Off Highway Equipment Shifts to Electromobility

Advanced technology is transforming the off-highway market.

Transportation has been the focus of environmental regulation since the 1960s, and the automotive industry has responded with a family of technologies that has made internal combustion engines several orders of magnitude cleaner that the vehicles of half a century ago. 

Cars and trucks however, are only part of the power story. The off-highway industry has faced the same evolving need for clean, sustainable machines that operate with higher levels of productivity at low cost. It’s a seemingly conflicting requirement: more with less. 

But there are multiple advanced technologies in use and under development in the off-highway sector that are delivering clean power with high productivity and safety. Joining’s Jim Anderton to discuss these advanced technologies are Poclain Hydraulics’ Matt Christensen, Vice President of Sales and Application Engineering at Poclain Hydrolics, and Sara Feuling, Senior Director, Construction from the Association of Equipment Manufacturers (AEM).

Attend IFPE 2023 March 14-18, 2023 in Las Vegas. Use promo code DIG20 to save 20% off registration.

This episode of Manufacturing the Future is brought to you by AEM.

Episode Transcript:

To see any graphics, images, and/or videos to which the transcript may be referring, please watch the above video. The transcript has been edited for clarity.

Jim Anderton: Hello everyone. And welcome to Manufacturing the Future.Transportation has been the focus of environmental regulation since the 1960s, and the automotive industry has responded with a family of technologies that’s made internal combustion engines several orders of magnitude cleaner than the vehicles of half a century ago. Cars and trucks, however, only part of the power story. The off-highway industry has faced the same evolving need for clean, sustainable machines that operate with higher levels of productivity at lower cost.

Now, it’s a seemingly conflicting requirement. Do more with less. But there are multiple advanced technologies in use and under development in the off-highway sector that are delivering clean power with high productivity and safety. Joining me to discuss the evolving landscape are Poclain Hydraulics’, Matt Christensen, and Sara Feuling from the Association of Equipment Manufacturers.

Matt is an engineer and a 24-year veteran of the fluid power industry with engineering roles with Concentric, Komax, Danfoss, and now Poclain Hydraulics. He holds a bachelor of science degree from Iowa State and an MBA from Northern Illinois University.

Sara Feuling has been the senior director of construction with the Association of Equipment Manufacturers, the AEM, since 2018, and is the go-to industry resource for AEM within the construction equipment sector. Prior to joining the AEM, Sara spent nearly 10 years with the Wisconsin Department of Transportation in heavy highway construction and project management. Sara holds a bachelor’s degree in civil structural engineering and a master’s degree in civil engineering, both from the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee and is a licensed professional engineer in the state of Wisconsin. Matt and Sara, welcome to the show.


Matt, before we kick off this, could you tell us a little bit about Poclain Hydraulics, please?

Matt Christensen: Poclain is a family-owned company that’s based in France, and we have eight plants worldwide, 2,400 employees, and the company started in 1926, and we make a full range of radio piston, low speed high torque motors, closed loop axial piston pumps, power transmission valves, traction valves, electronics, and software.

Jim Anderton: Great. And Sara, could you tell us a little bit about the AEM?

Sara Feuling: Sure. The Association of Equipment Manufacturers is the North American Trade Association for off-highway equipment manufacturers. We really represent those that are making the equipment in the agriculture, construction, mining, utility, and forestry industries.

Jim Anderton: Sara, staying with you it, of course, here at, we’re interested in the engineering aspects of everything, and this is an industry sector which is loaded with technology, but there are larger social issues at play here too. I mean, transportation, as I mentioned in the introduction, has been the focus of environmental regulations since the ’60s. You think of that California Air Resources Board sort of kicking it off in the automotive industry and all the effects that happen there. But there are some out there that think that the off-highway industry also users of engines, mode of power, isn’t really thinking or isn’t focused on a clean environment. That’s not the case, is it?

