The development and adoption of higher level autonomy solutions is the next large growth opportunity in many industries looking for productivity improvement, input cost reduction, overcoming skilled operator shortage and a reduced risk of accidents. Giri Baleri, director of product management and strategic marketing within the autonomy division believes the ability to control machines is important to drive early autonomy adoption, but Trimble's long term focus is to enable the ecosystem (eg. the complete site or the complete farm operation) with intelligent workflows - each one solving progressively more complex problems and enabling higher customer value along the way.
Let’s imagine the future autonomous jobsite or a farm that:
- is able to make automated decisions without human input.
- can operate for long periods of time without interruptions.
- optimize available resources (inputs, capital and humans).
- completes tasks with the highest standard of quality and safety.
That is the future we envision autonomy will bring to our customers and their customers. By working with our OEM partners and continuing to add value to Trimble’s Connected Farm and Construction Cloud, we continue to distinguish ourselves and our customers as autonomy leaders by delivering autonomy on your terms.
Automated Decision Making: By understanding and analyzing changing ground conditions, anticipated weather changes and work product and applying the domain intelligence/knowledge, autonomous machines will be able to make consistently well-informed data-driven decisions. This will lead to higher productivity and reduced waste across a jobsite.
Resource Optimization: Our customers are increasingly feeling the pinch of a tight labor market. By increasing the level of automation on their site they will be able to mitigate this with the ability to produce high quality results with less experienced operators. An autonomous future means that there will be a shift in the labor force allowing site and/or farm management to refocus their critical, short supply of humans on true value-add activities. A key benefit of operator assistance technology is the allowance for operators to perform high-quality jobs consistently throughout the day without being impacted by fatigue.
On top of this, our technologies will be able to shift the balance of labor on site - from long hours spent with operators on single machines, to managing fleets of machines by exception only - thus allowing the site workforce to focus on higher value tasks and ultimately redress their work-life balance. Ultimately, by coordinating workflows across a site, managers can optimize the assets and inputs which results in efficiency gains and ensure that the projects stays on schedule.
Risk Reduction: Improved safety is another important aspect that is enabled by autonomy by keeping humans out of hazardous situations. Autonomous machines are able to work longer and more accurately to get time sensitive work done –without the risk of fatigue on the operator.
Environmental Impact: Trimble is embracing its corporate ESG commitment by taking pragmatic and actionable steps to fully integrate and clearly define sustainability and carbon commercialization as part of our core strategy to fully embrace the message of “productivity + efficiency = sustainability”. Autonomy, with the optimization of workflow through dynamic decision making, will drive the environmental impact through optimized task planning and eliminating wasteful resources, and deliver long-term value to our clients. Based on a 2020 AEM study, broader adoption of precision ag technologies and autonomy has the potential for - 14% improvement in fertilizer placement efficiency, 15% improvement in herbicide application efficiency, 16% reduction in fossil fuel consumption, 21% reduction in water usage. These could add up less waste and a potential for avoiding a total CO2 equivalent emissions of 27.4 million MT, equating to ~6 million passenger vehicles being taken off the road permanently.
In my next post, I’ll delve into how we’re working with a construction industry leader to create value-added autonomous capabilities that bring meaningful operational improvement to the worksite. Stay tuned.