTIS LEDERLE (TREAD TECHNOLOGIES): As somebody who has worked in Silicon Valley with tech companies, this industry has something that tech doesn’t: a tangible impact that they can see and point to. That’s something I find really rewarding about working in this industry. So I think we’ll see [technology] become much more digital and, hopefully, for all the right reasons.
MATTHEW VALLE (HAULHUB TECHNOLOGIES): The big, public infrastructure owners are really starting to push digital from design to construction to full asset management. There’s this massive shift within the industry to digitize the entire supply chain. And giving that information to the kids who are coming up gets them really excited.
The infrastructure owners are driving this transformation with things like building information modeling, which has been on the vertical side of things for 15 to 20 years. Now, it’s starting to migrate into the horizontal construction sector.
KRISTEN RANDALL (HAVER & BOECKER NIAGARA): Our company has been really focused on developing diagnostic tools over the last 10 to 20 years, specifically to help our producers with preventive maintenance and increase machine longevity, but also to increase safety.
We were just at AGG1 two months ago, and I noticed the interest in technology. The interest in these types of tools has increased tremendously since ConExpo. It’s like there’s been a complete shift. And I think we really just need to see what happens over the next few years with that.
SAM HAMPTON (VIZALOGIX): We were born out of a need to help simplify what I’m calling ‘the overloaded data.’ There are more boxes, there’s more telematics, there’s more connectors. There’s data, data and even more data. If you’re a multi-fleet owner, people are just overwhelmed. I mean, how many different telematics solutions do I have to really log into?
A problem is people go to ConExpo, where there’s going to be a big push on technology. They’re starting to make a whole tech center there like CES. People come back all excited, but then you’ve got to wake up the next morning and crush rock. So I guess it’s the human component of bringing talent into the organization.
We see, with the customers we deal with, that people are investing in bodies that actually sit behind the screen to work with providers to get that data, making the most use of it. Over the next five or six years, I think you’re going to see more bodies behind screens really digging into the data.
AMY ASSELIN (JOHN DEERE): In my time within the construction industry, the amount of technology and the pace at which it’s coming are amazing. There’s a lot of interest in using technology to be more productive, but the pace that it’s coming at is far faster than an operation’s ability to really know how to use it – and use it effectively.
As we’ve talked to small customers, their challenge with technology is really getting their own people who have been doing the job for 25 years to say: ‘Why do I need this?’ Their ability to operationalize some of that to make their business better is really the buy-in.
When you get to the big side, there’s a lot of mixed-lead integration; a lot of mergers and acquisitions. There’s complexity to that – to want one reporting, one format. And so the ability to integrate all of that is really challenging.
CORY DANNER (ARCOSA AGGREGATES): We’ll be at ConExpo-Con/Agg. It’s great to see what everyone in this room is manufacturing. With AGG1, it’s a great training opportunity for our teams.
As far as technology on the production side, are we excited about it? Yes. But we don’t know what we want until you show it to us. We’re trying to figure out the best way to do it and bring technology to that.
As a customer of most of the people in this room, support on the technology is [critical] and not just ‘here’s how you use it.’ I mean, we can pick that up relatively quickly. We can give a 3-year-old an iPad, and they know how to use it. But when the iPad breaks, we’re toast.
So you sell us this next whiz-bang thing, and our half-million-dollar machine that we waited six months to get goes down because IT is not working. And there’s one person in the country who knows how to fix it. Then what do we do? If we can’t get the support, can’t get the supplies and can’t get the education to actually fix whatever this 10-cent fuse is, it will shut us down.