Photo by Tudor Van Hampton
Komatsu shows its new intelligent Machine Control technology on four dozers at CONEXPO.

Komatsu's new intelligent Machine Control technology is winning over contractors looking to boost profitability on low-margin earthmoving projects.

"It is making every pass count," said Richard Smith, vice president of Komatsu America Corp. at the CONEXPO-CON/AGG exhibition on March 4 in Las Vegas.

The new machine control tech, which is integrated into Komatsu dozers at the factory in Japan, senses and controls the machine's pitch, angle and cylinder strokes in real time while communicating with GPS satellites. This enables contractors to grade to a 3-D civil design for rough and fine dozing alike.

Conventional grade controls typically are aftermarket treatments that mount atop the blade and are optimized for fine dozing only. Due to the risk of theft, contractors also must take the GPS sensors off and lock them up after each work day.

Conversely, Komatsu's system is baked into the dozer at the factory, and the sensors are shrouded under protective steel shells.

"It's hugely more complex," said Mike Vorster, a Blacksburg, Va.-based machinery consultant and professor emeritus at Virginia Tech. "I think it's a huge breakthrough."

The system, which Komatsu developed in partnership with Topcon, is now operating on about 125 dozers in North America. Introduced at last year's Bauma show in Germany, sales begin this past summer, and half of the contractors buying the smart dozers are so-called conquest customers, or those previously loyal to other earthmoving equipment brands.

Komatsu's new tech costs about $70,000 per machine, which is comparable with most aftermarket systems. A base station, costing another $25,000 to $30,000, would also be needed to run one or more dozers equipped with intelligent Machine Control. The iMT system does not support swapping sensors from machine to machine but costs less to maintain than swappable units, Smith said.

Komatsu has four iMT-equipped dozers on display at CONEXPO.