Sara Feuling: No, it absolutely isn’t. Back since the early ’90s, like you mentioned, those diesel internal engines, both on and off highway, have been subject to those tiered emission requirements that’s regulating your nitrogen oxides, your hydrocarbons, your particulate matter, all of your emissions. The off-highway industry is very conscious of the environmental impact and continues to focus their efforts on designing to comply with those regulations both at the state and the federal level. In fact, AEM, on behalf of our membership, has actually engaged with CARB in response to their proposed recent tier five rule making on behalf of that entire off-highway industry representing all of that broad manufacturing scope.

Jim Anderton: Yeah, and Matt, you see it from inside the industry. How do you see it?

Matt Christensen:  Well, I mean, in my design engineering career, we spent an awful lot of time on redesigns of existing platforms simply to accommodate the tier emissions requirements. So that meant touching the chassis, fuel systems, cooling systems, transmissions, filtration, drive trains. I mean, the bottom line here is that we’ve been not only working on this for the last three decades, but we continue to look for ways to mitigate the environmental impacts.

Jim Anderton: And we’re talking about this subject from an engineering perspective, which gives us, I think, a sense of clarity that sometimes the mass media can’t explore. Pollutants are one thing, and the industry’s done an incredible job, basically of coping with really brutal environmental regulation. I mean, some of the requirements for diesel engines would seem to be impossible, and yet somehow the engine manufacturers managed to make it work.

But for greenhouse gases, the secret to greenhouse gases appears to be, from a technical standpoint, burning less fuel. Now, interesting in the off-highway industry, you think about starting with Ag in the 1930s, I mean there were published tractor tests which explored fuel efficiency as a fundamental feature of advanced design even way back, even before World War II. So it seems like the off-highway industry has been conscious of the fact that you’ve got to minimize fuel burn and with the knock on effect of minimizing emissions forever.

I mean, Sara, inputs such as fuel consumption, in the construction market, you’re a civil engineer at this point. Fuel is expensive. Has it always been important? Is it more important now? What’s the state?

Sara Feuling: I would definitely say it’s always been important. Like you mentioned, Jim, these regulations have been in place for decades, but now we have this technology. We have an incredible amount of data coming from these machines that our contractors, project owners, they’re beginning to use that data, including that fuel burn like you mentioned, that allows them to more accurately scope and bid projects, but then also really measure the impact of their work. That regulation really does drive that transformation and construction and where we’re definitely seeing that in the construction market.


Jim Anderton: Yeah. It’s been primarily a diesel-powered industry for a long time, but interesting. Diesel fuel prices, they skyrocketed. It’s at a point now. We’ve seen the transportation industry, in fact, we just recently covered how diesel engines are disappearing in the light truck market because the economic rationale for using diesel fuel is rapidly going away. Is this a short term blip, do you think, Sara? Diesel fuel prices, is that going to move the needle in the OTR industry?

Sara Feuling: As far as prices, that I do not have insider information. But I definitely think coupling that with this regulation is what’s going to drive the industry forward. So we actually, AEM published a white paper called The Future of Building that’s going to highlight 10 key trends that could dramatically change the way construction is done over the next 10 years. And three of those 10 trends focus on that environmentally-driven transformation. So not only the increased regulation of those carbon-based fuels that’s going to spur that adoption of alternative power solutions. We’re already seeing compact equipment trending electric, and our construction industry really will help lead that transition to clean energy, embracing the use of all of those alternative power solutions. And a lot of that you’re going to be able to see what our manufacturers, including, Poclain, are doing to minimize that impact at CONEXPO-CON/AGG and IFPE 2023 in March (2023).

Jim Anderton: Matt, electrification is on everyone’s lips, everyone’s talking about it in the transportation industry. Everything is about going electric to get off fossil fuels. From an engineering perspective, I look at it and say, wow. I mean, diesel engines, internal combustion engine in general, that is a very compact way to generate a lot of very useful practical power. Let’s talk about electrification a little bit. Where do we stand in the electrification of off-highway equipment, do you feel?

