This year’s Hillhead was the first time that the industry had come together in four years at this scale in the UK. According to Ross Hayward, Head of Assets and Commercial at Chepstow Plant International, it was clear how much the conversations had moved on from talking about Tier 5 engines then, to now talking about everything from autonomy and digitalisation, through to HVO and electrification. Here, Ross shares some of his take-outs from the show.
This year’s Hillhead show was an exciting one for CPI; not only did we have cause to celebrate our 1,000th machine from SMT GB and Volvo (the L220H) – which has made us one of the first companies in the world to forge a partnership of this magnitude, in terms of both quantity and asset size, through continual investment – but it was also great to see people taking strides towards meeting net zero ambitions. Indeed, while it’s been a long time coming, the industry was buzzing about all the exciting developments that the quarrying and aggregates sector should now be seriously embracing.
The number one thing that came out of every conversation was the importance of autonomy. From Volvo showcasing its brand new autonomous 15T dump truck through to Bell, which has been operating global trials by retrofitting dump trucks to make them autonomous, it was absolutely fascinating to see what innovations different manufacturers were coming up with. Blending autonomous technology with the more manual side of quarrying operations, for example using compaction, grading or digging systems, such as the Volvo Dig and Compact assist or Trimble systems, which are continually enhancing operator performance, is a really exciting concept for the sector to embrace, and one we’ll be keeping an eye on as it continues to sweep across both the construction and quarrying sector.
The second takeaway that drove debate during Hillhead was electrification of vehicles. In a shift in a new direction, Volvo launched its new 20T fully electric excavator at the show – this is a big step forward, seeing them move away from diesel. Over the next few years, I’m sure we’ll continue to see the progression away from ICE to alternative fuels, whether it’s electric or hydrogen. With a run time of eight hours on a single charge (the equivalent of an entire working day), the 20T will be of particular benefit for those working in the construction sector or on civil engineering projects – or indeed in the quarry sector, at a lesser level, being used for clean-up work. Anything like this that will help reduce the sector’s footprint can only be a good thing.
Of course, there’s a real tussle when you hit the proper quarrying machines and weighing up the benefits of electrification versus hydrogen. There's a real struggle for companies here.
What do you do when you get over a certain size machine - do you go electric or invest in the hydrogen fuel cell element? If you run hydrogen fuel cells, you can still have the benefits of running an ICE system, but without the emissions. From a maintenance and practical viewpoint this has obvious advantages for the entire sector. Whereas electric machines could replace the need to store fuel on site and provide a greener energy revolution, providing we’re charging machines through clean and renewable sources. There’s no merit in running an electric excavator and charging it from a diesel generator or coal-powered energy from the grid.
Both electrification and hydrogen have their place and the industry is slightly divided on this. However, for me the reality is that swapping batteries on a large 100T excavator will cause challenges as you’ll never be able to charge them fast enough – however, for something like ADT’s where they can charge mid-cycle provides real opportunity for electrification.
Whereas, one of the main discussion points at the show was centred around HVO, which can dramatically reduce a company’s carbon footprint and is readily available now. The results from the extensive trial conducted by CPI will be released over the coming months for the industry to take advantage of.
For years the role of data has been used in other industries, but digitalisation was finally a huge buzzword at Hillhead this year. Big data has huge potential, and now is the time for the industry to embrace it – not least with other developments such as electrification and autonomy coming through over the next few years.
It was refreshing to see so many companies meeting the needs of the quarrying and aggregates sector either by showcasing either their own platforms or how they were working together as partners to come up with an array of innovative solutions to meet the needs of mixed fleet/brands in one place. This is critical because as a business, you need to have a solution to pull all your information into one place and not do this manually. This was a surprising change, and great to see IT being embraced and really dialled up in conversation.
It was clear that the last couple of years had resulted in people reflecting and appreciating that data really does have its place – not least when developed for the right people, in the right way, and turned into easily digestible reports that everyone can understand, rather than providing hundreds of pages of reports that do nothing. Ironically in the past it has been incredibly hard technology-wise to produce this, but if you can achieve one bitesize digestible chunk, where no matter who you share it with in the business, they understand what they’re looking at and can do something with it, then you’re onto a winner.
And that’s where it looks like the sector is heading - companies can no longer afford to put their heads in the sand – they really do need to harness the power of data as it has huge potential.
Hillhead underlined what a huge moment this is for the industry, and at Chepstow Plant International, we can’t wait to see what the future holds as we strive towards decarbonisation of the sector together.
By Ross Hayward
Share this story