Many exhibitors aimed their products at the cash-conscious convention-goer. Quikrete is targeting budget-conscious municipalities with neglected municipal road repairs with its DOT-preferred, rapidly hardening, fiber-reinforced pre-blended material for 1.5-in. to 24-in.-thick applications that can exceed 3,000 psi within 90 minutes. Further, Leica Geosystems is now offering an "economical" line of laser scanners in its Rugby 600 Series: Rather than a full-featured site-layout laser that would costs thousands of dollars, Leica is going after customers who need only basic features and might be drawn to the $695 price tag on the cheapest model.

Tech Firms Pitch Money-Saving Features

Construction technology companies also sought to highlight the cost-saving advantages of their products. Topcon Positioning Systems introduced machine grade controls with an eye on saving operators money. The i-33 3D-indicate grade system brings GNSS-enabled grade control to dozers, scrapers and other large earthmoving equipment. At a cost of $25,000 to set up one machine, Topcon sees this as a lower-cost alternative to other earthmover grade controls. The company also announced SiteLink 3D, its new cloud-based, subscription service for remotely managing machine controls. The service is accessed through an online portal, allowing users to view real-time data on machine-control performance.

Trimble also touted the potential for saving money through new software. The company has added a materials-tracking feature to its Prolog project-management software package. Able to catalog bar codes, QR codes and RFID tags, Prolog's tracking is able to follow construction materials around a site based on regular scans from tablets and smart devices. Rather than using GPS tracking units, Trimble is pushing Prolog's feature as a cheaper option for tracking on the jobsite materials such as prefabricated modules.

Even though there are signs of construction growth in the coming years, industry equipment makers and software companies are banking that customers will continue to do more with less even as their fortunes improve. Strolling through the aisles of World of Concrete, contractors saw tools from Hilti, Makita, Bosch and Metabo that advertised cordless mobility, with more power, less downtime and improved durability. Tools that last longer and collaboration software that can reduce jobsite and office headcounts were among the loudest pitches. And for owners and municipalities, patch-and-repair is the current reality. "We have a constrained funding environment that has led to a preservation mode," said ACPA President Gerald Voight. Even though the Associated General Contractors forecasts a 8% to 10% rise in construction spending this year, equipment and software makers don't expect customers to give up the cost-saving skills they acquired during the recession any time soon.