With signs of improvement in global equipment sales, including a few bright spots in the U.S., the equipment market saw a time of consolidation and new developments in autonomous equipment in 2016.
In ENR’s recent Fourth Quarterly Cost Report, equipment industry analysts saw signs of infrastructure investment in the U.S. and U.K. as potential bright spots, but opinions are mixed on whether it will be enough to get the market out of a two-year slump. At the triennial Bauma equipment show in Munich, ENR saw equipment manufacturers banking on a construction recovery in Europe and the U.S.
With lagging sales, large players in construction equipment looked to inorganic growth through mergers and acquisitions. Equipment auction giant Ritchie Bros. acquired online auctioneer IronPlanet for $758 million, a deal that brings it closer to IronPlanet’s major investor, Caterpillar. In the mining world, Japan-based equipment maker Komatsu acquired Wisconsin-based Joy Global for $3.7 billion, a consolidation driven by low commodity prices in the mining sector.
Not all major acquisitions went as planned. Terex went into 2016 committed to a merger with Konecranes, but those plans were upended when China-based equipment maker Zoomlion made an unsolicted takeover bid for Terex in January. The new offer lead to Terex halting and eventually canceling its merger with Konecranes, choosing in May to sell the Finnish-based manufacturer its material-handling and port business unit. The Zoomlion offer was ultimately rejected, but U.S.-based Terex ends the year in a very different financial state than it began.
ENR also dove into the fast-changing world of work trucks and pickup trucks, taking multiple test drives and looking at some of the new developments in the market. Manufacturers are bringing out new features with an eye on contractors renewing their fleets, and ENR took a deeper dive into some of the new trends in trucks.
On the technological side, our editors took stock of the state of autonomous equipment and profiled some of the building materials of tomorrow. ENR saw Volvo CE demonstrated its autonmous haulage vehicle for the first time, a smaller, more nimble version of the autonomous dump bodies already being deployed in the mining sector.
But the biggest revolution in construction equipment this year was a quiet one: the finalization of a telematics standard for construction equipment. Equipment makers, fleet owners and industry associations hammered out a common set of performance data that can be gathered from machines without proprietary software or devices. ENR has written extensively about the ways big data are expected to change construction, and easy access to equipment usage data is another long-sought piece of that puzzle. If sales (and rising rental) of equipment pick up in the next year, expect telematics data analysis to be more of a standard option than in the past.