Canadian Contractor

How new technology can improve efficiencies, and reduce emissions

Fuel economy and greenhouse gas emissions are becoming major factors in the construction industry and, as a result, companies are starting to change the way they operate.


November 28, 2019
By Regina Gadacz

By Peter Gibbons, Regional Technology Manager
Finning Canada

Fuel economy and greenhouse gas emissions are becoming major factors in the construction industry and, as a result, companies are starting to change the way they operate. The development of highly advanced, energy efficient construction equipment along with the increase in connected jobsites have provided new ways to measure machine health, productivity, and fuel usage. Next generation equipment and new technologies help businesses not only lower costs and energy consumption but offer improved fuel efficiency, reduced emissions, and ground disturbance, overall, lessening the impact on the environment.

The demand for more efficient engines combined with a growing interest in hybrid or electric machines is also driving advancements in construction equipment. Companies no longer need to sacrifice quality or performance, these machines offer an even higher level of power and productivity while increasing fuel efficiency and lowering emissions and maintenance costs. Businesses willing to take the first step and embrace this new way of thinking are reaping the benefits – winning jobs and resulting in a smaller carbon footprint.

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Adopting a cleaner way of doing business

There is an increasing number of electric machines being introduced into the compact construction market, filling a growing demand for greener solutions for construction in urban areas, parks, and residential applications. Some companies are turning to electric machines for the ability to bid on emissions-restricted jobs, work in densely populated, confined areas, or to meet self-set emissions goals.

Cost and availability can be barriers when it comes to adoption of this technology. Lack of availability of electric machines, and the initial investment of 20-30 percent more on an electric machine can be a deterrent despite greater fuel savings, less scheduled maintenance, and the extended component life of the machine.

The question of diesel or electric is becoming more common but is still dependent on the type of job. Many larger jobs and those that require specific machinery are not yet suited for electric machines, which are typically found in the compact equipment market. Traditional diesel technology will remain the standard but it will continue to evolve, as next generation machines offer better performance, cleaner engines, and technologies like machine control – that result in greater efficiencies, fewer emissions, reduced noise, and better value in the long run.

Lowering emissions through new technologies and regulations

Emission-compliant equipment is increasingly becoming a requirement for certain jobs and there is a new demand to show reduced fuel emissions when bidding for work. Those who aren’t on board risk being left behind, potentially losing work, and as environmental regulations become more stringent, receiving heavy fines. Prior to 1999 there was no federal authority regulating emissions. Today, the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA) ensures off-road engines, including those in construction equipment, meet the standards.

The next generation Tier 4 machines are compliant, offer reduced emissions, decrease fuel consumption by up to 20 percent and provide longer maintenance intervals, reducing maintenance costs. They also significantly reduce the amount of nitrogen oxide, hydrocarbons, and particulate matter produced and released into the atmosphere.

With machine control technology, operators can lower costs and maintenance, reduce fuel emissions, and achieve greater efficiency.

With machine control technology, operators can lower costs and maintenance, reduce fuel emissions, and achieve greater efficiency.

Machine control leading the way

Moving dirt still remains the foundation of just about every construction project, no matter the scope. The speed and accuracy at which a project can be completed can have a huge impact on overall productivity. With machine control technology, operators are able to see immediate benefits – lower costs and maintenance, reduced fuel emissions, and greater efficiency.

Whether it’s digging basements, landscaping a park, or building a parking lot, operators can simply load projects into software in their cab and within seconds the machine knows which design to follow. GPS grade control on an excavator allows an operator to dig without worrying about over or under-excavating, meaning re-work is completely eliminated. Compared to a machine not using this technology, efficiency is improved by 100 percent. On top of that, earthmoving equipment using GPS machine control technology consumes up to 40 percent less fuel and decreases equipment hours up to 32 percent.

Keeping equipment efficient with the right technology

Site surveying is another great example of how technology improves efficiency and accuracy. The traditional way of surveying involves manually putting stakes in the ground and measuring from there. Recognizing how much can happen on the site – weather, movement, human errors – accuracy is reduced, re-work is common, and time spent fixing mistakes can be costly. Using technology such as drones to survey sites not only reduces time and costs, but also provides accurate measurements, a critical component in estimating or providing data on a completed project. And with advancements in drone technology, a site, which previously took two or three days to survey manually, can now be completed in 20 minutes and improve safety on-site.

Today’s next generation machines are also coming with new payload technology direct from the factory. This measurement tool uses information from a series of onboard sensors, providing instant data and giving operators the confidence to work more efficiently. They can also track load weights in real time on the in-cab monitor and know precisely how much material is in the bucket of the truck eliminating rework.

What to do with all the Data Management

With technology, comes a lot of data. When used correctly it can completely eliminate re-work of sites, and save you fuel, time, and money. Equipment telematics ensures machines are running efficiently and provides real-time intel into what is happening on the site. Idle time is a key component in minimizing emissions. An idling machine not only pumps out unnecessary emissions, but it also burns up fuel and warranty time, which is measured in running hours. Data analytics help operators understand how their machines are being used and can lead to reduced maintenance, idle time, wear and tear on the machine, and improved efficiencies.

Adapting to change

Availability, access, risk, and overall costs – these are all factors companies must consider when choosing a new piece of equipment to add to their fleet. Perception is key – and companies wanting to stay competitive need to embark on a new way of thinking. This means recognizing new technology as not just an investment in their business, but an investment in a greener future.

The industry will continue to experience growing competition and stricter regulatory requirements. Business values are no longer just about working faster, smarter, and more efficiently but reducing our carbon footprint and the environmental impact. Working with the right technology partner can help you get the equipment that meets your business needs and helps you achieve these goals.

 Peter Gibbons, Regional Technology Manager, Finning Canada