Matt Christensen: Well, there’s definitely lots of technologies that have emerged in development, and what you stated is exactly right. The power density of the traditional fossil fuels and a combustion engine is hard to match when you have the same space claim or the same amount of space for an electric solution. So we’re in a situation where there’s a spectrum or a transition that has to occur. We’re going to have to use some of our fossil fuels in the best way possible, the most efficient way possible, while we develop some of these other technologies as we move from traditional hydraulic architectures to electro hydraulic vehicles and even fully electric platforms.

The key is that, again, it comes back to power density and energy storage. The vehicles are different, the duty cycles are different, and the amount of power that’s required is different. And so when we look at fundamentally designing new vehicles to incorporate this new technology, in some cases it’s going to be as simple as replacing an engine and energy storage with some electric motors and an energy storage solution, but at most it could entail a complete rethinking or redesign of the chassis to accommodate this very different architecture and energy storage.

Jim Anderton: Yeah, and it’s interesting you mentioned it. We’ve seen, for example, hydraulic motors used for some low speed motor power applications, and it intuitively, from an engineering perspective, it looks like heck of an attractive way to do it. Hub motors certainly could solve a lot of problems because it’s easier to route hydraulic lines, for example, than differential and axles. But nonetheless, there’s most of the larger equipment we see still operates basically with a direct mechanical drive to mode of power in a separate hydraulic power unit to drive the rest of the machine’s functions.

If we’re talking about going electric, is that going to disappear? Are we going to see a point where in which we decentralize propulsion as well as mode of power with electric motors throughout the machine?

Matt Christensen: You’re already starting to see a little bit of that. Even if you look at some very large hydraulic or hybrid wheel loaders, many of those have moved to electric motors on the wheels to decentralize that power transmission. We’re certainly seeing it in smaller vehicle platforms as well. But fundamentally, again, this is a spectrum. We’re talking about many different types of vehicles, sizes, classes, power consumption. And so the solution, and this is why engineering and engineers is so important, we’re going to have to problem solve around what is the best solution for a very small compact construction equipment or the very large mining equipment. It’s not going to be the same solution and there’s no one silver bullet.

But yes, I think there are places for traditional hydraulics to exist for quite some time, whether it’s to push those hydraulic motors out to the corners of the chassis to improve ground clearance, improve maneuverability or reliability, offering also some benefits like four-wheel drive, traction control, and even braking hydraulically or electrically, which as we know, that reduces a lot of the wear and tear on the friction type braking systems that have been very common.

So again, I think hydraulics is going to have a place. It’s going to have a place because of the power density, its reliability, compact installation and the benefits that come with it, like trash and control and hydraulic braking.

Jim Anderton: When we talk about individuals in engineering working toward electrification in other industries, one factor they always bring up is noise. Sara, in large Public Works projects, infrastructure projects, there is, I sense an increasing sensitivity toward construction noise, especially in urban or suburban areas during projects. Will that be a driving force, do you think? Is noise an environmental consideration that’s more important now than it used to be?

Sara Feuling: Absolutely. Along with all of these regulations for emissions, there’s that noise pollution. So we’re seeing in the States, there are some states that are including noise pollution in their proposals. We’re also seeing that across the globe. The EU, for example, has considerations for both engine emissions and noise emissions in their most recent regulatory proposals. So they do very much go hand in hand when you’re able to drive these solutions that are going to check both of those boxes for you, both clean energy, but then that inherently has less noise to it as well.

Jim Anderton: Matt, you’re a hydraulics expert and there’s no way we’re going to let you go without digging into the weeds a little bit about hydraulics. And historically, traditional hydraulic systems, as I learned them decades ago, at this point, it’s a fairly closed loop system. We’re going to circulate oil with a pump, a fixed displacement pump, going to run it through an oil cooler, circulate it back to a tank essentially, and then tap off that pressure. Maybe there’s an accumulator in there perhaps, and we’re going to tap off that pressure and then apply it through spool valves to actuators, typically rams, but they may not be.

