The Digital Future: A Conference Roundup

digital future

Plant Planet’s first digital conference, The Digital Future commenced successfully on the 11th of May.

The industry gathered to share ideas on cutting-edge developments in the construction plant industry, reflecting on what has been a difficult period due to the pandemic.

Catch up with the conference here:

Promisingly, the data shows the industry is recovering, and the innovative products showcased by the sponsors provide innovative solutions to problems which have been troubling the construction plant industry.

Declan Curry chaired the conference, leading The Digital Future’s discussion and engaging the audience with questions.

Giles White of BOMAG provided an insight into the development of autonomous and semi-autonomous construction machinery, as well as interconnected sites. Giles White suggested a promising possibility: semi-autonomous or autonomous machinery can address the skills shortage as the number of mega projects in UK increases. BOMAG’s innovative fully autonomous tandem roller Robomag is already making this a reality. The machine works as an operator sets the target level that has been identified by prior testing, after which the sensors and drum take over, autonomously adjusting the compaction force depending on sensor feedback. Showcasing the new technology, the presentation concluded with three key ideas: utilise today’s technology, plan for tomorrow, and realise the future.

Aidan McGeary of Green Power Systems led a discussion with ideas about the move towards electrification and a decarbonised future. Showcasing the company’s diesel generator hybridising technology, their vision of the future included:

  • CO2 Reduction
  •  Environmental Responsibility
  •  Diesel Generator Hybridisation, which is massively positive for environmental sustainability and cost of operation as this leads to 50% fuel burn reduction and massive emission and maintenance reductions
  • Ability to utilise under-powered grids to meet requirements

Green Power Systems are trailblazing in providing adaptable green energy solutions for the construction site of the future, specialising in both off-grid and on-grid environments.

Rob Oliver shared his expertise as the CEO of the CEA with The Digital Future, focusing on the construction equipment market today and tomorrow, and the consequences of COVID-19. Providing an outlook into the state of the construction industry, he presented recent data suggesting an encouraging landscape. Some of these figures include:

  • ONS estimate is that construction accounts for 6% of economic output. However, CIOB report the real figure at “close to double”.
  • £1 of construction output generates £2.84 in total economic activity (LEK).

The data reflects how vital the construction industry is vital for the economic recovery of the country in the wake of the pandemic.

Rob Oliver also shared that the trends of carbon neutrality and building back better will be key to driving policy and investment in the next few years. In the next decade, alternative energy sources such as biofuels and hydrogen are likely to be a big source of investment for the industry.


Owen Buttle of Merlo introduced new innovations for the brand with the upgraded Merlo mobility system. In 2019, the company launched a new range of 24 new Panoramic and ROTO telehandlers. Amongst all the new technology in these machines there is the Adaptive Stability Control System (ASCS): a complete attachment recognition system equipped with an in-cab 10” digital screen that displays the machines stability and adapts the machine parameters to the attachment fitted and the working conditions. Through the use of genuine Merlo attachments, the ASCS system automatically adjusts the visual load chart seen on the digital display according to the load centre of the attachment. The presentation concluded with a sneak-peak of the new all-electric Merlo Telehandler: The E-worker. With over a century of expertise, Merlo continue to look for new solutions in the industry.

James Ashford, key account manager at Brigade Electronics LTD spearheaded the company motto – robust products for robust terrain. On average, each year about 7 workers die as a result of accidents involving vehicles or mobile plant on construction sites, and a further 93 are seriously injured. This occurs due to various factors reducing visibility of operators, such as the sheer size and weight of mobile plant equipment, as well as noise and poor weather conditions. Brigade Electronics provide a solution through active and passive safety systems, with their range of Elite range of monitors, cameras, as well as the Backsense radar system and white sound reversing alarms. Brigade equipment is modular and integrates well with other systems. Brigade Electronics focuses on selling a solution rather than just a product: their philosophy of fit and forget gives construction plant operators peace of mind.

Bill Hill of the Lighthouse Construction Industry Charity concluded The Digital Future with a thought-provoking and touching call for the industry to support the mental, physical and financial health of its workers. Whilst construction safety has come a long way, every year we still lose 30-40 people to fatalities on site. Shockingly, the number of accidents that incapacitate a worker rises to 2,000 every year. Last year, the charity helped 2,400 families in crisis, as well as delivering an astounding £400,000 in helpline support and emergency financial aid, plus £562,000 leveraged benefits. Last year, there was a 70% growth in complex cases, highlighting that the need for support in the industry is vital. The Lighthouse Construction Industry Charity app has just been updated, featuring various helpful guides to improving wellbeing and resilience.

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