Heavy Equipment Guide Logo

R&D underpins great equipment manufacturers

As the editor of Heavy Equipment Guide since 1999, I have seen many changes in the construction equipment industry. Two major impacts during that time have been emissions regulations and the recent Great Recession.

Manufacturers have spent billions of dollars to re-engineer numerous models of diesel engines to meet progressively more stringent emissions control. Amazingly, they have also been able to increase fuel economy and power, producing engines that are not only cleaner burning but cost effective. 

Equipment manufacturers have also had to redesign equipment to accommodate the new engines. 

All these changes have taken a lot of financial resources that could have gone into other areas of machine R&D. 

Despite that, there have been many interesting advances during this time, such as: joystick control systems; more comfortable and thus more productive work environments for operators (including reduced noise levels, ergonomic design, better visisbility, less vibration and air cushioned seats); machine diagnostics and remote monitoring; a new class of machine (John Deere’s high speed quad-track dozer); ever increasing use of machine control systems; and many other productivity improving developments, often small but still significant, such as the grading attachment tool from DoMor (page 6 this issue). 

Of course, contractors and governments have been hard hit by the economic conditions over the last few years and many put off purchasing new equipment. But eventually, there comes a time when buyers return to the market.

One sign this is happening came during a recent visit to the VMAC manufacturing plant in Nanaimo, B.C. VMAC (www.vmac.ca) makes underhood compressor systems and stand-alone hydraulically driven air compressors. Last year was their best year ever, far exceeding even their second best year. Plus, they expect this year to be even better and are excited about their plans for the future. VMAC is a specialized, small manufacturer but they are very entrepreneurial and aggressively invest in R&D, which shows up in sales.

Rotobec (www.rotobec.caom) is another success story. Rotobec (which stands for Rotators from Quebec) is a family-owned company located in Sainte-Justine, Quebec. It was selected as one of the 50 Best Managed Companies in Canada for 2011.

John Hughes is a Deloitte partner, Private Company Services, and the national leader of Canada’s 50 Best Managed Companies Program. He said:“While Best Managed Companies recognize uncertainty on the economic horizon, their focus has been squarely on growing their businesses and identifying new income streams. They grew through targeted spending in the form of acquisitions, enhancing their infrastructure and on product and service innovation.” (For a list of all the winners, visit www.canadas50best.com.)

Developing better products that buyers want often starts with listening to what those buyers have to say. After all, those are the people who use the machines all the time and they know best what works and what doesn’t, and what they would love to see on a machine. 

And finally, another thing I have noticed over the years is that successful companies are advertisers. Thus, besides my editorial, if you want to see who has solutions for you, look at who is advertising. They have something special to offer and want you to know about it.