And of course it’s intuitively, as soon as you see things like oil coolers, automatically you’re thinking, wow, okay, that’s energy going to ambient someplace. Then we saw new generations of things like high efficiency pumps, variable displacement types, new ways of thinking about the accumulator, new types of fluids themselves that operated better at higher temperature. Have we squeezed all the efficiency that we can out of conventional hydraulics before we even talk about the electrics?

Matt Christensen: I mean it’s a very good point. So we’re talking again about a spectrum of solutions here. You could argue that nothing has really fundamentally changed a lot about some of our fluid power product designs. The pumps and motors and so forth generally remained roughly the same with some slight tweaks over the last several decades. So I think efficiencies are still small amounts to be gained in the design of the hydrostatics or the hydraulics, but really where a lot of the development, a lot of the state of the art activity is happening is really with energy control.

It’s using things like electronic displacement control, better control with valves and even linear actuators or cylinders have for many years had some sensors onto incorporate better control. And so I think, again, it’s going to be less about… We’re already fairly efficient in terms of handling the fluid at the moment. Really it’s about how do we using electronics, using better control with these types of methods, how do we better direct? How do we better control that energy? And so even now, there’s a lot of designs out there that are variable displacement pumps on a variable speed, well controlled motor. And many would ask why have both sides of that equation be variable? And it’s because our gains now are going to be in that infinite control that we can gain throughout a duty cycle.

Jim Anderton: Well that’s interesting applications. It sounds like what we’re talking about here is that classic VFD, frequency control of a motor. So are we potentially looking at, is it DC to AC to motor control? That’s a lot. It sounds quite complex in there. Is it just like SCR control of a DC motor? It’s so fascinating.

Matt Christensen: Well, it is complex and it’s very interesting and it also depends on who you’re talking to. A lot of the compact vehicles are going to use more of a low voltage DC to AC type setup, usually three phase. In some cases, it might be a simpler setup. A lot of the larger vehicles are using what we call high voltage. And so those are going to be voltages in hundreds of volts, and the control and even the safety of designing that type of vehicle looks much different than the smaller vehicles themselves.

Jim Anderton: Yeah. So it’s interesting that electricity, DC electricity, it’s often taught at early stages with hydraulics as an analogy. You think of tanks, accumulators are batteries, and circuits are similar in the way they’re laid out. If we go to increasing electrification, we have to talk about batteries. It’s going to come up, at this point. In the transportation industry, there’s a real problem because they’re heavy. They’re not only expensive, but they’re heavy at this point. Is weight still the disadvantage in this industry as it is? There are some circumstances where you’re adding weight to some of this equipment.

Matt Christensen: Well, if you consider battery chemistry and battery technology for example, and you consider a 48-volt forklift battery that’s been used for the last several decades and then you look at the lithium ion type battery chemistry that’s used in a lot of our on-road vehicles, cars and so forth, the lithium ion are much, much lighter. Weight in general hasn’t always been the biggest consideration for construction vehicles because they’re just heavy in design to begin with because of their frames and so many of the other components.
I think what’s important is when we talk about batteries, it’s not so much talking about batteries and battery chemistry as much as it’s talking about energy storage. I think, my personal opinion is that batteries are a stepping stone on the way to a technology that is going to be probably more useful, more sustainable and easier to produce, and maybe gives us better power density than the battery chemistry and technology that we have now.

And so again, that’s why I think the spectrum is important to, let’s use fossil fuels in the best way and most efficient way possible while we develop these better technologies. And certainly along the way, we’re going to use these hybrid technologies, these battery technologies, to get us down the road to the best environmental, best efficient solution and best use of our energy resources as we get to whatever some of that final, I won’t even say final solution, but those future solutions are because once we get to fuel cells or whatever it might be, I hope that engineers continue to design even better ways of utilizing and storing energy.


