By Peter Gibbons, Regional Technology Manager at Finning Canada
Technology is reinventing the construction industry.
It’s taking operations to the next level, using data as a foundation to connect teams and projects and making for better informed business decisions.
While telematics are not new, the aggregation of data to collect information, monitor productivity in real-time and optimize fleet operations is changing the way construction companies address the work.
We know that increased accuracy and efficiency is gained by the use of technology on the jobsite.
Companies who are successfully connecting all functions of a project from bidding to surveying, remote monitoring, location tracking and maintenance are finding themselves with a competitive advantage.
And as the equipment itself becomes smarter, safer and faster, real-time project management is becoming critical to improving operations, streamlining projects and keeping costs down while helping companies make the strategic business decisions necessary to stay on top of their game.
Tracking and productivity
New technological developments offer a huge benefit to every aspect of a job, from gathering data and inputting information into software programs, to the design and build of the project.
Using drones to fly the site is now a standard means of capturing images that are tied to ground control points and GPS coordinates. This 3D technology gives a detailed and accurate view of terrain for operators and the on-board connectivity allows information to be shared in real-time on the amount of material moved and progress made on the project.
With thousands of moving parts at any given time during a project, no matter how organized a site manager may be, keeping track of every piece of equipment is a challenge.
Using real-time data and sophisticated GPS technology can identify the health and location of construction equipment and deliver the information to the right person at the right time.
Alerts are sent to site managers when a machine is turned on, moved during non-operating hours or if the vehicle exceeds the permissible speed. Satellite data can also pinpoint locations and access grade, providing efficient measurements, greater safety and an almost immediate ROI.
New advancements in GPS technology are being implemented to improve efficiency and safety on construction sites.
What was once done manually can now be done using sensors and real-time information. Geofencing allows signals from a device to pinpoint a location and draw a digital boundary around an area.
It can also be used to control speed on sites where people are working in close proximity to equipment or on larger sites where equipment is widespread.
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For safety reasons, construction sites require a posted speed limit, which all operators must adhere to. Creating zones with GPS tracking allows companies to set specific speed boundaries and site managers are immediately notified if operators are not adhering to the set speed.
Another benefit of geofencing is its ability to draw barriers around designated areas which may be dangerous for machine operation, for example spaces with live overhead wires or gas lines. It can also help differentiate zones to ensure machines are operating safely, especially in areas with minimal signage.
Increased competition and tighter budgets leaves little room for error. Any mistakes or miscalculations can cost a company time and money.
Some machines are now coming factory-direct with new onboard measurement technologies like grade control and machine control that are helping operators gain greater accuracy almost eliminating the need for rework. Operators can also track load weights in real-time on an in-cab monitor to understand precisely how much material is in the bucket or truck. The system uses data from a series of onboard sensors to calculate payload weight, providing instant feedback to operators and when combined with equipment monitoring solutions, it can track operations, increasing productivity by giving operators the confidence to work faster and more efficiently.
Technology combined with stricter protocols and guidelines are being used to monitor jobsites and manage distractions to help keep workers safe. It is also helping to identify potential training opportunities and improve operator performance. Site managers can see and compare productivity data from day to day, such as how long machines are idling for or identifying potentially dangerous misuse of equipment including machine overloading and speeding.
Machines are now coming equipped with smart cameras, designed to identify signs of fatigue, detect hazards and improve awareness and safety on site. In-cab fatigue technology works by monitoring eye-closure duration and head poses, sending immediate alarms to notify operators and site-managers when something is detected. The use of Smart Bands is also becoming more common. A device that tracks employee sleep by syncing to a software program can help model and predict upcoming fatigue risks at the start of a shift, ensuring site managers are aware of individuals who may be operating machines on insufficient sleep.
Object detection cameras also come factory direct on some equipment providing operators with a view of what’s happening around the machine.
Semi-autonomous machines are being used to eliminate some of the risks involved in operating equipment, and as the labour force changes the technology will also continue to evolve.
From digging pipelines to trenches, basements and underground utilities, even an operator with limited experience and training can step into a semi-autonomous machine.
There is a lot of talk about the future of construction and where the industry is headed. Advancements in GPS, telematics and automation have resulted in projects being built safer, faster and more efficiently, for less cost and with less risk involved. These technologies are fast becoming standard and will only continue to evolve.