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Faster and more efficient earthmoving with machine control

First publishedin World Highways
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Trimble machine package
The contractor believes that the Trimble machine control package should pay for itself within 12 months

The use of sophisticated machine control tools from Trimble has helped US contractor Beaver Excavating deliver a project more efficiently
In the US, earthworks contractor Beaver Excavating is testing Trimble’s new machine control platform and is achieving high accuracy and consistent excavation and grading in less time.

Jim Sterling, survey and GPS manager for Beaver Excavating, explained that the company has been a longtime Trimble customer. Over the years, the company has added additional machine control equipment, including dozens of Trimble GCS900 Grade Control Systems for dozers, excavators and motor graders. “When I heard about the new product, I was very interested and excited about going through the beta testing process,” said Sterling.

The team started by leveraging Trimble Earthworks for work on the Portsmouth Bypass project, also known as the Southern Ohio Veterans Memorial Highway. The project started in 2015 and is scheduled to be substantially completed in December of 2018. Delivered to ODOT under a Public Private Partnership (P3) contract by the Portsmouth Gateway Group, the new highway will be a 25.6km, four-lane divided highway that bypasses approximately 41.6km of US 52 and US 23 around Portsmouth.

Beaver Excavating is carrying out mass excavation work along the 25.6km route, along with utility and storm water drainage, bridge structure construction, and the project’s Erosion & Sedimentation (E&S) pond and ditch components. Trimble Earthworks was originally beta tested on two SK210LC-9 Kobelco machines.

According to Sterling, one of the key features of the new grade control platform is the automatic feature. In this mode the operator controls the stick and Trimble Earthworks controls the boom and bucket to stay on grade. This allows operators to achieve grade at a very consistent rate, with high accuracy and in much less time.

“I am a decent excavator operator, and I can tell you that I used to struggle to make a really uniform grade,” said Sterling. “We can now make a less experienced operator just as efficient as an expert, which is significant because looking ahead, we can see a personnel crunch in our industry. The feedback I’m hearing from our operators is that it’s easier than ever to pull grade with the new platform, and there’s no denying how much time it saves.”

Currently three years into its work, Beaver Excavating has completed nearly all of the mass excavation work for the US$430 million project. Sterling explained that the initial test of Trimble Earthworks has been successful and sees tremendous potential for efficiency gains on future projects. Sterling explained that training on the new platform was simple and he let operators learn on their own and ask questions as they worked. Trimble Earthworks is built on an Android operating system and runs on a Trimble TD520 touchscreen display.

Sterling said there is an advantage using Trimble Earthworks for laying pipe. With the new 3D Earthworks platform, a grade checker is only required directly before the pipe is laid, which makes everyone from the operators to the field crew much more productive.

“Already I can see how digging to design, digging a ditch or pipework will be so much more efficient with this technology,” said Sterling. “It makes working with an excavator every bit as efficient as working with an automatic dozer. With this new system, you don’t have to slow down at all, which I anticipate will make our operators at least 20% faster.”

Beaver Excavating has also used Trimble Earthworks for ODOT’s road-widening project in Findlay, Ohio. This $113 million project is widening the I-75 interstate to three lanes

from County Road 99 to the Harrison Street overpass. The superintendent on the job explained that the new technology is extremely handy and allows him to work very quickly and accurately. With the ability to dig faster and much more accurately during these initial test projects, Sterling predicts that Trimble Earthworks will pay for itself in about one year.

Currently, Beaver Excavating has five machines equipped with Trimble Earthworks. Sterling plans to add the technology to additional machines and will keep a few excavators with GCS900 machine control for mass excavation, and Trimble Earthworks for more finished grading and creating smooth, flat and sloped surfaces across a variety of projects.

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