Jim Anderton: Yeah Matt, if there’s one term, descriptive term, which is heard more often than EV or electric, it’s hybrid. Everything’s hybrid these days. I mean, it’s passenger cars, it’s light trucks, my golf clubs are hybrid now. I understand that you’re going to be showing an articulated loader as a demonstration vehicle at CONEXPO IFPE that is a hybrid solution. Can you tell me a bit about that?

Matt Christensen: So hybrid is one of those words that can mean a lot of things. So you can have a hybrid internal combustion engine driven vehicle that is coupled with electric motors and hydraulics. You could have a hybrid system that is electrically driven, but then you have hydraulics. Hybrid just simply means that it’s not purely a traditional internal combustion engine, hydraulic solution, and it’s not a purely, completely electric situation. And so for example, one of the things that we’re doing is, again, a stepping stone in this iterative approach to helping our manufacturers and customers design the next level of vehicles is some demonstration vehicles.

So we have a compact articulated wheel loader that will be at CONEXPO IFPE in March, and it will demonstrate what it means to take an existing customer platform, use technology like 3D scanning to scan the chassis and figure out how do we fit an electrical architecture into a chassis that was designed around an engine, a fuel tank, and other things. How do we put an electric or electrical architecture where a traditional engine and fuel tank once resided. And then this particular vehicle will be able to be demonstrated or seen where you can pop the hood, you can look underneath and see the battery, see the inverters, see the electric motors and how we did it.

The benefits of this design or this type of design is that a vehicle manufacturer can produce a traditional chassis and an electric hybrid or electric hydraulic vehicle side by side or even right down the same assembly line because so much of the architecture is the same or the chassis design is the same, but it also gives us a second benefit And it eliminates a lot of the challenges with designing and completely changing your chassis as you move through a platform redesign. So again, simplifies the design process, but also allows the manufacturer to retain the ability to produce both a traditional and an electro hydraulic version.

Jim Anderton: Matt, do you size your systems the same way, electro hydraulics? I know duty cycle is everything, and I mean your ability basically to sort of rate your motors, your system capacity for a specific duty cycle, maybe used an accumulator, maybe store up some energy where you need it for peak loads. Do you think the same way when you’re, you’re going electro hydraulic or do you simply look at that big battery and say, man, I’ve got power on demand and if I need breakout force, I’ve got it.

Matt Christensen: We always look at duty cycle because we’re looking at not only fuel consumption or energy consumption in the terms of energy storage in a battery, we also look at it for things like product lifecycle or product durability, and is the product going to live with this particular machine duty cycle? The key thing about the machine duty cycle and sizing is that vehicles are all different. So their energy consumption is different. How the vehicle used is different. How long will that vehicle be used throughout the course of a shift or a day? And when it comes to, say, traditional engine driven vehicle, if the person runs out of fuel they simply grab the fuel can or they go over to the fuel truck fill up and they’re back in business. When it comes to an electric or electromobility type solution, we have to think about things like charging infrastructure, charging time.

So that’s why that becomes so much more critical. We want be able to finish a given day or a given shift on as few battery charges or at least one battery charge if possible. And that’s why energy storage and these kinds of things and sizing becomes so critical. Additionally, you cannot use the same mobile solution for a wide range of vehicles because of the size and because of the difference in usage and energy consumption.

Jim Anderton: Yeah Matt, I’m glad you brought up the charging issue, because Sara, on an industry wide basis, as it stands right now, it’s a very simple thing to order up a tank truck of dye diesel, run around a major construction site and simply top off all the tanks off shift and then when the next shift comes on, you hit the button and you go. Electric vehicles, it takes them a while to charge with current technology and you can’t pull a tank truck full of electrons up to a backhoe and simply pour them in at this point. Is onsite charging and how we charge these vehicles, is the industry going to need to develop an infrastructure? Will there be like a new type of service business, do you think, that evolves out of this to service large projects?

