By Al Cervero, AEM Senior Vice President, Construction, Mining and Utility

Digital Iron RenaissanceThe rapid evolution of technology promises to transform the future of the equipment manufacturing industry, and how quickly everything is changing serves to underscore the importance of your ability to stay alert for signs it’s disrupting your business.

Over the past several years, our AEM Annual Conference has focused on technology, innovation and disruption. However, the industry is currently in the midst of a digital transformation, and its effects have been both far-reaching and impactful. AEM has responded by actively engaging with its member companies to drive and promote certain trends. These include the telematics communications standard which, along with the rise of machine-to-machine communication as a means to drive data, metrics and improvements, provided the inspiration for this year’s AEM Annual Conference theme: “Digital Iron: The Next Renaissance.”

The Dawn of a New Era

Iron not only plays a role in the action of digging, lifting, moving, reducing and sorting, but also in digitally transferring valuable information about the action to the customer. The data is then converted to knowledge and aggregated from job to job, thereby creating a more efficient base in which to drive profit improvements. The machine also serves as part of a bigger picture in which all actions will advance data and improved knowledge, thus the first part of the theme, “Digital Iron.”

The second part of the theme, “The Next Renaissance,” is exactly that, a movement from one time to another. It was inspired by the location and property where the AEM Annual Conference is being held – The Breakers Palm Beach – which was built in an acknowledgement to that time period. Now instead of considering a transition from the era of the Middle Ages to the Early Modern Era, think about the transition from an era of welding to one of 3D printing, from a period of disparate equipment data to one of machine-to-machine communication, or from a period where vehicles are driven by people to one where autonomous cars and trucks rule the road. Now we’ve reached a point in time where instead of simply drawing something we want to build, technology allows us to leverage augmented reality as a means to overlay a drawing onto real-world surfaces.

An Opportunity Awaits

It's a transformative time for our industry and, from Nov. 1-3, the AEM Annual Conference will provide an opportunity for us to examine a future shaped by “Digital Iron: The Next Renaissance,” present ideas to one another in light of this future, and anticipate potential disruptors and their effects.

The event will feature Singularity University Professor Vivek Wadhwa, who will provide valuable insights into what the future holds for the equipment industry. Also present will be Local Motors founder John “Jay” Rogers and chief marketing officer Elle Shelley to discuss new and improved ways to design and crowdsource. And, with the impending arrival of digital iron, it’s critical for companies to determine how to take advantage of the deluge of data that comes along with it. A panel, led by folks from McKinsey, Procore, Terbine and others, will tackle that topic and provide valuable, applicable information for those in attendance.

Going Above and Beyond

AEM has worked to build connections and foster relationships with industry experts and speakers, leading universities, specialty innovation centers – and most of all – our members, to reach beyond our Annual event. Those efforts have led to the creation of AEM’s Thinking Forward events, the establishment of the Tech Experience at CONEXPO-CON/AGG, and the development of a wealth of member-focused thought leadership articles and research pieces.

The best way to think about the AEM Annual Conference is as a precursor to all of the Thinking Forward events. It’s not one where attendees sit and listen. It’s where equipment manufacturers go to not only see what the future holds for the industry and discuss the anticipated effects, but also to interact with the drivers that will shape the industry of tomorrow for years to come. 

It's not too late to register for the AEM Annual Conference! For more information, visit