NEW TECHNOLOGY: Volvo CE works closely with customers to develop the technology they want and need
by James Gibbons
Operator Leif Andersson could never be accused of not taking his job seriously: he most certainly does. It is simply that he enjoys the way Volvo’s Co-Pilot and its Load Assist system helps him to do it. And so he should: he played a part in its development.
Andersson operates a Volvo L180H wheel loader for the Swedish multinational construction company Skanska, in a quarry just outside Gothenburg. During a visit in 2015 to the Volvo Construction Equipment wheel loader factory at Arvika, in western Sweden’s Värmland County, he showed such interest in the Co-Pilot after seeing a prototype that he agreed to test it on a new machine. Working closely with Volvo technicians he has suggested ways to improve it and is pleased with the outcome.
“I like it very much,” says Andersson. “I’m very happy with the journey. It’s great. It’s fun.”
The ‘human-machine interface’, or HMI, comes down to how easy it is for people to work with the technology: in the case of Load Assist, Leif Andersson couldn’t be more delighted. “I like the interface on Co-Pilot,” he says, “It’s easy to understand and Volvo has done a a great job making it simple to work with. Functions such as zeroing the load involve one button to push that I like.”
It is exactly this close relationship with operators using the end product that is very much a part of the thinking at Volvo CE.
“One of the philosophies behind Co-Pilot is being able to provide customers with services that they require in the market place in a timely fashion,” explains Scott Haylock, Manager for Productivity Services at Volvo CE. “We’ve tried to develop applications that fulfil what we believe are their immediate needs and then work with operators like Leif Andersson to further refine the interface, make sure the flow works for them, because it really is about providing operators in the cab with information and guidance to enable them to work more efficiently.” More cheaply, too: by ensuring completely accurate load weights, Load Assist, if fitted to every loader on a site, could remove the need for a costly weighbridge. It would no longer be needed to ensure that each truck has been loaded with exactly the right weight, no more, no less.
What’s more, Co-Pilot shares the information it gathers with site management staff automatically, using Volvo’s CareTrack telematics system that monitors machines.
“The operator immediately sees the result in the cab,” says Daniel Cerny, Business Manager for Productivity Services at Volvo CE, “but the data is also available through CareTrack to the back-office staff and can also be uploaded to the Cloud.”
Cerny is also keen to stress that Load Assist works with attachments other than buckets.
“That’s another great feature of Load Assist for Volvo CE, that it can be used for other attachments such as pallet forks,” he says.
Andersson was able to demonstrate the system’s versatility by carrying a heavy concrete-based road sign on a set of quickly attached pallet forks.
“I can load more tonnes in a faster way per day with Co-Pilot and I’m very pleased with the system.” Sensors mounted throughout the machine are able to measure, for instance, pressure from the hydraulic system but also position of the front loader frame, the lifting arms and the tilt mechanism. The information is then computed to produce a precise calculation of the load, regardless of how complicated the movements of the bucket may be.
For operators, Co-Pilot has the advantage of providing all the relevant information on one single tablet-like screen – even the image from the reversing camera – but without hiding the load information. It is a feature Andersson says he appreciates.
“When I have the reversing camera on, I also see the goal and target numbers nearly as clearly as when the reversing camera is off,” he says. “It makes it easy to keep track of everything when I have only one screen in the cab.” The touch screen replaces many consoles with just one, meaning fewer displays in the cab and a focus on key information, thus greatly improving productivity, reducing stress and enabling the operator to work more safely.
He explains he can call his Volvo CE technician contact if a problem occurs and they solve it together. But the co-operation is not just one-way: when his Volvo CE contact has a question, he in turn calls Andersson for help. “We help each other,” says Andersson.
Another advantage of Co-Pilot is that it allows small operators without a back-office team to keep accurate records.
“There’s an in-built work-order management solution in the Co-Pilot,” says Haylock. “Part of the application is that you can create work orders and track information that can be downloaded to a USB stick.” With the optional SIM card, the information can even be sent to a home or office computer. So it would appear that Load Assist not only helps level the ground, it also levels the playing field.
CO-PILOT shares information automatically.