What machine automation can do for your business. The impact of automation is undeniable – driverless cars have taken to the streets, robots are working in operating rooms, and bots are increasingly our first point of contact, taking our calls, orders in restaurants, and complaints online.
Every industry is making room for automation to transform operations and improve business processes. And when it comes to machine automation, the construction industry is poised to be a hotbed of innovation.
Equipment manufacturers and technology providers in the construction industry have the benefit of using the lessons learned from other industries – such as manufacturing – to meet the needs of contractors, project owners and machine operators through more efficient, highly automated equipment.
So, what exactly does automation in construction look like?
According to the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE), there are six stages of automation, ranging from zero autonomy to full automation, where a vehicle is capable of performing all driving functions under all conditions. As an industry, construction is currently somewhere in the middle of these six stages, with some automation functionality available on some equipment, but still requiring an operator to remain engaged with the driving task and the environment.
Automation provides huge opportunities to the construction industry, which continues to experience a global shortage of skilled workers. With the power to amplify the value of an experienced operator in a way we have never seen before. It’s no wonder automation has become an important part of the product development strategy for most construction equipment manufacturers and technology providers.
Here are the other benefits automation can bring to the construction industry.
Increasing The Appeal of A Career In Construction
Machine automation helps alleviate the challenges resulting from the skills and labour shortage in two ways. Firstly, it eliminates the need to find people to do some of the less desirable and hard-to-fill jobs in the construction industry. Second, it makes a career in construction more appealing to more people.
Making construction equipment smarter doesn’t necessarily mean taking jobs away from people who want them. The value of an experienced operator can never be replaced, if anything in automatics technology amplifies the value of a contractor. Instead, it helps reduce the need for people to do work that is otherwise dangerous, repetitive, and done in undesirable environments. It also creates more appealing jobs that require increased skill levels, such as overseeing the operation of several machines from inside an office on the jobsite.
The shift toward more automated tasks and machine operation also helps reduce operator fatigue, simply by making manual tasks easier to do. Having operators who feel fresher and more alert helps increase jobsite safety, but also helps improve the quality of life for machine operators.
Improving Jobsite Safety
Increased worker safety is one of the biggest benefits of automating construction equipment, and it doesn’t take the fully automated machines of the future to start realising these benefits now. Already, machine control, excavator automatics, safety alerts, cameras, and other technology solutions have made great strides toward increasing the safety of those who are working on and around equipment on a jobsite.
As equipment continues to become more autonomous, this will mean more jobs will shift from working around equipment to jobs that can be done from a safer distance. In fact, the most progress toward full automation is already being made in the most dangerous environments, for example with remote control dozers in mines.
Another important benefit of the move toward automation is that automated machines can operate just as easily in adverse conditions, such as rain or fog, as they can in ideal conditions. This means fewer accidents caused by decreased visibility, slick or wet surfaces, or other challenges faced by operators working in challenging conditions.
Easing Environmental Concerns
The construction industry has a substantial impact on the environment worldwide. Automating construction equipment – or even certain tasks – can help increase equipment efficiency and reduce the carbon footprint of today’s jobsites.
Smarter machines provide significant productivity improvements because they work so efficiently. With asphalt compaction, for example, it can take multiple tries for human operators to find the most optimal and efficient rolling path. Through technology, the machine can work directly to the digital design, resulting in lower fuel consumption, less wear and tear on the machine, and reduced material waste. Although these savings can be difficult to quantify today, by reducing the likelihood of human error, contractors can significantly increase productivity and efficiency with a solution that is far more environmentally friendly.
Increasing Overall Productivity
In addition to improved safety, increased job satisfaction and environmental benefits, machine automation is already helping contractors run their businesses more efficiently and more profitably. Quite simply, making machines smarter will enable contractors to do more with less – less time, less material, less rework, and less wear and tear on both people and machines.
Those who will be at the forefront of adopting this technology are already realising the benefits of the technology that is moving us closer every day to full autonomy, which includes machine control, constructible models, unmanned aerial vehicles, augmented reality and other innovations in construction technology.
“At Trimble, we’re always looking to innovate and are constantly developing new solutions that improve the efficiency and competitiveness of the construction market. We’ve recently made a number of announcements that aim to increase productivity on jobsites by improving the integration and usability of our product suite.
The biggest news is the significant upgrade to the Trimble Earthworks Grade Control Platform, which features support for motor graders and automatic guidance for tiltrotator attachments, giving excavator operators the advantage of automatic machine control, improving accuracy and productivity on site.
On top of this, we have integrated Trimble® LOADRITE® Payload Management with our Trimble Earthworks Grade Control Platform. By putting machine control and payload management into one platform, we are allowing contractors to track bucket-by-bucket payload, and monitor mass haul progress from the same Trimble Earthworks display to increase the versatility and productivity of the excavator, and ultimately empowering the operator.
We’ve also launched the Trimble Earthworks GO! Grade Control Platform, a 2D grade control solution for compact machine attachments. This product enables high-accuracy grading in an easy-to-use, portable platform. This is the only Bring-Your-Own-Device (BYOD) compact machine control solution that runs on Android or iOS smartphones making it highly familiar and intuitive to contractors, who can use the technology with little training. Trimble Earthworks GO! can be used by contractors involved in general construction, site preparation and utility work for grading flat and simple slopes.
Finally, we’ve unified our Business Center Software merging Trimble Business Center and Business Center – HCE, to provide both surveying and civil construction customers with a complete office software solution. This provides a larger set of tools for customers to leverage more services and deliver better value for their clients.”
Dan Barry, Australasia Regional Manager, Trimble
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