Futureworx 2022: the rental perspective

By Belinda Smart30 April 2022

Futureworx, held 30 and 31 March 2022 at East of England Arena, Peterborough, UK, showcased innovation in construction with a focus on data to enhance efficiencies in emissions reduction.

The first event of its kind, the Futureworx exhibition and conference is the brainchild of the Construction Equipment Association (CEA), which formed partnerships with National Highways, HS2, the Supply Chain Sustainability School and COMIT2Drones to deliver the show.

Volvo Zeuz concept wheel loader Volvo Construction Equipment’s presentation showcased the ZEUX concept wheel loader - a fully autonomous, battery-electric prototype. According to the company, the prototype is the “first real-world example of a self-learning concept wheel loader with the brains to make decisions, perform tasks and interact with humans.” It is also the first time a Lego Technic model has become a reality. (Photo: Volvo CE)

Taking place on the eve of the transition from red to white diesel, Futureworx could not have been more timely.

On 1 April 2022, many end-users who previously benefited from rebated fuel or red diesel for off-road vehicles and equipment lost that entitlement, meaning sectors including construction now have to use white diesel with duty charged at the standard rate.

Given this context, it’s no surprise that, as well as Futureworx’s focus on solutions to make workplaces safer and smarter, it also had net zero firmly in its sights.

Leading UK contractors, manufacturers, rental companies and technology firms were represented at the event, many of them highlighting the focus on lowering emissions.

The exhibits and discussions also encompassed developments in people plant interface management, telematics, the connected site, GPS systems, safety systems and advances in autonomous and electric and hydrogen machinery.

Expert speakers from National Highways, HS2, Plantforce, Volvo, Costain Group, Skanska and the Supply Chain Sustainability School shared insights on the human-machine interface, autonomy, AI and connectivity.

Rental initiatives showcased at Plantworx
Plantforce Rentals

UK rental company Plantforce Rentals’ stand displayed hybrid and semi-autonomous machines from Kobelco, a simulator to promote advanced operator training and a live link to a connected site.

Plantforce stand at Futureworx The Plantforce stand showcased hybrid and semi-autonomous machines from Kobelco, an operator training simulator and a live link to a connected site. Plantforce also launched its Hire Insights platform for rental customers. (Photo: KHL)

The latter was a key focus on the stand, with Plantforce having teamed with telematics specialist MachineMax to connect equipment at the site in Stratford, Warwickshire.

James Dodkins, Group Marketing Manager, told IRN the benefit of MachineMax was that it enabled connectivity for a range of OEMs and brands within a single platform.

Devices on Plantforce machines - or data captured via individual OEMs’ telematics systems - are able to ‘talk to’ Plantforce through a central platform.

Data can be filtered by customer, by site or by OEM and can be used for preventative maintenance, measuring idle time, quantifying CO2 emissions, or assessing the fuel burn for specific tasks.

Dodkins said Plantforce was also launching its Hire Insights platform for rental customers.

This encompasses three elements: MachineMax for equipment management including machine utilisation, reducing fuel consumption and CO2 footprint; Syrinx Hire and Inventory Management software; and the recently launched Plantforce Operator Database ‘POD’, which enables plant operators to build their own profile, add tickets, qualifications, work experience, distance willing to travel and special requirements.

“Hire Insights enables businesses to access vital rental information in a single platform at the touch of a button,” he said.

Gap Hire Solutions

The Gap Survey division of UK firm Gap Hire Solutions also had a stand showcasing Leica Geosystems and Trimble products being used in projects such as the HS2 high speed rail scheme in conjunction with equipment such as earthmoving machines.

A GAP representative told IRN innovations in survey equipment were designed to enhance accuracy and efficiencies.

One example is the Leica AP20 AutoPole which is designed to save time spent on-site and correcting data offsite. It allows measurement with a tilted pole, providing automatic height readings and enabling target search and locking.

It can be tilted to reach a hidden point or re-establish line of sight resulting in high accuracy and productivity, minimal rework and delays.

Flannery Plant Hire

Flannery Plant Hire, another major UK rental company, wasn’t exhibiting but had representatives attending Futureworx.

Flannery Strategic Manager Chris Matthew told IRN the company had been working with the Plant Group within the Supply Chain Sustainability School on an overhaul of its environmental standards.

Flannery, which has Gold status with the Supply Chain School, is part of a program within the School’s Plant Charter to recognise actions taken to lower emissions on sites, resulting in improved air quality and a cleaner working environment.

These include minimum standards in procurement, engagement with stakeholders, awareness raising and education, measurement and reporting, and innovation.

The Charter has recently been updated with a framework requiring that organisations provide evidence to support claims on air quality improvement and carbon emissions reduction.

“It’s great that the standard now has quantifiable targets,” Matthew said.

He said the ability to capture the right data was critical to improving operations.

“If you can capture accurate data, that’s where productivity becomes exciting. If you can determine how full a truck that’s lining up to work with an excavator on a site, you can determine whether it’s under or overweight or travelling at the right average speed; that kind of knowledge is really critical.

“If you have a number of trucks lining up to work with an excavator, ensuring that the phasing is right, that they are working at the optimal pace, is really important in terms of reducing or eliminating idle time for that excavator.”

He said Tier 1 and Tier 2 contractors were currently the early adopters of such programs, but that over time, there was potential for best practice to trickle down to other stakeholders.

Rental companies increasingly had an opportunity to position themselves as partners within the value chain, he said.

“It’s very much about us saying to contractors, ‘Let us help you understand what’s really happening on your site,” he said.

JCB stand at Futureworx JCB displayed its PotholePro, launched in 2021, to fix potholes rapidly. (Photo: KHL)
Construction equipment manufacturers at Futureworx

OEMs at Futureworx included Hitachi Construction Machinery, showcasing CTFleet Link, a live online portal via which customers can monitor the performance and location of their Hitachi equipment, but also that of other manufacturers in their fleet.

Meanwhile compaction specialist Bomag showcased RoBomag – an autonomous tandem roller that can be used independently in a defined work area, capturing information on position, situation, and movement using spatial orientation, environmental perception, and safety technologies.

JCB featured the PotholePro, launched in 2021, to fix potholes permanently in less than eight minutes – four times quicker than standard methods and at half the cost of current solutions.

Net zero: Lowering construction emissions  

Net zero, or at least lower emissions, was a focus of the talks and panel discussions at Futureworx.

Lara Young, Costain Group Climate Change Director. (Photo: KHL)

The first - ‘Harnessing technology to deliver productivity and sustainability’ - included a presentation from Lara Young, Costain’s Group Climate Change Director, on how Costain was working towards a net zero plant fleet.

Areas for improvement included reducing idling time through training for behaviour change, as well as focusing on specific product areas including site accommodation, still regarded as a big emitter, Young said.

Costain is now also tackling scope 3 emissions. “Three quarters of the targets in our Climate Change Action Plan for 2035 can’t be achieved without other value chain stakeholders,” she told the audience.

Young said collaborating with global manufacturers and supply chain on the machines of the future was critical, to accelerate trials and testing before products come to market.

Costain has also invested in ‘eco-operator’ training; before the training, the average monthly use of eco-mode was just 4%. Post training, telematics data over a five-month period showed an average eco-mode use of 33, with some machines showing as high as 90%, an average increase of 29%.

The use of telematics was critical to equipping each of Costain’s delivery projects to meet a 20% plant machinery idling reduction target and to become 100% emission free by 2035, as part of its Climate Change Action Plan.

However, Young added that data, while critical, should also be treated with caution.

“In terms of telematics, we often gather more information than we really know what to do with.”

“Don’t get lost in the data.”

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