As professionals across industries are certain to agree, having the right tools for any job makes completing it a lot faster and more efficient. Could you use the butt of a screwdriver to hammer in a nail? Sure, but the job is accomplished more easily with a hammer.
In the field of earthmoving, there have long been two main components: the equipment used to displace earth and grade surfaces appropriately, and the skilled laborers handling the machinery and utilizing a painstaking system of stakes and lasers as guides. These days, however, technology has added another element to the process: GPS, or global positioning system.
Most people are by now well aware of how GPS navigation makes road trips and finding local businesses easier, but how is it being used in the construction industry, and particularly in regards to GPS in excavation and earthmoving? Here’s what you need to know.
The History of GPS in Construction
It wasn’t that long ago that the only way to grade an outdoor surface was with a bit of guess and check. In order to achieve the precision required for graded surfaces, a job might not only require several workers coordinating their efforts, but also several passes with machinery before the proper grade was attained. GPS changed the way we approach construction.
Incredibly, the use of GPS in earthmoving actually predates the ready availability of the GPS navigation systems the average person is probably more familiar with. In the late 1990s, companies manufacturing heavy equipment for the construction industry began collaborating with manufacturers of early GPS guidance systems to create a more accurate and efficient means of moving earth and grading surfaces.
Despite a few pervasive issues, like connectivity problems and wear and tear on equipment, both of which simply require users to have spare parts handy, the use of GPS in heavy machinery took off, with the inclusion of GPS guidance systems quickly becoming a factory option, as well as an aftermarket retrofit. Trimble and Topcon emerged as the two main providers of heavy equipment GPS guidance systems, with Trimble eventually teaming with Caterpillar in 2002 to form Caterpillar Trimble Controls Technology LLC. Later, John Deere joined the fray with attachment ready options (AROs) to rival Caterpillar Trimble.
Today, GPS guidance systems for heavy equipment have become a popular (albeit still potentially pricy) upgrade that allows construction companies to vastly improve the efficiency of operations. Those who utilize this technology tend to enjoy several benefits over traditional earthmoving procedures.
Types of GPS Guidance Systems for Heavy Equipment
There are two main types of GPS guidance systems in use for heavy equipment: indicate only and fully automatic. The difference has to do with the level of operator involvement. An “indicate only” system helps to guide the worker controlling heavy equipment. With this type of GPS guidance, the operator generally has data relating to planned excavation, as well as real-time positioning, which allows him/her to operate equipment precisely, often within a couple of centimeters, to move earth as detailed in job site plans.
A “fully automatic” system, on the other hand, actually allows the operator to turn over control of heavy machinery to the GPS system, which then excavates a site according to plan input. This type of system is naturally more complex and more expensive, but it does free up machine operators to attend to other tasks, drastically increasing efficiency and job site performance.
Uses & Benefits of GPS in Construction
GPS guidance systems are invaluable in the construction industry because they allow workers to perform their tasks with greater ease. Instead of spending time utilizing stakes and lasers to guide machinery, doing pass after pass to get it right, workers can simply input plan specs and get to work, following digital guidance to get the job done right the first time. Alternately, they could set a fully automatic system and put it to work, knowing that it will dig to precisely the right depth and grade a surface to spec.
The use of GPS in excavation has revolutionized the construction industry, allowing businesses to spend a little up front and see a huge return over time. Increased efficiency ensures every job goes faster, with less worker time and effort required. This, in turn, allows businesses to take on more jobs within a given time frame and with the same number of workers, increasing productivity and profit along the way.
At Ron Meyer & Associate Excavating, Inc, we’ve been providing underground and commercial construction to private and commercial businesses for 39 years. As the general contractor or subcontractor, our experienced foremen, equipment operators, pipe layers, truck drivers and well-maintained equipment fleet make us an undeniable choice for your excavating services. Let’s talk about your project!