Sara Feuling: Yeah, I absolutely think the industry’s going to have to adopt. We’re going to have to somehow change to support this potential electric vehicle charging. If you’re charging that backhoe with a diesel generator, are you really minimizing your impact? So that’s kind of where we are though, is we don’t have that infrastructure. It’s very different than on highway. Like Matt was saying, this off highway equipment, it’s different. There’s one machine can be used to do so many things in so many environments and that really, really changes that battery life then.
So absolutely, people are looking at different alternatives, different options. The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act that was passed last year includes provisions for some of that charging infrastructure. And we as ADM on behalf of the manufacturers and the industry are engaging with lawmakers as those funding opportunities are announced, and this legislation really comes to life that’s really going to support where we can go with this technology. There’s only so much we can do if, like Matt said, you can’t charge it at the end of a day and use it again the next day. So, we’re really keeping an eye on that. Contractors are getting creative and we’ll see where it goes.
Jim Anderton: Sara, one of the high value things that national industry associations can deliver is they can act as the voice of an industry in the regulatory environment. We’ve seen that in many industries at this point in the automotive sector, electric vehicles, there is no industry standard for electric charging. If you own a Tesla, you charge at supercharger stations. If you own a different brand, you might charge at a CCS or any one of the private networks. And many feel that in the transportation industry to make it really work we’re going to need some kind of universal charging standard like we have with gasoline where every pump fits every nozzle and it’s no problem at all. Is that going to be necessary, do you think, in the off highway market? And if so, at that point is it going to take associations working with governments to standardize this thing?
Sara Feuling: I think it’s definitely not required, but it will really, really aid in adoption. If you can’t plug it in, it’s not going to do anything. I mean, think about even an iPhone compared to an Android, they charge differently. Different Android brands used to charge differently and that has now been all, it’s USB-C I think, everything that’s out now. So I definitely think that’s going to be part of the process and it will likely start outside of the regulatory space and it will be an industry coming together saying, this is what our customers need, the trade association, we do not exist without our customers and we are there to help meet their needs and their wants. So within the standards development organizations, there’s a lot of that where we come together as manufacturers to say, let’s do this together, let’s take off that company hat and company A, B and C are working on different solutions, but can we find a way that they can interact together?

You’re exactly right Jim, that’s where associations can come in and help from not only the manufacturing side, but also the end user side as well. So we’re building those relationships, we’re keeping that engagement, and hopefully as we see this come to life over the next, who knows, 10, 15, 20 years that we can find that common solution.

Matt Christensen: The other trick is just plugging it in with a standard is important, but think about what a construction site looks for the first several weeks or a farm field. Where do you go to plug in? It’s really about the infrastructure and having that power available and certainly plugging in is a consideration. But we’re fundamentally talking about, but we’re fundamentally talking about vehicles that work on sites that have not yet been developed.
Jim Anderton: Yeah, it is. It’s unusual working environment. You think of it’s about as far away from all the support structures as you could possibly be, and it’s intended to be that way. But Matt, you brought up an interesting point about that infrastructure, which is ironically the one infrastructure which is almost universal now, is cloud connectivity. We’re at a point now where Elon Musk can sell you a dish and you can be almost anywhere on earth and you have internet access.
And at the same time we’re looking at equipment which is more highly instrumented, more sensor equip now than was even imaginable a decade ago. You can track 10 or 20 parameters in a relatively simple device, an actuator with a series of sensors dump a huge amount of information into the cloud, have it processed either remotely or on the machine, and the machine manufacturer could do interesting things with it.
So can the end user at the same time, is where are we at our ability to actually process and use that information. Now you come from a side of it, which is heavily involved in this, and I always wonder how do you prevent from being just deluge with data and how do you wheat from the chaff?
Matt Christensen: Well, that is really the key and many manufacturers are working on how do we deliver value from all of this data that’s out there. And there are some easy wins for things like preventative maintenance, getting an alarm on your machine to the cloud when a filter is clogged and then that can in turn send an order right to the filter supplier to have one ordered and in place and then it arrives and can be replaced. But that’d be more like a real time example.
But a lot of what we’re doing, we talked about system sizing and duty cycling. And so historically as a manufacturer of products for equipment, we would get duty cycle information offer say, “One test vehicle that the customer was running.” Now we’ve got the ability in the scaling to be able to put data collection boxes like the one that the plane utilizes that we could put that on many machines.

