Tag Archive for 'improving productivity'

Precision Pays

How Green Oasis Irrigation is Mini-Trenching Its Way to Success

Every day we benefit greatly from the precision achieved when professionals use tools designed specifically for their jobs. Surgery, for instance, would be far more risky and leave less than ideal results if surgeons did not have some of the sharpest scalpels in the world that allow them to work with extreme precision. Installing landscape irrigation lines is a similar endeavor, albeit less life threatening. When it’s done with the best tools around it can deliver extremely precise and high-quality results, saving customers and contractors from headaches and labor costs. 

Operators walk behind the Kwik-Trench while pushing forward. This is not only easier than larger trenchers that operate by pulling the unit backward, but also safer.

Bill Waltz is no surgeon, but he and his crew at Green Oasis Irrigation in Tomball, Texas, know firsthand that using the right tools for the job can have a huge impact on success. Waltz owns Green Oasis, and he and his crew install and service sprinkler systems in southeast Texas. The task involves digging trenches as narrow as 1 inch, as deep as 8 inches and, in some cases, hundreds of feet long for placing irrigation lines. When Waltz first started the business, it wasn’t always as easy as it sounds. 

“One of my good friends and I were looking to keep ourselves busy one summer while we were home from college. When I saw a few guys installing a sprinkler system at the house across the street, I knew that was the ticket to passing time while earning some money,” Waltz said. 

After some research and trips to the hardware store for supplies, Waltz and his partner were in business and ready for their first project – installing irrigation lines at Waltz’s childhood home where his parents still reside. After that first successful install, he and his partner hit the pavement, posting fliers to drum up business. Their efforts proved successful, but as the number of projects grew, their faith in their methods diminished. 

“We started out using trenching shovels, which certainly got the job done, but our bodies paid the price,” he said. “They also didn’t leave the type of results we wanted to give our customers.”

Better Trenching Technology

Trenching by hand is not only a laborious process, but time intensive as well. In addition, the process greatly disturbs the soil, so customers had to wait as long as two months before their yards were back to normal. 

The Kwik-Trench deposits soil on one side of the trench, which makes backfilling easy and fast, allowing the area to heal quickly.

“The longer soil and grass is left out of the trench, the more it dries out and the longer it takes for that area to heal once material is put back,” Waltz said. “If that’s our only option, that’s one thing, but we knew there had to be a better way.” 

A visit to the local rental shop proved them right. 

There it was: the 2.5- foot by 5-foot piece of equipment that, at the time, Waltz had no idea would have such a hand in shaping his business. It was a Little Beaver Kwik-Trench mini-trencher – a gas powered machine that slices through soil, leaving trenches as narrow as 1 inch and as deep as 12 inches. 

“Up until then our only power trenching options were large models that would have destroyed lawns. They were overkill for what we needed,” Waltz said. 

He also added that many customers hear the word “trencher” and envision the lawns they work so hard to maintain turning into a dirt-filled warzone.

“That image isn’t too far from reality if you use larger trenchers. We knew we had to have clean, narrow trenches that could minimize cleanup time and deliver better results for our customers. The mini-trencher was our best option.” 

Over the next few years, as the business got off the ground, Green Oasis rented the mini-trencher for nearly every irrigation project. The unit cut trenches as quickly as 30 feet per minute and its carbide tipped blades rotated as fast as 800 rpm, delivering clean and precise results. 

The team of two quickly realized that what started as a way for quick cash on college breaks, had developed into a thriving business opportunity. As soon as they had the funds, they purchased the Kwik-Trench.

The Sharpest Tool in the Shed

And the rest, as they say, is history. That was nearly 28 years ago and since then Waltz’s partner has gone his own way while Green Oasis has grown to 10 installers and two mini-trenchers working year round to service customers. He also continues to get rave reviews.

“The mini-trenchers have really made our business stand out amongst the competition,” Waltz said. “I’ve had customers arrive home and think we hadn’t completed the job because the yard looked undisturbed. Clients have also been pleased with how fast their yards are back to normal.” 

The Kwik-Trench deposits soil on one side of the trench, which makes backfilling easy and fast, allowing the area to heal quickly. The subsequent customer satisfaction helps fill much of Green Oasis’ business, which primarily comes from referrals.

The compact size of the Kwik-Trench allows operators to trench in tight spaces and close to buildings. 

But clients aren’t the only ones pleased with Waltz’s approach to digging trenches. His employees are also happy. 

“I’ve had some of my guys say if they had to dig by hand they wouldn’t be working for me,” Waltz said. “Ergonomics is starting to play a big role in employee satisfaction, and rightfully so, we’re not young forever.”

Operators walk behind the unit while pushing forward, which is not only easier than larger trenchers that operate by pulling the unit backward, but it’s also safer. Green Oasis’ mini-trenchers are also relatively lightweight and easy to maneuver. 

More Productivity Means More Projects

In addition to safety and ergonomics, the units have also boosted profits for Green Oasis. 

With the help of Little Beaver’s Kwik-Trench, crews can turn what would otherwise be a two-day project into a six- to eight

“It’s simple; because we can cut trenches faster, we can complete projects more quickly, which means we can take on more than what can be achieved with hand digging,” Waltz said. 

He noted one of the largest projects his crew has completed with the mini-trenchers included installing irrigation lines on a 3-acre property outside of Tomball. 

