Trimble machine control technology onsite

A construction firm in New Zealand is making good use of machine control technology from Trimble. The technology is helping to reduce costs and boost quality, while also addressing the issue of operator skills.
New Zealand contractor Stringfellow is making good use of Trimble technology across its machine fleet
New Zealand contractor Stringfellow is making good use of Trimble technology across its machine fleet

Based in Manawatu, New Zealand, Stringfellow Contracts is a civil contractor specialising in road, land development, infrastructure and erosion protection. The company has completed many projects for the New Zealand Transport Agency and local authorities across the lower North Island. Current projects include the Mangaweka Bridge replacement, a structure that connects the Manawatū and Rangitīkei districts, the Turitea Wind Farm  project and the Manawatu-Tararua Highway.

The firm was keen to expand machine control capabilities in the field and is now using several tools from Trimble, the Earthworks Grade Control Platform, the WorksManager Software and the WorksOS Software. According to the contractor, introducing the technology has improved working efficiency by around 20%, as well as boosting productivity and the quality of finish. Other important benefits have been the increased interest and engagement of the workforce in operations, as well as providing the firm a competitive advantage in the market.

Stringfellow was an early adopter of construction technology, from GNSS and lasers to grade control solutions to drive productivity and quality. “It’s a competitive advantage,” said Simon de Rose, general manager at Stringfellow. “We’re a mid-size civil engineering contractor in our region, but we compete with larger companies with more resources for many civil projects. Technology is a differentiator for us, allowing our crews to do more work in less time with better quality. Our goal is to deliver the best finished product—and machine control helps us do that.”

In the last few years, the company has transitioned to Trimble solutions for its large fleet of Caterpillar machines supplied by Terra Cat Industrial New Zealand. De Rose said, “We’re a big Cat customer, which has a great integration with Trimble. We saw the Trimble Earthworks Grade Control Platform at a SITECH New Zealand event and we really liked the ease of use.”

Using Trimble machine control systems is helping Stringfellow retain its machine operators according to the firm
Using Trimble machine control systems is helping Stringfellow retain its machine operators according to the firm

Often, Stringfellow operators find themselves performing simple, but repetitive tasks. On a recent project, crews were tasked with constructing nearly 100 sediment ponds. Each operator had a sheet with the basic pond dimensions based on the catchment size. Instead of waiting for a design from the office, operators used the Trimble Earthworks in-field design tool to sketch out each pond. At a proposed pond location, the operator designed the pond in 3D on a tablet, using the contours of the site. Once the design was complete, the operator used 3D guidance to build a pond to precise dimensions.

The same on-the-fly, in-field design capability in Earthworks proved beneficial for digging pads on a project using a skid steer loader. “Our skid steer operator watched videos to learn how to use the Earthworks in-field app,” said de Rose. “The beauty of Earthworks on a skid steer is that it can hold the entire site map, so our operator can go anywhere in a day. He doesn’t have to wait for more data.”

The technology also proved useful for progress tracking. “We have to submit quantity reports tallying the total amount of earth moved each month to our customer, and gathering that data proved to be a challenge. Drones won’t work because it’s so windy, so we were using rovers on poles which is very labour intensive,” de Rose said.

On social media, de Rose saw a post about Trimble’s WorksOS and WorksManager. Trimble WorksOS Software is a cloud-based operating system that provides real-time progress and productivity management. Trimble WorksManager software sends designs to the field wirelessly and enables teams to remotely support and manage their software and hardware. WorksOS integrated with  Trimble Earthworks quantifies material moved each day.

He said, The big advantage of WorksOS is that we’re all dialed in together on a project, working to the correct design files and easily sharing updates.”

However, de Rose believes the biggest advantage to machine control and jobsite management software might be the way it excites operators, both new and experienced. “For us, attracting and retaining talent is a continuous challenge,” explained de Rose. “But we’ve found that technology like Earthworks opens new doors of opportunity for our current operators.”

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