If you’re in the market for a new car, you may be looking at a lot of options that weren’t available even a couple of years ago—things like adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning systems, blind spot detection and automatic parallel parking. They’re known as Advanced Driver Assistance Systems, and although some view these features as overkill, others expect them to become commonplace very soon.
Some construction equipment manufacturers are applying assistance technology too, introducing automated grading systems that don’t require a full-blown investment in GPS infrastructure. These systems not only provide visual guidance for the operator—an in-cab image showing where to cut and fill—they also control blade or bucket movement, freeing the operator to focus on other tasks.
Some new dozers use assistance technology to control blade angle. The operator simply sets the angle on the monitor in the cab, then lets the system maintain that angle while the machine moves over the ground. The operator still controls the height of the blade manually, but is no longer required to make constant adjustments to its angle. The result is faster, more efficient grading with less fatigue, rework and fuel.
Assistance technology is also being used on excavators to automate selected boom and bucket functions. The operator enters a target depth on the monitor, selects “auto” and starts working. When the bucket gets within a few inches of target depth, the assist technology takes over, automatically adjusting boom movement and bucket roll to maintain a constant bucket angle through the dig. Again, the result is quick, accurate, cost-effective grading.
Our customers tell us that assistance technologies make virtually all operators, regardless of their skill level, better at their jobs. An individual using Cat® Grade with Assist, for example, can hit target grade about 45% faster than someone who doesn’t have the technology and 30% faster than someone who’s using a guidance-only system. There’s far less over-digging, and the final finish is smoother and neater. Plus, learning to use this 2D system is simple, and you can upgrade to 3D technology when it’s time. And because the operator has assistance, there’s a lot less fatigue over the course of a shift.
Every site is different, but think about the cost savings that are generated when work gets done 45% faster: fuel, labor, machine hours, rework, bedding materials, grade stakes, grade checkers and more. It adds up fast. We’ve seen contractors recoup their investment in Cat GRADE with Assist with one big job. Many others receive a full payback within one year.
There are good reasons to consider an investment in assistance technology. In the right application, it’s an easy way to improve productivity, control costs and address the skilled labor shortage without a huge capital outlay for 3D infrastructure. Talk to your Cat dealer to find out if this technology is a good fit for your business.