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Machine control with UI-focused software will benefit regional operators

Machine control systems with user interface-driven software help to streamline operations and assist operators of all skill levels to boost productivity


Construction sites demand products and technologies that can be part of a wider solution for streamlining operations, improving team productivity, and increasing profitability. As construction technology becomes easier for customers to use, manufacturers are working with user interface (UI) experts to make grade control platforms more user-friendly and easier to deploy.

General manager of civil engineering and construction for Trimble, Scott Crozier, says developing technology solutions that customise the workflow to workers, rather than vice versa, can improve the utilisation of control systems and machines.

“The days of developing standalone technology products that solve an individual problem are long gone. Contractors are facing challenges as the result of a shrinking workforce, which can be solved with technology. This is important to our customers, because it helps both owners and operators get more value from their teams, equipment, and time,” says Crozier.

Trimble is using its knowledge of machine control systems to build the next generation of grade control platforms for excavators, dozers, and other construction equipment. According to the company, in nearly all cases, machine control eliminates guesswork and makes it easier for operators that are less skilled to perform precision work, freeing up more experienced operators for more complex jobs.

“Grade control solutions for motor graders, scrapers, wheel loaders, and compact machines all demonstrate the increasing demand for – and proliferation of – positioning technology on construction jobsites. Although every machine is different, we estimate that companies will see time and cost savings in the range of 20–50% with machine control, and the technology often pays for itself on the first project,” says Crozier.

Trimble Earthworks is the industry’s first integrated 3D aftermarket grade control automatics for excavators. The grade control application features an Android operating systems that runs on a rugged, 25.7cm Trimble TD520 touch-screen display. It enables operators to create smooth, flat, or sloped surfaces. When the excavator is placed in ‘Autos’ mode, the operator controls the stick, and Trimble Earthworks controls the boom and bucket, to stay on grade, reduce overcut, and increase production. In addition, Earthworks allows data files to be transferred to or from the office wirelessly and automatically. The Android operating system enables operators to download other applications and offers contractors the flexibility of using the Trimble TD520 display or a third-party Android device.

“By automating excavator operation, Trimble Earthworks allows operators to achieve grade consistently, with high accuracy and in less time. The software was created in collaboration with construction equipment operators [...], so the interface is optimised for ease-of-use and productivity. [...] Each operator can personalise the interface to match their workflow, and a variety of configurable views make it easier to see the right perspective for maximum productivity,” says Crozier.

Trimble is now rolling out the platforms for dozers with a new configuration that moves the receivers from the blade to the roof of the cab. Trimble Earthworks for dozers mounts dual global navigation satellite system (GNSS) receivers on top of the cab to eliminate masts and cables traditionally located on the blade. The receivers are designed for steep slope work and complex designs with tight tolerances. The new configuration helps keep the receivers safe and reduces the time needed to remove and reinstall them each day.

“On dozers, Trimble grade control systems provide better blade control and faster operating speeds, enabling operators to grade higher-quality surfaces as much as 40% faster. Grade control helps operators [...] to reach the desired depth and slope efficiently and with extreme accuracy. For dynamic compaction, asphalt compaction, and soil compaction, machine control increases productivity, quality, and accuracy,” says Crozier.

Trimble sees new opportunities in the growing trend of manufacturers offering built-in machine control capabilities as standard or optional features on heavy equipment purchases, regardless of the size of the budget or size of the machine.

“We want to make sure small contractors and large contractors alike have access to technology that can make them more efficient and more competitive. We are also focused on the move towards more automated options for specialised machines, as well as the growing need for data-rich, constructible 3D models in the field, greater integration between various applications, and the increasing momentum for UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) and mixed-reality solutions in the market,” he says.

Crozier points out that, irrespective of technology advancements, customer and partner relationships remain crucial for the company’s product development strategy.

“Our strategy has always been to maintain close relationships with our end-user customers and to develop products and solutions that reflect the feedback we receive from them. We also communicate constantly with our dealer channel and original equipment manufacturer partners to make sure the technology we develop helps to ease the challenges faced by our customers. Our Sitech dealers are on the ground [and] are always on hand to help with product installation, support, and training,” says Crozier.

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Construction Week - Issue 753
Nov 09, 2019