NEW TECHNOLOGY: The future has arrived for machine operators

by Nigel Griffiths

 

Unveiled by Volvo Construction Equipment at this year’s Bauma trade fair in Munich, Germany, was a compact Android touch screen – the Volvo Co-Pilot – designed to revolutionize life in the cab for operators.

 

The cab of a modern construction machine has become a busy place with a wealth of important digital and visual information directed at the operator from sensors positioned around the machine.

 

Volvo CE has come to the rescue with a single programmable 10” touch screen which replaces many consoles with just one, greatly improving productivity and reducing stress.

 

“For operators, Volvo Co-Pilot means fewer displays in the cab and a focus on the key information they need to work safely and most productively,” says Jeroen Snoeck, Director, Business Platform Solutions, who participated in the project.

 

Many of today’s construction machines are fully GPS enabled and equipped with a number of sensors which help monitor parameters such as bucket depth, load weight, and a myriad of other crucial functions.

 

“By using Co-Pilot the operator can fully control the information being fed to the cab. This will help boost productivity, uptime, fuel efficiency and safety,” Snoeck explains.

 

The Co-Pilot and its applications have been designed using an iterative process that allowed Volvo CE to observe how different types of customer are using the system.

 

“This collaborative way of working gave us a deep understanding of customer requirements as well as uncovering needs that were not foreseen when the project started,” explains Volvo CE’s Director of Design Sidney Levy.

 

The apps are intuitive enough to operate with minimal training. Just as a smartphone can be customized, the Co-Pilot console can be loaded with a series of dedicated Volvo apps. Leading the way will be Pave Assist, Compact Assist, Load Assist and Dig Assist, with many more planned for the future.

 

“Solutions such as load weighing and machine control are normally retrofitted by third parties, which can lead to problems,” says Snoeck.

 

Levy adds: “By developing the Co-Pilot solutions in-house we can make sure that we are delivering a best-in-class design by creating a consistent experience for the user in both digital and physical activities.”

 

Jeroen Snoeck Photo: J. Rohinen

Jeroen Snoeck Photo: J. Rohinen

PLATFORM CHANGE

The Volvo CE Service Store will be a one-stop shop for these apps. The Volvo suite of Assist applications and associated features have only just come into play and represent a relatively low investment in return for increased efficiency and profitability.

 

The 10” in-cab display is the visible part of a smart platform that will provide access to a whole range of apps dedicated to specific construction activities. “We are now leading the industry with the platform idea,” Snoeck enthuses. “The younger generation of operators will love it.” As with a regular smartphone, operators can tap, pinch or drag, and customize functions and settings in seconds.

 

The data gathered by Co-Pilot is also important for fleet managers. Instantly available information on volume shifted, time taken, etc. can lead to quicker billing for owners and the tracking of stockpiles. The stored data is easily exported, and detailed information about machine performance and productivity can be extracted and analyzed to identify areas requiring improvement.

 

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VISION 2020

The Volvo Co-Pilot is one outcome of Volvo’s Vision 2020 initiative and will initially be launched through a group of dealers in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. It has taken just 30 months to develop the Android console and the custom apps.

 

Dealers have an important role to play in training customers to use the Co-Pilot applications and are being brought up to speed on the new technology and its potential.

 

“Our dealers will be on the front line and the direct interface for advising their customers on these operating aids and training them where necessary. This will enhance the service offered by dealers to their customers,” says Snoeck.