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Goodbye Laser, Hello 3D

It is often a difficult decision to move on from a long-term successful relationship, but as Paul Smith, of construction and waste management business Smith’s (Gloucester) Ltd explained when Finning News met him at his Gloucester Head Office, sometimes it is important for your own survival to move on.

Paul was referring to the businesses long term 20 year relationship with laser guided machine technology, which he has just brought to an abrupt end with a fleet of new Trimble ® 3D machine controlled Cat equipment. With competitors already using the technology, Paul explained how and why the business made one of its biggest changes for decades.

Paul: “Staying competitive is everything in this industry, so when you find yourself competing with a legacy system that is much more costly, in comparison to the latest state-of-the-art 3D technology used by others, you simply can’t win the work.

“But equally, before you try and make the changes you need, you have to ensure you have the most important part right and that is the people to manage what is a major cultural and commercial decision. This is why we involved operators, managers and engineers in the specification of the Trimble and Caterpillar led solution we chose to go with. By hand picking our most experienced and technology savvy operators, we were able to take the team to a demonstration day at the Caterpillar facility in Desford, where they tried out machines fitted with the Trimble technology. It was this hands on opportunity that really gave us the confidence in both the systems and support we needed to make the change.

So as part of the deal, we worked closely with SITECH ® in particular to arrange a company wide tailored training programme, incorporating operators, engineers, surveyors, managers and the leaders of the business.

For example, with our engineers and surveyors, we were able to learn how to produce 3D models from customer data. This included being able to see how the Trimble Surface Tools module could be used to look at cut/fill analysis and calculate volumes.

The second part of the training involved using the Data Prep module, converting 2D drawings to 3D models ready for use on the machines. Here we were shown how to combine the calculations and models produced and how to export the data. Having all of this information, our team then got to use a GCS900 simulator, which the data was imported into to verify their models were correct. This simply showed the team how each phase worked and gave them practical experience.

“By introducing everyone at the same time to Trimble Business Centre and the Trimble Connected Community, everyone was able to understand the roles of each individual and the impact they would have to the success of the transition. At the same time, SITECH engineers came to site to fit the machine sensors and communications equipment to the Cat units, so we could practically see how each machine would operate.

“We are now a couple of months into the change over and thanks to the purchase of some high end gaming laptops, our engineers are able to operate either at head office or onsite, using Trimble Business Centre. They feed information into a modular base station and send and receive data from a rover and connected equipment onsite, using Trimble Connected Community.

In total two Cat D5K2 dozers, a D6N dozer and three excavators have been fitted with Trimble ready kits, all using the GNSS GCS900 machine control system. Thanks to our operators that have really embraced the technology, we are now much more competitive. So even though it was a big decision to end our relationship with laser, we haven’t looked back and I can already see further investments like 3D real time data through Trimble Vision Link, making a difference in the future.