Machine data can help you stay a step ahead.

construction technology
construction technology

How Construction Technology Is Reshaping Jobsites

There’s a major shift underway across the construction industry. Along with the usual heavy equipment on a jobsite, you’ll find smart phones, tablets and digital devices of all kinds. More and more, jobsites rely on machine data technologies to get jobs done quickly, efficiently and safely. What can these technologies do for you? Let’s take a look.

The Basics of Technology Adoption

Digital technology is everywhere. You can automate cook times in your microwave by pushing a button marked “Popcorn.” You can talk to your phone and get answers to “What time does the store close?” and “How do I get there?” You can pop a tracking device in your luggage and find it when it ends up in another city.

These kinds of basic monitoring and tracking capabilities kicked off the technology revolution in construction, and led to the creation of the first connected jobsites. Being able to find out what machines are on which jobsites was a key initial selling point. And like today’s “Find My Phone” feature, construction technology helps operators get back to work fast.

As tracking technologies have evolved, they’ve become more and more accurate and useful. Now, it’s easy to see exactly where an asset is and where it’s been over a period of time.

Site managers can quickly see what equipment is working and which assets are sitting idle. With accurate tracking information, they can quickly reallocate assets between tasks and jobsites, helping to minimize idle time and optimize utilization.

Putting Guidance and Automation To Work

Those basic tracking technologies are essential to today’s advanced guidance and automation capabilities.

In operations like grading and compaction, where machines need to cover large areas with a high degree of precision, guidance-based automation works to ensure complete coverage. It also assists operators by showing what ground they’ve covered and what’s left to do.

Guidance technology also plays a role in automating machine tasks. Grade control technologies, for example, can automatically control dozer blade movements. Precisely regulating how deep the blade cuts helps the operator achieve a more accurate final grade in fewer passes. Plus, it reduces the need for rework and extra material.

Grade control can automate things like excavator digging cycles to automatically produce a flat bottom on a trench or basement. For inexperienced operators, this type of “smart machine” automation dramatically shortens training times, helping them get up to speed quickly. And it is now advanced enough to help even highly-skilled operators work more efficiently.

Machine Data Is the Key

The “digital revolution” in construction technology really took off with the advent of machine-generated data. Modern equipment is outfitted with sensors that measure a wide range of machine parameters. This data is then transmitted off the machine, aggregated and analyzed using a powerful software system.

Once in the system, machine data provides all kinds of useful information, ranging from individual machine health to whole-fleet efficiency and productivity.

One of the earliest selling points of machine data technology was the ability to accurately monitor fuel burn.

Where fuel usage was once logged manually, which is prone to omission and human error, machine data provides a more reliable read on how much fuel a machine actually uses over a specified period of time. Fuel data can then be tracked by task.

It lets managers see, for example, how much a dozer uses when fine grading or how much an excavator uses each hour as it loads trucks with a given type of material. Timely information like this eliminates guesswork. Then, when it comes time to bid a similar job, managers can estimate total fuel burn for each task much more accurately, enabling a tighter, more competitive bid.



“If you’re in an area
where your competition
has been slow to get on board
with digital technologies,
you have the opportunity
to be a leader.”


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From 30,000-foot Views to Specific Details

As data analysis has progressed, it has vastly improved visibility into jobsite operations. From the convenience of a computer or mobile device, managers can get a high-level overview of fleet allocation, productivity and efficiency. Then, they can zoom into a group of machines or even look at the performance of a single machine or an individual operator.

Managers now have the ability to quickly spot production bottle necks, redistribute assets as needed and manage equipment more efficiently. They can measure material moved per hour or day, monitor truck payloads for under- or overloading, track grading progress and much more. And they can use this timely information to make well-informed decisions about jobsite operations.

Catching Small Issues Early Saves Big

Machine data takes the guesswork out of maintenance management, as well. As machines rack up hours on the job, they generate alerts that let maintenance teams know when routine service is due. Nothing extends working life while minimizing owning and operating costs like keeping up with scheduled maintenance.

Plus, by applying a process known as predictive analysis, today’s construction technologies can identify when a piece of equipment is having an internal problem, often long before the operator notices. Studies suggest that a machine will suffer a 10-15% loss of productivity and efficiency before the operator feels the difference.

When a problem crops up, remote troubleshooting lets repair technicians know what to expect when they head out to a machine. Diagnostic data can help them bring the right tools and supplies the first time. Fewer trips mean lower costs and less wasted effort.

Detecting small problems early also gives managers time to plan for and schedule preventive maintenance. Finding a good time in the production schedule to fix a developing issue avoids unexpected shut downs. A machine that breaks down out on the jobsite can throw a costly, disruptive wrench into any operation.

Safety Gets a Big Boost

Data technologies are playing a major role in enhancing jobsite safety, as well — one of the top concerns in the industry. From something as simple as seat belt usage monitoring to complex personnel detection and collision avoidance systems, digital technologies are helping to make jobsites safer every day.

One of the ways they enhance safety is by keeping some personnel off of the site altogether. Grade control systems reduce the need for surveyors and stakers on the ground. The fewer people who have to working around heavy equipment, the lower the risk of lost-time accidents.

And with the advent of remotely-controlled equipment systems, it’s now possible to get machine operators themselves out of the cab and away from the work area.

Portable line-of-sight remote control systems let operators operate a machine under an unstable wall, on a steep slope or through hazardous materials while maintaining a safe distance. They’re also not subject to the dust, noise, vibration and shocks inherent to working inside the cab.

Non-line-of-sight systems take that idea even further. Operators can be located onsite or off, even halfway around the world. Working from a comfortable operation station in an indoor, office-like environment, they have complete set of realistic-feeling controls at their fingertips. Video monitors provide camera views all around the machine.

As remote operation becomes more available and accepted, it stands to completely reshape the jobsites. It also has the potential to attract new employees to equipment operation and the construction industry — people who previously couldn’t or wouldn’t want to work on a traditional jobsite.




Build Your Connected Jobsite

Take a closer look at Cat Technology products and services. From basic asset tracking to sitewide operations management, you’ll have the construction technologies you need to build your success.


Start Small but Start Now

Although digital construction technologies have been around for years (and decades in some cases), their acceptance and usage varies widely across the industry. If you’re in an area where your competition has been slow to get on board, you have the opportunity to be a leader.

Put them to work and you'll immediately see the incredible benefits of getting accurate information to the right people at the right time. These technologies empower people to quickly make well-informed decisions that will improve efficiencies and enhance jobsite safety.

As we’ve seen, simply tracking fuel burn will help you submit tighter, more accurate bids. That can win you more work and help you boost those ever-shrinking profit margins.

The time to start applying digital data technologies to your fleet and your jobsites is “the sooner the better.” It's easy to get started because almost every new machine is equipped with telematics capabilities. Most that are not can be retrofitted at least to some degree. Your equipment OEM can help you get the ball rolling.

No matter where you are in your “technology journey,” your dealer can help you put machine- and site-generated data to work in ways that will help you improve your margins, make your life easier...and help you stay a step ahead.

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