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Dhananjay Deshmukh Dhananjay Deshmukh Written by Dhananjay Deshmukh, Senior Director Delivery
on 14 Jul 2022

Off-highway equipment is the umbrella term used to describe the machinery most likely to be used off-road. The breadth of equipment that falls within this category can range from tractors to large trucks and machinery used in industries such as mining, construction, material handling and agriculture.

The industry, which was affected by the pandemic, has gradually emerged in 2021 and is witnessing a sustained growth over 2022. While it has evolved fairly quickly, especially in terms of technology adoption and digitization, the number of OEMs that have invested in innovation from the off-highway industry are still a smaller cohort. However, the industry has recently seen a surge in technology-led advancements that delivers a promise of tangible business benefits such as productivity, efficiency, and significant safety enhancements.

Off-highway equipment industry is witnessing an infusion of smart technology. In keeping pace with the transformation across other industries, technologies such as Connectivity, Telematics, Smart HMIs, Cloud, ADAS, Machine Vision, and Advanced Analytics are being converged in the development of smarter off-highway vehicles. However, apart from the few leaders, most of the companies have been traditionally focusing on point solutions, either by developing a standalone solution or trying to adopt off-the-shelf solutions. In the long run, this approach may witness limited success as true ROI from technology implementation can be unleashed by realizing that all the technology elements have an interdependency in the long term product roadmap.

According to Counterpoint Research, a total of 6.8 million construction machines with embedded connectivity will be sold between 2018 and 2025 at a CAGR of 25%. This is a demonstration of the technology-led growth in this industry. While implementation priorities across different technologies might vary irrespective of electrification, automation or data, a strategic roadmap for all the technology elements helps set the implementation on the right path. This ensures the right tools and development processes, while avoiding high cost and time burnouts. Most importantly, it delivers a competitive advantage through greater availability, better productivity, higher performance, and enhanced operational experiences.

While the market agrees on the importance of technology, identifying the right ones has been a matter of conversation across leaders and forums. In this blog, we explore five technologies that are shaping the off-highway product industry.

Perception systems: Perception systems have witnessed a huge impact in industries like manufacturing and are rapidly gaining predominance as one of the major technologies for many off-highway companies today. Perception technologies allow automated machines to sense the physical world. This helps the products become more powerful, reliable, and capable of solving complex automation problems that have traditionally only been well-suited for human control. Though most of the advancements in this area are a result of developments in autonomous technologies, perception systems have tremendous potential in the autonomy of off-highway products. The sensor-based systems in use today, limit the safety and productivity actions to a more reactive approach. Whereas the introduction of new Camera based, Radar and Lidar based perception systems enable the operators to take proactive measures in preliminary implementation.

In more evolved scenarios, perception systems can enhance safety through features such as object detection and identification as well as trigger hazard alarms. With the ability of the equipment to understand its surroundings actively and in real-time, the control systems can be enhanced to gain more control and help the operators with significantly more complex jobs. This also helps solve the industry's problem of managing operator expertise. The technology can be assistive in nature by assisting operators, to a large extent, in several scenarios and taking over operations where operators are mostly only required to monitor.

Automation: Automation has turned into a necessity rather than a good-to-have across several industry verticals. The off-highway equipment industry is no different. The confluence of computer vision and AI can power the automation of these machines, enabling several independent processes. With advanced perception systems, machines are becoming more contextually aware of the environment and surroundings. This provides room for intelligent decision making and autonomous processes. Most commonly, repetitive tasks have the potential to be taken over by the machine by developing and deploying simple lines of code such as “repeat last task”. There are several productivity based advantages of automation however, apart from the improvements in productivity, one of the major drivers for automation is an increase in uptime and runtime per machine as they are not limited by human capabilities.

V2X Connectivity: Vehicle-to-everything communication (V2X) is an important step towards driving the autonomy of off-highway equipment. The rampant development of 5G and private networks are enhancing the potential of smart and intelligent products at the jobsite. While the work equipment is at the core of it, developing products that are equipped to communicate with surroundings (e.g. V2V and V2 infrastructure) in real-time is the next frontier to enable remote operations, advance scheduling, sequencing and more.

Data: Data is driving technology adoption, strategic decision-making and transformation across verticals. As the future business models are inclined towards services and pay per use, a clearly established data and monitoring strategy is vital. OEMs and rental companies are trying to derive benefits of product digitization. Some ways in which they are trying to achieve this are through:

Devices such as smartphones, cameras, etc. that are available on job sites to help progress and status monitoring

Streamlining IOT and telematics to enrich data inception from assets, but not limiting itself to only tracking of health parameters but also capturing and processing vital operational data

Onboard communication, edge computing and transmission to the cloud to handle large data volumes that are captured and transmitted

The effectiveness of data across the value stream and in turn realizing the business benefits that lie in ensuring the seamlessness of data storing

Data silos for various enterprise data sources, segregation, analytics and defined access-controlled pipelines to provide limited data to downstream third-party users for monetization use cases.

Software defined vehicles are booming and the opportunities in automotive as well as the off-highway industry have the potential to derive several tangible business benefits.

OTA: Over-the-air updates have seen enormous potential in the automotive industry and is proving to be a big step towards cost effectiveness of managing product improvements. One of the biggest benefits that organizations have witnessed is the ability to bring down the cost of software updates and change implementations. This provides greater room for agile and scrum-based approaches, making it possible for continuous functions and features improvement.

The technologies that are shaping the off-highway equipment industry are plenty. With the wide range of potential technologies, there is limitless opportunity to transform products and in turn, businesses. This makes it imperative to have a long-term technology roadmap in place. A product development plan that makes the best use of incremental product advancements with associated business returns showcases far greater potential than a one-off pointed solution implementation. For organizations looking to build a long-term roadmap in the off-highway products sector, Cyient brings deep expertise to enable and help you navigate your transformation process.

To know more about Technologies shaping the development of Off-highway products - Sustainability and Electrification, follow us on LinkedIn to stay updated about Part 2.

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