Stefanie Naujoks
Stefanie Naujoks (Research Director, Manufacturing Insights Europe)

Bauma is one of the world’s biggest trade fairs for construction machinery and mining machines. It takes place in my hometown, Munich, and this was my first visit to the show. I was very impressed. Not just because there is a lot of very big construction machinery, but also because digitalisation is happening there. In this blog post, I will briefly share my key takeaways on digitalisation (in particular) and sustainability (in passing).

Digitalisation Is All About Utilising Machine Data

When it comes to digitalisation, construction machinery manufacturers are primarily concerned with harnessing the data generated during the use of their machines. For example, data can be used to automatically generate reports on how accurately special drilling machines have drilled the holes. This is particularly relevant when there are specific documentation requirements. Data can also be used to remotely monitor machine condition and performance in visualised dashboards.

Data-Based Services: Still Only a Moderate Share of Revenues

I asked manufacturers about customers’ willingness to pay for these data-based services. Their replies were mixed, as it strongly depends on the investment volume and the costs incurred in the event of a machine standstill. The competitive situation also plays a role in whether customers simply expect these data-based services as an add-on free of charge. My general impression is that the share of revenues accounting for data-driven (connected) services is still fairly low on average, but there are exceptions.

The Drivers of Investments in Data-Driven Services Are Most Likely Not the Customers

Interestingly, it’s often not the client itself that drives investments in data-driven services, but rather the client’s customers or other stakeholders. In road or tunnel construction, for example, it’s often the clients who demand that certain drilling documentation be available. Or financial stakeholders who demand the use of data-based machinery monitoring services.

Lack of Skills

Software is becoming an increasingly important component of every machine. It’s quite a challenge for manufacturers of large construction machines to meet the demand for the necessary software skills. It seems these manufacturers are seen more as large plant and metal manufacturers and — compared with smaller industrial machinery manufacturers — less so as potential employers for programming talents.

From Egosystems to Ecosystems

While machine manufacturers are promoting their own digital platforms — such as Herrenknecht (which manufactures tunnel boring machines, and its Herrenknecht.Connected customer portal) and Liebherr (one of the largest construction machine manufacturers in the world, and its MyLiebherr portal) — the longer-term goal seems obvious: connecting all those different machines via a single data communication standard. This makes a lot of sense. In factories and construction or mining sites where there are different machines it makes sense for the construction machine industry to agree on a common data format for machines from different vendors.

Communication Standardisation — Still a Long Way to Go

Machines in Construction 4.0 (MiC 4.0) is a working group in the German Mechanical Engineering Association (VDMA) whose goal is to develop a uniform, cross-manufacturer and machinery-independent communications form for the entire construction process. I believe there is still a lot of work ahead as it’s not just about communication among construction machines on sites — it’s also about ensuring secure connections from the edge to the cloud, which, from my perspective, would also require collaboration with cloud hyperscalers such as AWS and Microsoft or cloud-based IoT platforms and connector providers.

Sustainability Drives Investments in Electric Vehicles

A lot of vendors were exhibiting products with electric motors. This is driven by the need to develop construction machines that generate fewer CO2 emissions. Besides cutting emissions, electric vehicles are also low maintenance and are quieter than vehicles with combustion engines. This makes them suitable for low-noise areas such as near hospitals and at construction sites in the city.


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