It is a very exciting time to be in the CE space
Putzmeister is in the process of rolling out telematics, Putzmeister Machine Cockpit to its fleet of truck-mounted boom pumps. This will allow fleet owners to optimise their machine uptime and fuel consumption. Wilfried Theissen, Managing Director, Putzmeister India, shares more on the role of technology in the current market and the way forward.

How do you assess the evolution of technology in construction equipment?
The construction equipment space has always used technology to meet challenging demands. Take concrete pumps for example - pumping higher or to longer distances has required employing ingenuity to help achieve these feats. Over time, we have developed pumps that are capable of pumping concrete to the tallest building in the world.

In the past couple of years, the industry has without a doubt seen rapid advancements on different fronts. From wearable tech, to telematics, robotics, VR/AR-enabled training to 3D printing - things are moving at a rapid pace. And it is not just construction equipment that is witnessing this change. Even construction materials and project management are advancing rapidly in a bid to be more sustainable, green and cost effective. It is a very exciting time to be in the CE space.

How has technology evolved in Putzmeister in its products and solutions? Which are the landmark technology innovations over the years that have transformed the efficiency and productivity of construction equipment?
Putzmeister equipment are renowned for their technology. It is one of the top three factors for customers choosing to invest in our solutions. As far back as 1977, Putzmeister introduced the automatic sealing ring to help pump concrete higher than 180 m -which was the maximum pumping height back then. The S-valve technology developed by Putzmeister helps pump concrete to longer distances and higher, while being low on wear and tear. Radio remote controls have helped Putzmeister equipment operators handle even five arm placing booms smoothly with just one joystick since the 1990s. Many of these features have now become part of standard features offered by the industry.

Our e-Smart range of stationary pumps has been enabled with smart controls since they were first introduced in the market. Our batching plants are fully automated and can also be monitored remotely. We have R&D teams in Germany and in India and follow a model of continuous development. This allows us to introduce features that improve efficiency, productivity, operator comfort and safety on a regular basis.

How important is choosing the matching equipment and technologies for their optimum utilisation at the project? How do you help your customers on this?
The choice of equipment and technology can make or break a project. For the more challenging projects, Putzmeister application specialists work closely with customers to make the right choices. In cases where our standard setup cannot do the job, we have developed customised solutions. We also offer such customers an Operations & Management team to operate and maintain the equipment on site, allowing the customer to focus their energies on other challenges.

How far will the new-gen technologies in construction equipment benefit customers in their project execution?
It won't be long before these so called new-gen technologies will become part of standard offering.

AR/VR-assisted operator training for example is already in use. We use this technology for training on our shotcrete equipment used in mining applications. This gives both the equipment owner and the operator the comfort that the learning is happening in an environment where mistakes can be made without compromising on safety. It also enables the operator to handle the equipment on site efficiently from the get-go. The adoption of telematics is also increasing. Putzmeister is in the process of rolling out telematics, Putzmeister Machine Cockpit to our fleet of truck-mounted boom pumps. This will allow fleet owners to optimise their machine uptime and fuel consumption. Remote fault monitoring will enable quicker fixes. Automated maintenance alerts will improve equipment management.

In another 10 years, we could very easily see equipment being operated by robots under remote supervision from operators sitting at a comfortable distance from the jobsite.

How are you updating your products with the new-gen technologies?
As mentioned previously, we follow a continuous R&D process and release updates to our products on a regular basis. We are currently in the process of rolling out telematics to our fleet of truck-mounted concrete pumps. Later in the year, there will be some further announcements related to our line of stationary pumps. We are also working on developing solutions for new technologies such as 3D printing. We have already undertaken successful trials in Germany and will continue working on solutions that can be introduced to the market in the time ahead.

What are the key challenges in promoting new technologies?
While customers appreciate everything that new technology features will bring them, they don't always want to pay additionally for it. Finding a solution that works for both parties is always a challenge. While connectivity keeps improving in India, jobsites on remote locations require a different approach.

Do you see the lack of awareness among customers about new technologies in the market? How are you overcoming this?
We don't see this as a big challenge. Our sales and aftersales teams are in regular touch with our customers and continually update them on new developments.

What is your outlook on the Indian construction equipment market? What role will technology play in the coming years?
Given the government's vision on development and plans for the country, the outlook for the CE market continues to be good in the medium to long term. Construction in India continues to employ traditional practices to a large extent. The only way to achieve targets set is to move to mechanised practices and professional project management. As adoption of such practices grows, OEMs should see the overall market size expanding. Technology has always played an important role in our sector and will continue to do so. The push for higher productivity, for rigorous timelines and green construction will result in more innovation and creativity in the medium term.