Looking back over FY 2018, the first thing that comes to mind is the frequent worldwide occurrence of natural disasters caused by climate change. How we should guard against threats like earthquakes, tsunamis, typhoons and torrential rain is a big theme for both our customers and nations. The effects of natural disasters on regional life and economies are so large that it takes a considerable amount of time to recover. It is important not just to deal with disasters after they occur, but to enact measures that enhance disaster management before the fact. In FY 2019 Japan is increasing its budget for public investment to this end.
Moving forward, it will become increasing necessary not just to rely on creating new infrastructure, but to improve that which already exists to make it more robust. I believe the HCM Group should hurry to develop and supply products and services that can support infrastructure maintenance, repair and reinforcement.
In this kind of social environment, construction machinery manufacturers like us are tasked with improvements beyond what extending current technology can offer. In short, rather than improve, I believe we must innovate. From each of the targets advanced through SDGs, through measures to combat climate change, the demands of society are ever higher and require even greater speed. For example, even if we seek to electrify construction machinery we will be asked when it will be developed and when it will be brought to market. So in order to respond with speed, we have begun to innovate the development process itself. Specifically, in October 2018 we established a German marketing and development firm. We used this to test introducing a development process in which customers actually use compact electric-drive machinery and development evolves based on their on-site feedback and requests. In our conventional development process, our R&D department in Japan would spend years creating products that would then be delivered to customers around the world. But in some cases this has not been fast enough. Fundamental parts like foundations and components will continue to be thoroughly researched and developed in Japan. But from here out we believe it will be necessary to carry out speedy development together with customers all around the world.
Moreover, development takes too long using only our own engineering. For example, it is difficult for construction machinery manufacturers alone to advance development of foundational technology like lithium-ion batteries and hydrogen fuel cells in a speedy manner.
For this reason, the key to swiftly achieving technological innovation is for the entire industry to keep pace with automotive and trucking industry technology in particular, and skillfully integrate it. In addition, construction machinery can succeed in applying new technology in the field even more quickly than general automotive can. Using autonomous driving technology as an example, it is likely to be difficult to allow vehicles to travel on public roads without the driver ever touching the wheel, or without a steering wheel at all. However, trials of autonomous dump trucks are already under way in Australia. This is because they operate in a designated area within which safety can be ensured.
This kind of technological innovation in construction machinery, as well as i-Construction, will not only make on-site work more efficient, but will bring about various changes. We are hearing from customers that, “Companies which do not seriously engage with work site automation and computerization cannot attract or retain top talent.” Up until now, construction sites have had an environment that women have found it hard to break into. But now women are able to play large roles operating drones to gather data, and analyzing the data gathered. The adoption of new technology leads to solving problems such as hiring new talent and employee training. We will provide customers with new value by accelerating “Solution Linkage” using ICT and IoT solutions to solve problems on construction sites together with customers.
The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism aims to apply ICT to increase efficiency and productivity at civil engineering and construction work sites. It hopes to create appealing construction sites through improving the corporate management environment.
※2 Solution Linkage
HCM’s ICT/IoT-based solutions that help to improve safety, increase productivity, and lower life cycle costs together with customers. In finding solutions to challenges, HCM will take the lead in using the “One Hitachi” approach to deliver the Hitachi Group’s wide ranging technologies and propose solutions that utilize open innovation combining the expert technologies of business partners.