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Operators can download the job files into a 3D guidance machine control product to facilitate precise positioning, depth and angle of grade, and more. The additional 3D information eliminates the need to wait for surveyors to mark the site, another cost saving for contractors.


Subcontractors and contractors face tighter cost controls and increasing supply chain pressures and seek to get the most out of their technology. Delays and cost overruns pose significant challenges to construction projects, with industry in the United States severely impacted by supply chain issues, rising labor costs and lack of systems user-friendly technologies capable of optimizing efficiency. Additionally, the need to digitally manage construction drawings and documentation for quality control is growing rapidly.

What is 3D Machine Control?

Regardless of a machine operator’s experience, 3D machine control helps the machine operator be more precise in the field. 3D machine control helps the machine operator to optimize and refine the job while making it easier and faster. In addition, it minimizes the risk of errors, thus negating the consequences of a restart or the cost of a recovery.

With 3D machine control, fewer people are needed at the operating site, as the use of a surveyor is not required as it is already integrated into the system. Investigators can instead work on other assignments to optimize time spent in the field, reducing costs and making them a good long-term investment.

Other benefits include a safer workplace environment. Workplace hazards can occur when there are slippery surfaces. These instances will be reduced because the machine operator can spend more time in the excavator or wheel loader and use the tablet to observe where work needs to be done. The work of the machine operator is solved faster, which also reduces wear and tear on the machine.

Is digitalization the future?

Molio, a non-profit construction knowledge center, produced a report in 2020 on the digitization of the construction industry. It is shown that almost two-thirds of companies in the construction sector believe that digitization has more potential and a lot to gain from it. As technology advances, the construction industry also reaps the benefits of technological advancements. Now it is already an important part of a company’s planning, production and project management.

Businesses expect the problem facing digitization to be the challenge of understanding the new technology. Even though 3D machine control has been used for many years, its demand has become more popular in recent years, which may limit a machine operator’s knowledge of 3D machine control. However, things could start to change within a few years. Business customers are beginning to demand digital processes and solutions. It is shown that 82% of customers strongly agree with having digital solutions to public construction, while 17% agree and only 1% strongly disagree. This is a huge increase from 2018, and therefore shows that customers have higher demands on digitization and that we are heading into a digital age.

The report further shows that there is a strong correlation between the digitization of a business and its efficiency and productivity.

A study conducted by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) in cooperation with the Federal Highway Administration in 2018 (Use of Automated Machine Guidance within the Transportation Industry, 2018) showed that contractors reported increased productivity 10-25% and a 10-25% cost reduction through the use of machine control.

The barrier that prevents digitization lies in the corporate culture of the organization. 3D machine control and digitization are continuously explored in the construction industry, which could be the reason for the barrier. Another obstacle is the investment required to digitize it. The report shows that small businesses with few employees often use it the least, while medium-sized businesses use it the most.

Finally, the report shows that the biggest flaws in scanning are related to higher quality and fewer errors. This makes processes faster and more efficient and creates a better relationship with customers and suppliers.

Simplified scanning benefits both operator and machine owner

Examples of 3D machine control include Unicontrol, Trimble Heavy Industry Machine Control products, and Leica Geosystems solutions. Unicontrol claims that its product is less complicated than it looks. The goal of 3D GPS machine control is to make it simple to use, without taking days or even months to learn.

“We are focused on making the technology easy to use and easy to use,” said Rich Hilliker, Unicontrol General Manager, North America. “Our goal is to train operators in 30 minutes or less on basic functionality, which is a milestone for the industry. »

Unicontrol’s solution is a combination of quality sensors and GPS antennas that allow users to see where the machine is located. Efficient and correct use of the product should optimize coordination with excavators and wheel loaders, without the need to take the project home, as it resides in the company’s cloud storage, which is an additional component of the whole product. The cloud storage element provides access to all data for a specific construction project.

According to Molio, one of the challenges was also the investment needed to digitize.

“There has been 3D guidance for high-end construction companies, but not much for smaller equipment,” said Hilliker.

“Small and medium-sized contractors have not been supported as much due to 1) cost and 2) their application being too complex,” Hilliker continues. “Setting up the global work is difficult. So we tried to make the price affordable for all entrepreneurs and businesses.”

Nina Popovivs is the Director of Sales and Marketing at Unicontrol.