We just wrapped up two days in Munich previewing this year's largest construction event, Bauma 2013. Held April 15-21, the triennial Bauma is expected to host more than 450,000 people canvassing an exhibit floor of about 6.1 million square feet—that's more than twice the size of CONEXPO. Here are a few trends to check out if you plan to visit Bavaria in April.
1. New Methods
The dark and mysterious field of geotechnical engineering is often overlooked by those extolling the virtues of beautiful tall buildings and elegant bridges. However, none of these structures could stand safely but for the engineered soils supporting them.
Pipelines, too, require sound underground infrastructure. Tunnel-boring-machine maker Herrenknecht AG will demonstrate its new Pipe Express, which is up for a Bauma innovation award. The semi-trenchless method combines tunnel-boring and pipe-jacking technology to continuously drill and install pipe sized between 32 in. and 60 in. diameter at a rate of 5 ft per minute—up to 3,200 ft per day.
Compared to open-cut methods, Pipe Express results in a narrower installation corridor—just under 33 ft wide instead of the typical 120 to 160 ft—and cuts the need for expensive pipe-laying equipment. With around 15,500 miles of new pipelines being built every year, this technology could go a long way toward addressing environmental concerns in the pipeline business.
You'll also be able to see a new method that Bauer has developed for installing low-cost monopiles for offshore tidal turbines, which previously were too expensive to be economically viable. Also, you'll have a chance to look at the world's deepest slurry-wall machine, a hydromill that can bore down to 820 ft and could prove useful for dam remediation projects, that Soilmec recently tested.
2. New Players
Since the downturn, the rise of China's manufacturing sector has swallowed a large chunk of heavy-equipment production, representing about 31% of the $99.6-billion market, according to London-based Off-Highway Research. That means China—not North America or Europe—is the world's largest market of heavy machinery.
Chinese manufacturers, now suffering from overcapacity due to an economic downturn there last year, want to expand their reach globally. But many Western buyers still don't trust Chinese products or parts support, so the Asian manufacturers are seeking to acquire global brands to help their image.
Sany's acquisition last year of Putzmeister and XCMG's purchase of a controlling stake in Schwing took the concrete-pumping sector by storm and raised questions over the future dependability of these two popular German brands. Both Putzmeister and Schwing, however, are now touting the independence of their German management over their Chinese superiors, and we expect that conversation to get even louder at Bauma as customers flood their booths.
More Chinese roll-ups may be in the works this year, but cash is tighter, says David Phillips, who heads Off-Highway Research and will be researching the emerging markets of Mongolia and Myanmar later this year. Caterpillar's recent $580-million write-off due to falsified accounting figures made by a Chinese company it acquired has further exposed problems in the region. Even so, Bauma will have plenty of Chinese equipment on display, and we expect more merger talk to surface by showtime.
3. New Efficiencies
With many research-and-development budgets exhausted from strict emission regulations that went into effect last year, forcing manufacturers to retool entire product lines, some equipment makers say they will have fewer new products to show off in 2013. So we think this year's Bauma will be more about new subscription-based services, such as onboard telematics systems, that manufacturers are rolling out to help users make the most of their machines.
You'll still be able to find some nuggets of machine improvements, though. Volvo, for example, will display a new fume-extraction system, also up for a Bauma innovation award, for asphalt pavers. Hitachi will show off its TRIAS hydraulic system, which boosts the fuel efficiency of its hydraulic excavators by up to 25%. That's hybrid territory—without the extra cost.
We'll have a more comprehensive report on these and other innovations to look for at the Bauma show in the March 4 issue of ENR.