Every contractor hears buzzwords like machine control, rovers, and office-to-field connectivity. These solutions are all designed to plug a hole in your workflow with the promise of productivity improvements.
Many small contractors might hear these words and think they are just for the big firms, but the reality is that there are a range of solutions continuing to emerge specifically for small site contractors. Almost any type of technology deployment will require a workflow adjustment, but most contractors conclude that the productivity achieved is absolutely worth it, with ROI within a year, if not sooner.
Here are a few areas of investment and advancement worth considering, no matter your specialty.
For instance, Trimble Earthworks GO! is a solution purpose built for 2D automatics on skid steers with box blades that are commonly used for flat work. The high precision, laser-guided 2D grading system includes an onboard computer and IMU. Simply attach the Earthworks GO! box magnetic mount to the machine, connect the cables, mount your smartphone or device in the cab, turn on your laser and start working. Among other features, the software saves machine profiles, allowing the operator to easily switch between machine attachments with no extra setups. It can be pulled off one machine and hooked up to another machine in minutes.
LK & Sons Excavating LLC in Laura, Ohio, is a small contractor with a big business in constructing parking lots, driveways, and building pads. As Bronson Koffer, Co-Owner of the business noted, “We're a small company and we don't do enough work to make the investment in big machine control systems, which usually require base stations and other connected technologies.”
Instead, the firm invested in the Earthworks GO! system, which has become a mainstay on most jobs. What used to require two people and two pieces of equipment (a roller and skid steer) is completed with one, and the operator no longer has to jump out of the cab to check grade. Jobs are safer and more efficient – at least 50 percent more efficient when it comes to labor. Having digital profiles that are saved across machine setups is an added bonus.
For the small contractor, moving to 3D can be confusing, not only from a hardware perspective, but also from a workflow. Terms like RTK, PPP, and correction services all come into play. Again, the industry is delivering affordable, highly accurate solutions that are easy to use .
The Trimble Siteworks Machine Guidance Module is one such system. With this one solution, contractors can perform a range of common activities including site surveys, 3D machine guidance, in-field design, and reporting. Designed specifically for small site and utility contractors, it includes the Trimble SPS986 or Trimble R780 GNSS Smart Antenna, both very familiar tools in the construction space.
Now, combine the receiver with any device or Trimble field tablet that supports Trimble Siteworks software and you’ve got a multi-purpose field solution. Use the GNSS smart antenna on a pole for surveying and then transfer that same system to the excavator. The antenna attaches to the excavator stick and the data collector moves from the rover pole to a mount in the cab of the excavator.
Tom Gardocki, Co-Owner of New Era Excavation, has changed the way he runs his business with Trimble technology. His small site excavation company focuses on residential and light commercial projects, such as accessory dwelling units and basements, as well as some landscaping. On a recent project, he used the base station and rover to shoot the survey stakes, then transferred the receiver and tablet to the excavator, shifted to machine mode and started digging.
“We can do more jobs in the course of the year with the same number of people,” said Gardocki. “For the price of this system, even if we won just one more job, that system is paid for.”
Don’t have a base station? No problem. There are many correction sources provided by government entities, or there are services such as the Trimble RTX family of real-time GNSS correction services. RTX is available via IP/cellular from your cell phone hotspot or directly from a satellite.
With the combination of Trimble Siteworks Machine Guidance Module and RTX, a contractor can simply attach the modules, turn it on, and get to work. There's no base station setup or correction source confusion, and the data gathered during layout is automatically available in the cab.
One of the other advantages of a product like Siteworks Machine Guidance is that it is designed as a stepping stone to future investments. It’s not something that will be abandoned as technology advances, but can be built on and expanded as a business needs grow.
Another point to consider is the value of today’s technology subscriptions. Subscriptions allow for continuously updated applications, reducing the complexity of technology maintenance that comes with traditional perpetual offerings. With a low monthly cost, you get all the horsepower and regular updates of the various solutions for a low upfront cost.
The continuous improvement of applications in the way of features and functionality is also a good reason to have a technology partner to support your adapting workflows.
A reliable dealer partner, like SITECH, with a full time staff dedicated to customer success is essential in this technology enabled era. Your dealer partner should be available to onboard your team with new technology investments and also to answer questions about capabilities along the way.
Technology has a huge upside for contractors. You will be better equipped to handle work despite labor challenges, increase productivity and significantly reduce rework all in a safer work environment. With machine guidance solutions, nobody needs to be on the ground with lasers guiding operators. Further, because all of the data is digital, you have better information to develop more confident estimates.
Technology changes the way work gets done. You’ll be more competitive on bids, more productive in the field and ultimately realize better margins, which drives profits. The technology is out there to fit into your customized workflow. Find your technology enabled ecosystem of opportunity.