Grading is a process that has to be done on all construction sites for new structures. The ground must be flattened to specifications and cleared of any potential construction hazards. There are many ways to accomplish this, and machine control systems assist the grading.
The market is set to grow and evolve too. The machine-control system market is set to be valued at $8.16 billion by 2022, rising at a CAGR (compound annual growth rate) of 13.9% between 2016 and 2022. The growth of this market is propelled by the rising demand for precision and the enhanced productivity and optimized operations in the construction, transportation, and agriculture industries.
Total stations, the comprehensive solution for grading, is expected to hold the largest share of the machine control system market in 2022. It provides 3D visualization of the grading sites with the help of hydraulics mounted with GNSS (global navigation satellite system) or GPS (global positioning systems). The handling of total stations is easier than other devices such as laser scanners. Total stations can simultaneously do the job of graders, laser scanners, and scrapers. The adoption of total stations is expected to increase during the forecast period.
Excavators accounted for the largest share of the market in 2015. Excavators can perform the task of loaders and dozers by loading materials on other hauling trucks. Graders ensure the level or elevation of the jobsite by fine grading using machine-control systems. The precision and flexibility offered by graders in machine-control systems will help this market grow at the highest rate between 2016 and 2022.
The Need for Machine Control
In construction, existing challenges and opportunities are causing the need for new technology and practices to enable a smoother job.
For instance, Scott Crozier, director of marketing and product management for Trimble’s Civil Engineering and Construction Division, says machine control is transforming the way work is performed on construction jobsites. Contractors finish jobs faster with less rework, lower costs, and increased safety.
At the same time, machine-control technology continues to evolve, as users and manufacturers want to make intelligent construction technology more user-friendly and similar to today’s electronic devices. Contractors want machine guidance and GNSS solutions that are simpler, faster, and easier to use, Crozier states.
And the benefits of the technology are apparent across the construction industry. Kris Maas, director of product management for machine control, Topcon Positioning Systems, adds that getting to grade more quickly with less set up time improves productivity on the jobsite, resulting in faster completion times and increased profitability for contractors.
Even though there are an abundant amount of benefits to the new technology for grade control, obstacles do occur when taking on fresh practices.
The challenge, Crozier explains, is some machine operators are still uncomfortable about using machine control or other on-site technologies, due to previous job habits. Operators often are the biggest champions for the technology after they’ve used it and see for themselves how much faster, accurate, and efficient it makes their job.
“Adoption of technology in general means a change to a contractor’s conventional workflows. Many are reluctant to make those changes, but as soon as they do it’s easy to see the benefits,” Crozier states. Many experts in the construction industry agree that changing the businesses processes is one of the hurdles to adopting new construction technology, but that the same time the benefits often outweigh the costs. Maas says, “The challenges, as with most innovations, have mostly to do with adoption; the advanced productivity means undeniable higher profits for their businesses.”
The technology being introduced in this sector will be beneficial on multiple levels to contractors on the construction jobsite.
Crozier says machine control is changing the way construction companies operate. Now, operators work faster, smarter, and better with machine control. Grade control helps operators of both large and small excavators reach the desired depth and slope efficiently and with extreme accuracy. For dynamic compaction, asphalt compaction and soil compaction machine control increases productivity, quality, and accuracy.
The systems continue to advances, as well. Maas says that new technology systems for dozers are faster and more responsive than anything the industry has seen before. Unique and integrated design eliminates the need for expensive components on the blade and removes the need for expensive components to be installed and removed constantly.
The system also allows operators to work confidently in rough or fine grade applications, slope conditions, and in restricted sight environments without the visual obstruction.
The technology being developed for the jobsite can also help develop the contractor’s skills. Crozier says the solutions for motor graders, scrapers, wheel loaders, and compact machines all demonstrate the increasing demand for and proliferation of positioning technology on construction jobsites. In nearly all cases, machine control eliminated guesswork and makes it easier for less skilled operators to perform precision work, freeing up more experienced operators for more complex jobs.
Even though there are costs associated with upgrading the technology for grading, the return on investment is almost immediate. “Although every machine is different, we estimate that companies will see time and cost savings in the 20-50% range with machine control, with the technology often paying for itself on the first project,” Crozier says.
Contractors need to take notice that the future of grading and machine control systems is now. Crozier says that contractors need to know that we are seeing an uptick in the adoption of machine control technology among both large and small contractors. We are also seeing more job bids require the use of various types of technology to ensure accuracy. The industry will continue to see increased adoption of technology across the board, and those who aren’t looking at technology as a way to remain competitive will be left behind.
Site prep and grading on the jobsite is laying a foundation and a base for the rest of the project. The technological advancements being made will ensure a base for construction technology for the future.