CONEXPO-CON/AGG 2020 opened on Mar. 10 under cloudy skies, but crowds were not seriously deterred by the weather or the threat of COVID-19. 

The effects of the pandemic are visible at the show. Several exhibitors, including Volvo Construction Equipment and Mack Trucks, shut down or severely reduced their presence at CONEXPO due to travel restrictions. 

But the show's organizer, the Association of Equipment Manufacturers reported that exhibitors withdrawing due to concerns over the virus had resulted in only 1.7% of the show floor’s 2.7 million sq ft of space being impacted. AEM reported that total registrations at the show total over 120,000 as of Mar. 6.

Despite the slight slowdown in attendance, there were still plenty of new equipment launching at CONEXPO on the first day of the show.

Caterpillar has been overhauling its heavy equipment production in recent years, consolidating product lines and renumbering machines for a more simplified classification. It has condensed it’s backhoe loader line eliminating the tool-carry variants. Relaunching the backhoe loader line as the 415, 416, 420, 420 XE and 430 models, the machines all feature new LCD touchscreen interfaces in the cab as standard. The 420 XE is launching at CONEXPO, and has extra features as standard, including electronic loader controls with programmable loader kickout and return-to-dig.

In other backhoe news, Case Construction Equipment took the occasion of CONEXPO to unveil its electric-powered backhoe loader, known as Project Zeus. The 580 E is built on the same platform as CASE CE’s diesel-powered backhoe, and is able to work a full shift on a single charge of it’s lithium-ion battery bank. The backhoe is able to fully recharge in eight hours, and boasts the same bucket breakout force as it’s diesel-powered counterpart, according to a CASE CE representative. 

Case CE was also exhibiting its methane-powered wheel loader Project Tetra, first announced at the Bauma trade show last year in Munich, Germany. Still a concept vehicle, CASE CE representatives say it is intended as more of an exploration of the technology than a prototype of a future machine.

Virus Impact Limited

While COVID-19 has impacted industrial production in China, major equipment manufacturers at the show report no interruptions yet in their global supply chains.

Rod Schrader, president and CEO of Komatsu Americas, says while the firm is monitoring effects of the pandemic on production, “so far we are seeing no impact as of yet from coronavirus.” Komatsu is watching  two manufacturing facilities in China that support its factories in Texas and North Carolina, he said.

Jim Umpleby, chairman and CEO of Caterpillar, said coronavirus had not resulted in significant disruptions so far to the company’s logistics chain. He said that for the most part, facilities in China are back up and running.

“We are monitoring it very closely,” he said of the virus. “We are following the guidelines from the CDC, WHO and local governments.”