Change Makers: Aurstad leaps into the digital age of construction

Our Change Makers Blog Series continues with a look at how Aurstad is shaping smart change. The company is leaping into the digital age of construction using innovative machine control tactics. By doing so, Aurstad has reduced costs while increasing efficiencies and safety — even at its very challenging Bergen, Norway, tunnel project.

Edvin Dale from Aurstad’s geomatics department recently joined Hexagon at HxGN LIVE 2018 to discuss the smart changes evolving the heavy construction industry. Construction is under constant pressure to become more efficient, and many firms are finding gains, cost savings and increased safety through machine control. For the construction industry, that means using technology to make heavy-duty equipment like graders and dozers perform with greater accuracy and precision, making fewer passes at higher speeds.

Leica Geosystems total stations are in every one of Aurstad’s machines in five disciplines, and the company is now putting machine control to the test underground in a massive tunnel project in Norway. Using Leica Geosystems’ total-station-based navigation system and machine control, Aurstad reduced human errors on the job site.

“With Leica Geosystems’ machine control, we are more efficient,” Dale explained. “The operators no longer have to rely on eyesight between batter boards, stakeouts and markings. The markings are now on the screen inside the machine at all times.”

As Dale described it, Aurstad realises better profit margins when employees are working with real-time data.

“Our graders are great examples of efficient data capture,” Dale went on to say. “Since they are automatic, there are no operator errors, and they are close to perfect the very first time.”

Previously, graders would finish and sometimes go backwards another time with the same data. Now, it’s almost always finished on the first pass, so there’s no need for rework.

Without machine control, Dale explained how his teams had to manually stake the jobs out as a surveyor would. This was a problem, he said. “We’d have to go down to the site and check again, again and again before the machines could move forward.”

Before digitalisation brought change, operators had to go back and repeat the process if not done perfectly. Now, machine control provides a tremendous amount of accuracy on the first pass. When surveying, they simply go back and document that it’s perfect, or at least within tolerances.

“It’s much easier when it’s done right the first time,” Dale commented.

Training employees on Leica Geosystems total stations has its own set of special circumstances in the tunnel project. “They are not connected to the outer world and have no way to call for assistance,” Dale said. “There’s no cellular. They have a radio link but that’s all. So most have to learn the system on the job.” Often the operators will write down the steps before going to work in the tunnel, and once they have used the machines a few times, they become proficient.

Despite the challenges, “Training is fairly simple, and most operators are able use total stations effectively by the third or fourth time,” Dale said.

When asked about the benefits gained by using the Leica Geosystems machines, Dale said that the most significant is that they’ve been able to unite most of the MCP80 panels that can be used on all machine solutions. As a result, the software and commands for various types of equipment are very similar and don’t require extra training.

“The Leica Geosystems excavator system, or machine control system, is very intuitive, so the operators can get full production without many mistakes,” Dale explained. “Working with machine control throughout the entire fleet is now extremely efficient, and we are able to get within the tolerances efficiently and with the quality needed for customer expectations.”

“We tried other products especially for our excavators, but Leica Geosystems’ software was more intuitive and easier to understand for the operators compared to other systems,” Dale added. He also found that the other products were difficult to read and more complicated to operate. “In 2012,” Dale said, “I walked all the other vendors out.” Aurstad has used Leica Geosystems since.

As we continue our Change Makers Blog Series, we’ll examine other industries undergoing dramatic changes as the result of technology — and the people willing to lead the charge.