Using satellites to move millimetres of earth

Tools that automate the grade are gaining wider acceptance, says Alex Docherty, director of technology at Finning.

Using graders out-fitted with SITECH’s positioning software, precise road construction is possible. The results are jobs that require less hours and have higher quality standards.

The grade control technology downloads construction plan designs into the equipment’s computer control box over the Internet. The software capability allows the system to, for example, determine the cutting edge for an excavator bucket and direct the operator to the desired depth and slope, or control the movement of a grader blade. It eliminates human error, while providing a sharp grade control accuracy, and the ability to see the status of the job, and the location of the machine, simultaneously online.

A remote equipment controller box mounted on a grader.

Docherty says the advantages of these tools are dramatic. Those using the technology can benefit from a stunning 40 to 60 per cent increase in productivity.

Road crews that relied on machine control grading systems cut completion time in half compared to builders using manual methods, finds a past study.

“We’re able to build more quickly, more accurately and with less human intervention,” said Docherty.

“On a grader or dozer, the software capability allows the system to control the movement of the blade moving the dirt, and it’s accurate to 15 millimetres vertically and eight millimetres horizontally.

"It ties right into the equipment’s hydraulics, so the operator can use a switch and the system will move the blade up and down.”

Finning won Trimble’s Technology Dealer of the Year award for 2014. The honour is global recognition given to the dealer that sells the most Trimble construction technology world-wide.

This award is the top honour given out to Trimble’s heavy civil construction distribution channel. Trimble is an international company best known for providing the most reliable and rugged construction technology available. The award recognizes the top total net purchases for the particular technology brand.

There may be a lot more room to grow adoption. A Statistics Canada study found that only 12.5% of Alberta construction companies are actively investing in new technologies.

Regarding adoption of SITECH’s positioning software, Docherty says he would be surprise to see 5 to 10% industry adoption yet.

"I firm believer that if you don't understand a customers processes, you can't offer solutions that are correct to improve that process," says Docherty.