How much control do you have over your excavating, grading, paving, and other construction operations? If you’re not measuring what’s happening in the field, you have no way of knowing where you are or how you can improve. That’s the key benefit when you apply technology to your workflows. Armed with the data, you can make changes to your processes to improve future outcomes.
Here are five process benefits you can expect from on-machine and off-machine control technology
1. Protect yourself against inaccurate jobsite drawings
If you don’t have an accurate way to measure the surface before you start moving dirt, you have to trust that the general contractor’s drawings are accurate. If those drawings are based on a fly-over of the surface with photogrammetry, the tolerances are good plus or minus a foot. A foot across a project could bankrupt you.
With GPS, total stations, and reality capture technology, you can create a preconstruction topographic map accurate to within inches, and compare it with the contractor’s survey. Armed with this knowledge, you can either proceed with confidence or request a change from the contractor before you start your site work.
2. Do more with fewer people
While skilled operators are in short supply, machine control can help you close the labor gap. On-machine technology enables every operator on the jobsite to work with greater efficiency and productivity, so you can do more work with fewer people.
Off-machine systems can also make you more productive. For example, a robotic total station can be operated remotely from a distance, which means only one operator is needed in the field, rather than the traditional team of a surveyor and assistant required with manual total stations. This frees up team members to do other tasks, whether it is estimating, reporting, or something else.
3. Say goodbye to rework
Machine control uses a 2D or 3D plan downloaded to the machine, so operators can see the cut and fill underneath the blade or bucket right on the screen. Because you’re automatically grading to the plan, you shouldn’t have rework.
Not only does this save time, but it also saves on fuel costs and wear and tear on the machine. As it pertains to yards of dirt moved, machine control extends the life of your undercarriage by two-thirds.
4. Always have the right number of machines and trucks for the job
Improving job site efficiency occurs when you can look at your aggregated data and determine exactly how many machines and trucks it will take to move the earth and haul it away. To calculate how long it will take, you can factor in an average number of rain days and work days. Ongoing tracking of progress allows you to stay ahead of the schedule, adjusting the number of machines and trucks as needed when the weather doesn’t cooperate.
5. Keep people out of harm’s way
With grade control on dozers, excavators, motor graders, pavers and other types of heavy equipment, operators can verify the work is to grade without having to pound stakes, move string lines and measure as they go. If you look at the task of putting pipe in the ground, machine control allows you to do 80% of the work without a person in the trench.
The technology can also be integrated with real-time safety awareness solutions that can alert you to potential machine-to-people, machine-to-machine, and machine-to-object collisions so you can create greater awareness and a safer working environment. This data can be collected and visualized in cloud-based tools that provide more incident clarity and proactiveness with data-driven decisions.
Construction is a risky business, but machine control provides the data you need to improve your operations, change your processes, and increase productivity, profitability, and safety.
About the Author
Mike Windsor is passionate about helping the heavy construction industry increase productivity and efficiency with technology. He brings more than 30 years of experience in survey and machine control to his position as Regional Sales Manager, Northeast US, Heavy Construction, Leica Geosystems, part of Hexagon.