Laying the foundations to Australia’s infrastructure projects.
According to this year’s Australian Budget the government will invest more than $75 billion in ‘nationally significant’ infrastructure projects over the next 10 years. Whilst these projects vary immensely – from the Coffs Harbour Bypass in New South Wales to the Melbourne Airport Rail Link in Victoria – they all have two things in common. First off, these investments aim to tackle congestion and improve connectivity to Australian cities. Secondly, these projects will require a tremendous amount of earth moving for the foreseeable future.
This represents a tremendous opportunity for Australian contractors, but it requires them to better leverage technology to increase productivity and improve their project delivery. As a result, the door has opened to machine control systems that will improve grading accuracy and optimise productivity on the job site. Here are the top five reasons Australian contractors should be using grade control for their projects.
Grade control has the power to speed up the early phases of a project by relaying real-time grade information directly to the operator. In addition, some new systems now offer a sophisticated excavator automatics mode, which controls the boom and bucket according to the digital design preventing the user from undercutting or over cutting. These automatic options are helping operators of all experience levels achieve grade consistently, with high accuracy and in much less time. New grade control systems also speed the transfer of files from the office to field, which gives everyone the latest design quickly and easily.
Grade control systems use a combination of GNSS, inertial and laser technology to accurately position the bucket or blade in real time. Using an in-cab display, the operator then sees the 2D or 3D design surface, grade or alignment from inside the cab. These systems determine the position of each tip of the blade and compare it to the design elevation in the cab to compute cut/fill to grade.
Improving safety on the job site is just one more reason to consider grade control. Grade control systems greatly reduce the number of moving pieces around the job site – for example by removing the need for staking and grade checkers. These also reduce the need for supervisors and surveyors to be constantly on-site.
One of the greatest things about machine control is that in many cases, it helps level the playing field for small and midsize contractors. By automating much of the excavator or dozer operation, operators can achieve grade and move on to the next job more quickly. And the enhanced accuracy of various positioning systems allows precise control of grades and contours in several applications such as earthmoving and paving. Reducing material overages when using machine control can save significant revenue.
It’s no secret that there is a growing shortage of skilled and experienced heavy equipment operators. As many experienced operators near retirement, contractors are beginning to realise the potential of grade control solutions to help fill this skills gap. New grade control systems are much more intuitive and easy to use, which make them more attractive to new operators. This allows operators of all skill levels to be much more accurate at the first pass and create smooth, flat or sloped surfaces more easily. They can also achieve finished grade to millimetre accuracy with fewer passes. This frees up more experienced operators for complex jobs and lets newer operators hone their skills.
Australian contractors must re-evaluate how they think about machine control technologies, and the impact they make to an organisation’s bottom line. Construction business owners willing to make the leap can experience significant efficiency gains in terms of minimal rework, cost savings and more competitive bidding and will be able to take a bigger piece of the infrastructure projects coming down the pipeline in the coming years.