When Trimble president and CEO Steve Berglund opened the company’s 2014 Dimensions user conference Monday, he mentioned how, from a technology standpoint, not much has changed for the company over the last several years.
On a slide he showed three categories the company offers solutions for: 1) Modeling, analytics and decisions support; 2) Connectivity, collaboration and mobility; and 3) Positioning, sensing, measurement and geospatial context.
What has changed though, and what the company is working hard to perfect in the coming years, is combining all of that technology in order to save construction companies money and make them more efficient, from the bidding process through handing off the project to the client.
“It’s the integration of these technologies into solutions which is why we’re all here today,” Berglund said Monday. “Integration into meaningful aggregations for solving larger scale problems.”
Nowhere is this integration seen more clearly than in the Trimble Connected Construction Site. Shortly after Berglund spoke, Roz Buick, Trimble’s vice president for heavy civil construction, said the average construction project, “is chaos,” noting that 80 percent of projects are delivered late or over budget. Trimble is confident that number will be drastically decreased once connected jobsites become the norm.
Monday afternoon I hopped on a bus with roughly 15 construction professionals to see a live demo of the decidedly less-chaotic connected jobsite in action. Trimble had the whole thing set up at an offsite facility about 30 minutes from the Las Vegas strip. It’s the perfect place for demoing earthmoving equipment as there is a lot of flat earth, dirt and not much else but a view of the mountains.
Trimble presented the demo under the guise of a typical highway bridge project for a DOT and started with the bidding process. From a simulated office, engineers explained that after the contractor receives the data file from the potential client, it can be entered into the Trimble Business Center HCE software which, using data collected on prior projects, is able to calculate a more accurate bid for the new project that doesn’t require any padding for potential miscalculations.
When the bid is awarded, the contractor then generates a highly-detailed 3D build model. Buick said this model is at the heart of the connected jobsite. “It’s hard to turn 2D plans into 3D constructible reality,” she said, explaining that 2D plans are the main reason most projects become chaotic. “Becuase you can’t anticipate issues that may come up.” Another contributor to that chaos, Buick said, is that when issues do come up, the jobsite is typically disconnected from the plans and the office.
“We deliver value through the connected site by transforming 2D plans into a 3D constructible model and then we link real-time operations to the model,” Buick said. “We are starting to establish coherence among people on the site by working from the model…and tracking real-time progress to the model.”
Back at the connected site, the 3D build model was generated along with a work order for the survey crew. The appropriate data is then sent along to the surveyors without having to travel to the site, something Trimble engineers said would save some contractors several hours a day.
With the survey sent back to the office, Trimble Business Center is able to generate a mass haul plan for the 4.5 million cubic yards of material that will be moved for this simulated project.
After the survey, the 3D model is then sent to all the machines working on the site. In this case the mixed fleet included a Caterpillar D6T dozer; Liebherr PR736 dozer; a Volvo ECR235D excavator; a John Deere 872GP motor grader and a Bomag BW 213 compactor. Each machine was equipped with Trimble technology (save for the D6T which was equipped with Cat Grade Control ) and an Internet connection. You can read more about the specific technology each machine was equipped with in the gallery above.
Back in the office, Trimble’s VisionLink software allows the contractor to view real-time progress on the jobsite against the 3D model. Progress can also be viewed from a tablet or smartphone and includes machine diagnostics and location and even the ability to troubleshoot a problem with a machine remotely. You can check in on a machine’s idle time, hydraulic levels, blade sharpness and even whether a tire is about to split.
Plus, each machine, tool and attachment on the connected site was tagged with RFID allowing the contractor to create gateways on the site that, when passed through by an asset, alerts the contractor. These gateways obviously help in preventing theft but also alert the contractor to inappropriate machine use and let them know when operators are wandering into avoidance zones. And because the machines are equipped with GPS, they can be tracked down should they be taken off the jobsite entirely.
In addition to making a job more efficient by eliminating machine downtime, the connected site eliminates worker downtime by notifying the office when a task is completed and then immediately sending along the next work order for the crew to complete.
Trimble engineers noted that because the system tracks all the phases of the process so closely, the documentation allows contractors to make sure they’re paid for the actual amount of work they’ve done. And when you add in the fact that it’s already making the job more efficient, most contractors stand to not only save money, but make more of it.