We can put those on end customer machines. We can collect data real time from vehicles that are being used in the actual application. And so it’s not somebody trying to emulate the way the vehicle is used. It’s actually data recorded from a construction site or an agricultural site, and we can then collect that data and use it to really look at that duty cycle for system sizing and things like that if we are moving towards some different system architecture.

The key, as you mentioned though, is how do you sort the useful data from the non-useful data? And I think that’s the big challenges determining what do you collect and what do you leave to the side? And that’s one of the real challenges, is what data do we collect and how do we use it?
Jim Anderton: Sara, we tend to think of the industry as a nuts and bolts, mechanical engineering driven. This is about force and pressure, it’s about a horsepower and torque, but we’re talking about a world which is more about code and more about data analysis, is we know there are labor shortages already and many critical industries of technically qualified people at this point is the technician. Is the support structure of the future really going to be about coding? Are we going to have people in polo shirts 3000 miles away diagnosing and repairing equipment? Do you feel?
Sara Feuling: We absolutely could. I’m going to say from our end, that would be really cool to see where from an industry perspective, we have this technology, we have this data, we have a workforce coming in that knows how to use it, inherently knows how to use it. And I would love to see that. I think that’d be really cool. You can do that from operation, you can do that from maintenance. You can pull all of that data in the cloud, like Matt was mentioning, there’s people out there that have this skill set that we need to be tapping into.
Jim Anderton: There’s so much to talk about, so little time to talk about the thing. We could do this right now. I hope we get a chance to do more of this going forward. But just to wrap the other elephant in the room as the third elephant in the room. Automation? Everyone’s talking about self-driving cars, self-driving Class 8 Line-Haul trucks. We know that the majors have prototyped and have tested off highway equipment that operates with no operator. I’m not even a remote operator, but actually just autonomous. Matt, the autonomous future of this equipment five years from now, 10 years from now, when will we see it?
Matt Christensen: Yes, so I think we’re already seeing it. You can find many, many cases of self-driving tractors and harvesters and planters out there. And I would almost argue that in some cases as far as commercialization, that the Ag industry is ahead of maybe the automotive industry. With the caveat that you have to understand that the people that are developing the autonomous tractors and farm implements are not having to deal with as many pedestrians or unpredictable traffic patterns or people on bicycles and things like that.
And so the task and workload is slightly different, but there’s already lots of examples of farming industry-type equipment that is autonomous and it’s not just being tested, it’s being utilized now commercially.
Jim Anderton: Sara, the industry perspective?
Sara Feuling: Yeah, I think absolutely we are well on our way. We have a lot of automated features. Like Matt was saying, “Agriculture really is very far ahead of construction specifically, but we’re also seeing a lot of that in mining.” Again, that controlled, closed, less uncertainty around the environment, but we’re automating features which is going to lead us to automation and again, building on that technology that’s available.
We’re working with the highway industry to lessons learned, right? And to bring this together so we’re not doing this all on our own. We’re going to learn from those that have done it and done it successfully and we’ll get there together eventually.

Jim Anderton: An amazing high-tech future. Sara Fueling, Association of Equipment Manufacturers, Matt Christensen, Poclain Hydraulics. Thanks for joining me on this episode of Manufacturing the Future. 


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