The spotlight will be on OEM autonomous equipment orders, autonomous retrofits, real-time connectivity, autonomous mobile robots, process automation, and low carbon / hybrid solutions.

The off-highway equipment market is buzzing. Mining company Freeport-McMoRan plans to switch its fleet to fully autonomous trucks with Caterpillar’s MineStar Command at its mine in Arizona. Sandvik will be supplying autonomous equipment to Swedish mining company LKAB to operate in the world’s largest underground iron ore mine. The partnership between agricultural technology solution provider, FieldIn, and lidar sensor provider, Ouster, will result in the deployment of around 100 autonomous retrofit kits for tractors by the end of 2024. Agricultural robotics company Burro will be supplying robots for its partner Pacific AG Rentals’ fleet. Rockwell Automation owned Clearpath Robotic’s all-terrain mobile robot will perform surveys, material handling, and tele-operated tasks for the construction industry. Komatsu and Cummins have designed an integrated remote monitoring solution that will reduce unplanned downtime, lengthen maintenance intervals, and extend equipment lifetime for fleets. John Deere’s recent partnership with SpaceX is aimed at ‘always on’ connectivity for its connected equipment. JCB and MAN have launched hydrogen combustion engines.

This flurry of activity aligns with Frost & Sullivan’s outlook for the global off-highway equipment market in 2024. Among the key trends and strategies that we have identified as defining dynamics in 2024 and beyond include the development of more autonomous solutions and autonomous retrofits, real-time monitoring and connectivity across all off-highway application categories, decarbonization imperatives that will boost hybrid/low emission solutions, and the increased use of mobile robots for agriculture and construction.

To learn more, please see: Global Off-highway Equipment Industry Outlook 2024 and Electric Off-highway Equipment Growth Opportunities, or contact for information on a private briefing.

2024 Outlook: Our Top Five Predictions

  • OEM autonomous equipment orders will register a strong uptick.

We will see OEMs ramp up their portfolio of autonomous solutions, customizing them for specific off- highway applications and functions. In 2023, the mining sector was a major driver in the uptake of autonomous solutions for haulage systems, loaders, excavators, and surface drills, among others. Mining will continue to catalyze autonomous equipment growth in the off-highway market in 2024, with fulfilment of past orders spilling over to this year.  This will highlight the need for closer partnerships between mining operators and OEMs that, in turn, will create opportunities for sensor technology and software providers.  Autonomous solutions will focus on realizing cleaner, more energy-efficient operations, improving productivity and safety, and extending the working life of the equipment.

  • Autonomous retrofits will be an effective bridge to newer, more advanced autonomous solutions.

Collaboration between OEMs, sensor technology providers, hardware and software solution providers, and start-ups have yielded a broad range of cost-effective autonomous retrofit solutions for the off-highway equipment market. Retrofits hold appeal because of their quick installation time and flexible financing models and will be a bridge to newer, more advanced autonomous solutions. Autonomous retrofit kits are projected to register an estimated 45.0% year-over-year (YoY) growth rate in 2024. The promise of lower operational costs will underpin the emergence of autonomous retrofit start-ups that will expand aftermarket support through collaborations with OEMs and dealerships. Construction, mining, and agriculture sectors will look to low-emission retrofits, such as hybrid electric, electric power take-off (PTO) and hydrogen-powered internal combustion engines. Over the short term, the focus will be on alternative powertrain conversion for biofuels.

  • Real-time monitoring and connectivity will become a standard offering.

Connectivity will become a standard across operations and across all off-highway application categories. From precision agriculture to automation of safety-critical mining practices, uptake of off-highway telematics adoption will continue to rise. The need to control maintenance costs and reduce fleet downtime will highlight the appeal of connected solutions pivoting around asset tracking, equipment diagnostics, prognostics, maintenance, and real-time monitoring. Digital dashboards and digitalized processes will help keep track of equipment health and service records.

Meanwhile, the need to continually monitor processes will emphasize the need for ‘always-on’ connectivity solutions. This will boost satellite IoT in off-highway equipment, whether as embedded or retrofit solutions. OEMs, telematics solution providers, and satellite communication providers will partner to connect existing and new off-highway equipment with both cellular and satellite terminals and services. Satellite IoT is likely to see strong adoption in mining and agricultural applications linked to their promise of savings on capital expenditure.

  • Decarbonization imperatives will drive low carbon / hybrid solutions.

Government backed decarbonization initiatives will motivate pilot programs in hybridization and electrification in the off-highway equipment market, particularly in mining. Green investments will focus on alternate powertrains such as biofuels, hydrogen internal combustion engines, and hybrid electric, rather than battery electric, in the near term. Over the long term, the focus will be on electric and hydrogen fuel cell equipment.

  • Autonomous mobile robots and process automation will transform agricultural operations.

In addition to autonomous retrofit kits, robotics, and artificial intelligence (AI) will also improve process automation in agricultural operations. Autonomous mobile robots will experience heightened adoption in high value crop and urban farms for harvesting and management applications such as seeding, weeding, spraying, mobile picking, and material handling, among others. Mobile robotics will address challenges related to operational costs, sustainability, and process efficiencies. The construction sector will also embrace mobile robotics for functions such as brick laying and surveying.

Our Perspective
The focus areas for off-highway market participants will be improving automation of equipment operations and processes and strengthening shaky supply chains. Innovative technologies including sensors, AI, and ML will catalyze the adoption of partial and complete automation in construction, mining, and agricultural applications. Autonomous retrofitting and robotics, among others, will emerge as transformative solutions. Meanwhile, cross-industry collaboration between OEMs, technology startups, and connectivity solution providers will allow for portfolio expansion and improved customer penetration.

Fleet management solutions enabling tracking, real-time monitoring, and prognostics will experience strong growth. Retrofitting connected and smart solutions to existing equipment will also see an increase, benefiting third-party telematics solution providers.

Smart/connected retrofits will help optimize the use, maintenance, and performance of equipment. Digital retrofits with plug-and-play capabilities for IoT dashboards, maintenance planning, and productivity management will experience surging adoption across major end-user segments.

Besides smart and connected retrofits, solutions that facilitate partial automation will provide a link to complete automation in the future. As the market evolves, ecosystem partnerships—off-highway OEMs, dealerships, fleet management companies, autonomous start-ups, sensor suppliers, and mobile robot manufacturers—will become widespread.

At present, the push for zero-emission/fully electric in off-highway equipment has been subdued. Over time, however, we will see decarbonization strategies being implemented to qualify for clean technology project incentives. In the short term, low-emission retrofits, including hydrogen combustion engines, electric PTO, and hybrid solutions, will gain traction in developed markets.

With inputs from Amrita Shetty, Senior Manager, Communications & Content – Mobility

About Krishna Achuthan

Krishna Achuthan is a Commercial Mobility Consultant in the MOADs team at Frost & Sullivan. Bringing his experience from the off-highway and rail sector, such as OEMs, rail operators and component suppliers. He provides valuable perspectives on key technology trends, competitive intelligence and market analysis in the rail sector and its influence on the industry.

Krishna Achuthan

Krishna Achuthan is a Commercial Mobility Consultant in the MOADs team at Frost & Sullivan. Bringing his experience from the off-highway and rail sector, such as OEMs, rail operators and component suppliers. He provides valuable perspectives on key technology trends, competitive intelligence and market analysis in the rail sector and its influence on the industry.

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