There are many different opinions as to what machines should actually be classified as earth moving equipment. There are many different types of equipment that fall in this category, such as excavators, backhoe loaders, dump trucks, and even loaders.
Other machinery that falls in between are articulated trucks, wheel and track tractors, and even scrapers. The thin line is normally drawn at motor grades, which are more than capable or light duty excavation, although they are mainly used to level lots and grade roads.
If you take a glance at any equipment literature from leading companies such as CAT, Komatsu, or Case, you'll see right away that they believe the biggest and most important change over the last several years is increased productivity. This is normally followed by greater comfort and safety.
The increase in productivity is the result of many different advancements. CAT (Caterpillar) cites that more powerful engines with a faster rise in torque which allows machines to respond faster to increased power demands. Even though this new generation is far more powerful, it has a reduced impact on the environment as well.
Electronics Most of the newer machines have electronic control systems that will optimize both engine and transmission performance, as well as fuel consumption and hydraulic system performance.
Take for example the CAT mid sized G serie wheel loaders that feature electronically controlled powershift transmissions. Each and every transmission offers autoshift capabilities that ease the pressure on the operator, and an electronic clutch pressure control that smooth shifts the gears for longer life.
Comfort In the industry, good operators are getting harder and harder to find. Manufacturers find themselves stressing that operator comfort and convenience need to be taken into account not only to make the job easier, but also more efficient and productive as well.
The new cab designs offer better visibility, reduced noise and vibration, and improved comfort as well. The new control systems will require low operator effort while also improving the control of the machine for both the experienced as well as the in-experienced operator.
Easier maintenance Almost all new machinery offers electronic monitoring systems that will provide constant information on the health of the machine for the operator. These types of systems provide information to technicians, including service modes that will help them to diagnose conditions quickly.
Now days, machines are designed to make routine maintenance easier. With CAT's wheel loaders, regular service points are easy to access from ground level, with site gauges making it easier to check the fluid of the radiator, hydraulic oil, and transmission - without having to use dipsticks.
Changes for the better If you compare the excavation equipment of today with the machines of the past, you'll notice that the changes are better. The machines of the past relied more on operator skill and technique, as very few of them had electronic features.
Today, almost all types of heavy machinery offer electronic features. Electronics are a great thing, as they can make the life of an operator easier than ever. You don't need to get out and check the fluids anymore, as all you need to do is take a look at your instrument panel, which can help to save you a lot of time.
Operators who have a lot of experience know first hand that machines of the past can't begin to compete with machines of today. With technology always getting better, it just makes you wonder what is in the future for heavy machinery. Years from now, one can only begin to wonder just great heavy machinery will get - and what other features will make the life of an operator even easier than it is now.