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Alumnus Rod Schrader Moving Mountains with Komatsu

Monday, January 08, 2018
Rod Schrader and a piece of Komatsu equipment

Rod Schrader, a 1984 civil engineering graduate, is chairman and chief executive officer of Komatsu America Corp., a leader in producing automated earth-moving equipment.

Bob the Builder’s days behind the wheel of front-end loaders, dump trucks and dozers may be numbered as autonomous heavy equipment moves a bigger share of today’s industry workload.

Heavy-duty vehicles now feature a vast array of machine control-enabled technology that’s driving efficiency, versatility and money savings to help businesses prosper in today’s competitive economy.

“Machines have to be smarter and more automatic,” says 1984 civil engineering alumnus Rod Schrader, who is chairman and chief executive officer of Komatsu America Corp., an entity with more than 20 years of experience in producing automated earth-moving equipment. This is giving the subsidiary of the Japanese-owned company a competitive edge over industry competitors.

More than 100 Komatsu-produced driverless trucks are currently using GPS and on-board radar technology 24 hours a day to move as much as 320 tons of land overburden, per trip, in mining operations throughout the world. The company has unveiled plans to develop a cabless autonomous hauler and a Komatsu truck is the platform for a European consortium pilot program to develop the world’s largest electric-powered haul truck.

Also, Komatsu introduced this year several new heavy equipment products with such innovative features as intelligence machine controls, electronic-controlled hydrostatic transmissions, exhaust gas recirculation systems and variable motor turbochargers–striving to support Schrader’s claims that Komatsu is the most innovative company in its industry.

“Our industry may be viewed on the outside as old, non-leading edge and filled with basic mechanical technology, but, over the last five to 10 years, the amount of innovation and smart-system technology going into products in our industry is simply amazing,” says Schrader. “The day is coming when the diesel engine will eventually be eliminated by electric-controlled vehicles within many of our product lines. That’s a huge paradigm shift in our business.”

Schrader has spent considerable time during the past decade listening to the company’s customers, along with business prospects, in the construction, utility, energy, forestry, manufacturing and mining industries. That valuable feedback has helped determine Komatsu’s long-term direction within engineering, service support, finance and marketing divisions.

“I haven’t been an engineer one day throughout my entire career here. Rather, I have been a listener, communicator and problem solver,” he says.