What Does the Future Hold? Machines That are More Complex – and Easier to Operate
One need only look at an Ammann Dealer or rental store to ascertain the preferences of today’s light equipment customers.
Product development teams, however, encounter a much more formidable task: gauging what customers will find indispensible a decade from now.
“My team’s role is to look 10 years out,” said Bartosz Kozik, the Director of Global Product Strategy for Machines at Ammann. “New products must be far enough ahead of the industry to remain relevant and retain customer value a decade later.”
The Commercial Product Management team uses customer data, research, industry knowledge and creativity to anticipate future needs. While Kozik declined to discuss specifics, he did provide insight into what he anticipates will be ongoing trends.
The group’s chief prognostication: that light equipment will be more complex inside, yet more intuitive for easy operation.
“Customers demand more productivity than ever,” Kozik said. “The best way to meet that need is to develop new technology.”
Yet those advances must work inconspicuously and be accessible through an intuitive interface so an operator of any skill or experience level can easily leverage the technology.
“Being intuitive doesn’t make the machine simple,” Kozik said. “There is an abundance of sophisticated software working in the background to drive that operator’s success. The machine itself is complex, but it does not require a highly accomplished operator to control it.”
For example, Ammann Trench Rollers now feature ACE systems. (ACE stands for Ammann Compaction Expert, a proprietary Intelligent Compaction system.) ACE is a rather complicated system internally, but the operator need only identify the meaning of colored lights. Green means compaction is finished, red means it isn’t.
“The software is not easy to write,” Kozik said. “The system is complicated, but the operator just sees a few lights that blink green or red. He is not factoring in the soil type or conditions. He is not even assessing whether compaction has been achieved. He is only looking at the lights – are they green or red? The machine does all the computing for him.”
In addition to making technology accessible, Kozik sees propulsion and safety as product differentiators of the future.
“We’re looking into alternative propulsion systems,” he said. “Machines increasingly work indoors. The conversation goes well beyond electric power, but I can’t disclose much more at this time. There are many ways to propel machines without diesel or petrol.”
Safety improvements address the migration toward more automation. “A machine will need to stop when it encounters an obstacle, go around it or even turn itself off if there is a problem,” Kozik said. “A machine needs to communicate to the operator when there is trouble.”
Dedicated to Value
Some customer requirements never change. For Ammann, that means a continued commitment to the best total cost of ownership and providing value. “Our machines need to be productive, easy to use and safe – and they should never break,” Kozik said.
Seemingly minor design enhancements can deliver much more value than might initially appear. For example, Ammann light equipment can easily be lifted and handled from all sides. This reduces strain on the equipment and the operators. Integrated solutions such as drop-down wheels provide similar benefits.
“We have productivity solutions, such as the triple-shaft system that provides climbing ability and prevents the machine from sinking into softer material,” Kozik said. “Ammann light equipment utilises dual amplitudes so a machine can excel in very different applications. Without that system, you would need two machines instead of one.”
The aforementioned product features all are beneficial enhancements. “That’s what customers always have and always will want: value,” Kozik said.
The Role of After-Sales
Product development encapsulates more than machines. “We are making after-sales support services more robust,” Kozik said. “Owners don’t just want simplicity when it comes to operation. They want fewer complications – period.”
The creation of ServiceLink, a digital fleet management system, was driven by customers’ desire for an effortless tool to access machine data.
“You automatically receive service information for that machine through your phone on the jobsite, or on your computer at the office,” Kozik said. “You no longer need to physically plug into the machine. ServiceLink plugs in digitally and communicates with you remotely and conveniently from anyplace and on several devices no matter where you are.”
ServiceLink is a perfect fit for rental houses because it also monitors the level of battery charge. “You know if a machine’s battery is fully charged before taking it to the jobsite – or if you’re a rental house, before you rent it to a customer,” he said.
“Fortunately for Ammann, we have a very versatile team of fantastic engineers who vary from young members almost right out of college who bring in fresh and futuristic ideas and results to seasoned and very experienced colleagues keeping well established solutions intact,” Kozik said. “This great combination is our key to success.”