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The road to success with smart technologies

Statistics show that most construction projects incur cost overruns of anywhere from 25 percent to 50 percent. That means that a road project bid at $1 million is likely to cost the contractor and/or his client an additional $250,000 to $550,000.  This is a huge financial oversight, but there is a way to control it – by using smart technology like our solutions, Cat Connect. 


In fact, much of the research we’ve reviewed shows that 60 percent of those cost overruns are controllable. To prove this, we set out on an experiment to build two roads of five kilometers each, one using traditional methods, and another using smart technology.

We caught up with the manager behind the project, to show you first hand exactly how our Cat Connect Technologies made a difference. 


What was the aim of this road build project?

The aim was to prove – beyond a doubt – that embracing these new technologies is worth the investment. It was about seeing where real value could be added financially, but it was also about showing how technology can help solve other challenges, such as site safety and a skill shortage of good equipment operators.


At which stages of the road build did you use smart technology?

We used smart technology and connected machines at almost every stage of the road build.


Design

Before the machines hit the dirt, the new road was 3D digitally designed using UAVs* (drones) and GNSS** survey tools to gather the site data. We then used office software to produce the new road design.

This technology allowed accurate volume estimates to be drawn, which aided in the selection of the appropriate earthmoving fleet.

The 3D design was sent to the connected machines and the Cat Connect technology then came into play, working seamlessly to build the finish product.

This technology provided our project manager visibility to track progress in real time, and make informed data-based decisions to improve production efficiencies and evaluate performance outcomes.

Having this actual production information can also be utilised for assisting in bidding on future projects, and allows you to calculate an improved margin.

 

*UAV:  Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (piloted by remote control or onboard computers).

**GNSS: Global Navigation Satellite System


Earthworks

The bulk earthworks is where we introduced Cat® Payload. This technology meant we could optimise production and reduce wear and tear on our machines.

It allowed us to guarantee that we were loading the right amount of material every time by displaying the weight of the material in the bucket and matching this with the target payload on the hauling fleet.

Tyre damage alone from overloading can be a costly exercise. Even with proper inflation and normal working temperature, a 20 per cent overload can lead to a 50 per cent reduction in tyre life.

The Payload technology meant tyre damage or failure, and accidents such as tip-overs were far less likely and it also eliminated load stress on drivelines and reduced haul road damage.   


Grading

At grading stage, we introduced Cat® Grade. Having the site on a 3D design gave operators visibility of the work to be completed, with a guidance screen available illustrating the 3D site design and cut and fill areas.  

The 3D design eliminated the need for continual grade staking and checking, helping further remove costs and improve job-site safety with less people on site and working near machines.

The extensive range of Cat’s scalable Grade control solutions available on tractors, excavators, motor graders, scrapers and paving equipment were used on the project. Cutting exactly to the finish design allows the project to be completed quicker and with fewer passes therefore saving fuel, time, and running costs.

With Cat Grade technology, there was never a need for our operators to guess, or get out of the cab to manually check accuracy. It improved the grading processes’ speed and accuracy and our operators felt safer, more informed, focussed, and less fatigued.


Paving

During the paving process, we introduced Cat® Compact. This technology has integrated GPS-mapping which creates a comprehensive and detailed compaction map of the entire job site.

With this, we were able to meet compaction specifications faster, increase temperature accuracy, and prevent over compaction by sharing the data between multiple machines in real time.

Operators had better visibility, while better reporting for compaction specification testing gave the project manager and us a clear understanding of the material qualities.


Project management

A key element to the project was the data available at hand from Cat Link technology - Product Link telematics hardware and the easy to use web/mobile interface, VisionLinkTM.

All of the data from the different machines was available to project managers in real time – at a touch of button – with one login. It was really simple and easy to use.

While the road was being constructed, data was steaming back to VisionLink to track progress versus design, and to assist the project manager to monitor their productivity and job-site efficiency.

There were general benefits too which were apparent throughout the build such as the ability to monitor the location of our equipment, how the fleet was performing (including start stop times, idle time, payload, & cycle time and as built grade and compaction data as well as monitoring machine health and operator performance etc), and the safety and productivity of our operators. 

This data was feed into our project scheduling tools for tracking delivery schedules, fuel use, and invoicing and for automatically keep track of hours worked and material moved.   


So, what were the results?

It was hugely successful. By using smart technologies,

  • we saved 68 project days
  • there was a reduction of 34% in equipment hours used,
  • 37% reduction in fuel consumption.

And that’s just for starters. You can see the full results of our test road build in the video below:

Although this new technology can be daunting as it is such a big move away from traditional methods, it’s clearly the future of construction. We firmly believe that with this latest technology, we can earthmoving from an art into a science. 

If you’d like to find out more about integrating Cat Connect Technology into your fleet contact us.

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