Collins Earthworks: A 3D Journey

When we last visited Dave Collins, MD of Collins Earthworks, in 2016, the business was working on a huge Amazon warehouse site and had just fitted an excavator with the brand new Trimble 3D machine control system.   


Rolling forward to 2018 and the 3D journey for Collins Earthworks has just hit another technological milestone, being the first business in the UK to fit the Trimble Earthworks system for Dozers, to a brand new Cat® D6N. As we discovered when we met Dave and his Technical Director, Adam Procter, on one of its latest sites in Hemel Hempstead, there are a number of differences with the new system, that have already been a hit with young operator Braydon Bramwell.

Talking about his continued technology journey, Dave said: “You only have to look around this site to see how different it is when you are using 3D machine control. There is not one stake in the ground, but there are numerous 3D machines working away across the site and we know exactly what they are up to.

“This makes a big difference in the way we are able to service our customers and how we share the commercial benefits of technology with them. Everything is in 3D, from our surveyors using the technology, to our engineers designing the scheme and of course the machines doing the work. 

“The information we are now able to give our customers is invaluable to them, as they know exactly what has been done to the site and that all of the work has been carried out. Having also used the technology now for some time, we have been able to bring through more skilled operators. This is reflected in the fact that Braydon who is working with the new dozer, has only been with us for a year and a half, but has fully embraced the technology.”

With veteran machine control user Jason Snaith, also joined us on the day to test out the system for the first time. It was great to see Braydon showing Jason the ropes, whilst Jason shared his hints and tips. 

For Technical Director, Adam Procter, the move to Earthworks is all about keeping up with the latest technology and the benefits it brings. “Machine control is not a new thing to us at Collins, as we have been using it for a long time now. But as we have learnt over the years, it is all about connectivity and how we take advantage of a 360 degree approach to the technology. 

“So this is why we have surveyors using Trimble equipment, engineers designing with the Trimble Business Centre software and why we take full advantage of Trimble Connected Community, to share data back and forth from machines to our teams”. 

“What this gives us is valuable real-time knowledge, enabling us to act much quicker to any changes in design or sequence of works.  We can also manage a site remotely and if we need to, call upon resources from other sites or engineers”.  

“When we looked at Earthworks from a technical point of view, I was also conscious of any changes required to component parts, as we operate quite a number of machines and have purchased a considerable amount of equipment through the years. So I was pleased to see that Earthworks has been designed to be compatible with existing Trimble equipment, as this allows us to move receivers and radios from one machine to another”. 

“Such a decision to invest in new technology is always made easier when SITECH and Trimble are involved. Not only is there the piece of mind of good durability, service and support, but there’s the knowledge of continual product development behind the scenes. Recommendations from users are listened to and acted upon regularly”.   

“We also have a commercial benefit when it comes to purchasing new receivers, as Earthworks for dozers utilises the smaller excavator receivers now the masts have been removed. There’s the added bonus of less cables to maintain and no mast to service.  Having now tested the system onsite, we are pleased with the results and have opted to roll out Earthworks to all of our new machine control dozer purchases.” 

First impressions 

Jason “The tablet is a big change, as its large colour touch screen is much easier to see and navigate, especially if you haven’t used the technology before, as most people have a tablet or phone nowadays. 

“With this particular unit normally operating with a single central mast, having the benefit of the two cab mounted receivers, I found myself having to do far less subtle adjustments, which I think you would physically appreciate after a long shift..  

“As an operator, I can definitely appreciate the changes, especially with the receivers, as it is not easy to climb up on the blade at the start and end of each day.”  

Earthworks for Dozers at a glance 

The biggest change with the technology is the movement of the masts and GNSS receivers from the blade. They are now mounted either side of the cab, making them easy to remove and reinstall.  The system also has two receivers making it ideal for steep slope work and complex designs with tight tolerances. 

The large in-cab android tablet offers intuitive touch screen control, for highly accurate grading. With the ability to transfer data files automatically, the operator is always using the right design and each individual can personalise their interface.