“It took us four days to complete the job – one of the longest projects we’ve worked on. But if we had hand dug the trenches it would have taken us almost two weeks,” he said. 

That efficiency continues to pay even on the day-to-day projects, turning what could be two-day projects into six- to eight-hour jobs.  

Not only has efficiency played a role in the company’s success, but having quick and timely parts support has also helped Green Oasis stay on top of profits. 

“We bill per project rather than hourly so if we had to wait for parts to arrive it could really eat into our profits,” Waltz said. Fortunately he has been able to call Little Beaver and get what he needed within a few days. 

“I’m not sure why some contractors still choose to hand dig their trenches, but for us it’s a no-brainer,” Waltz said. 

Having the right tools for the job is smart. Just like the surgeon with his instruments, a contractor with his mini-trencher is poised to operate with extreme precision to deliver fast, high-quality results. And it’s all in the name of saving. Whether it’s rescuing clients from an unsightly yard or saving a contractor time, hassle and labor costs, the right tools pay. 

This feature appeared in the December 2019 issues of the ACP Magazines:

California Builder & Engineer, Construction, Construction Digest, Construction News, Constructioneer, Dixie Contractor, Michigan Contractor & Builder, Midwest Contractor, New England Construction, Pacific Builder & Engineer, Rocky Mountain Construction, Texas Contractor, Western Builder

Workflow Verification Technology

By Jeff Winke

 A Scanning Robotic Total Station Combines Two Functions for Increased Productivity

In the 1950s, Ace Books began publishing Ace Doubles, which were two separate novels combined in a single volume. For example, a reader could read “Secret Agent of Terra” which ends at about the middle of the book. The reader could then close the book; do a head-to-toe flip of the volume; and there would be the cover of the second book, “The Rim of Space.” The reader is happy because they get twice the value– two separate novels for the price of one. The two-novels-in-one book concept clearly provided great value to the avid reader.

That same kind of value proposition can also be seen in a new product for construction workflow verification. Available from Topcon Positioning Systems, Livermore, California, the GTL-1000 is a compact scanner integrated with a fully-featured robotic total station, offering a site manager a dual-function instrument designed to complete a layout and scan on a single set-up. The data can be processed, mapped, and provide construction verification.

“The key benefit that got me most excited by combining layout and laser scanning into one device is placing that device in the right person’s hands,” stated Taylor Cupp, Technologist with M. A. Mortenson Company in Minneapolis, Minnesota. “On our projects, that is the layout professional – now we can empower them to not only do layout, but also capture what is built for quality control. It’s very beneficial because the person that knows how they’ve set up the job in terms of control points and those kinds of things can be the one to do that capture and get it as accurate as possible with one device.”

Topcon describes it as a first in the industry that all workflow components are integrated and provides users with a live, “as built” model of projects, allowing the contractor to identify and rectify any discrepancies. 

“Our field engineering team has expressed interest in a product like the GTL-1000 for many years – a product that allows them to survey and scan within the same workflow and not have to spend time in the office registering scan data,” stated Paulina Acosta, Senior Applied Technology Specialist with Rogers-O’Brien Construction in Dallas, Texas. “Each point cloud is geo-located before you leave the field. This makes them feel confident that the point clouds will be correctly positioned to our 3-D models, without the need for visual alignment or the need to return to the field to acquire more data in order to make the registration work.”

Nick Salmons, Principal Laser Scanning Surveyor at Balfour Beatty Construction in London, United Kingdom, said, “The new Topcon robotic scanning solution will increase productivity on site by accelerating the construction process and identifying design challenges more efficiently than traditional methods.” 

Salmons also said it will benefit the industry as a whole by “reducing cost and program duration, for both clients and contractors alike.”

Ease of Use

The system is designed so the user can initiate a scan with the press of a single button. A full-dome 360-degree scan can be created in a few minutes, according to Ray Kerwin, Topcon Director of Global Product Planning. “More traditional systems and methods take considerably longer,” Kerwin said. “So, depending on the job site conditions, a contractor can get in and out quicker and thus minimizes safety concerns.” 

A benefit Acosta likes: “We liked the ability to take individual as-built points with the GTL-1000 after it completes a full scan. This is helpful when you are trying to ensure that you captured the center point of a sleeve or a structural connection. These points appear in the point cloud after they are processed and eliminate the time spent by our 3-D modelers trying to determine the positioning of specific items in a point cloud.”

The scanner is used in combination with ClearEdge3D Verity, a software tool designed to automate construction verification.

“The seamless integration of the unit and Verity creates a complete package that is perfect for construction verification using 3-D modelling techniques,” Kerwin stated. “The result is a system that offers full-dome scanning which can quickly capture duct work, columns, beams, girders, flaps, penetrations, and structural steel. It helps to improve quality assurance, providing clear visual indication of construction-quality heat maps to minimize the effects of mistakes before they become expensive problems.”

The system is designed to build upon proven prism tracking and accuracy that allows operators to establish points in most construction environments. The product includes on-board MAGNET Collage field software designed to process the data and offer real-time field-to-office connectivity. 

Increased Efficiency

A key productivity benefit of the scanning robotic total station is that the site engineer requires no additional training and does not need to rely on outside scanning services. The new system is designed to take what was previously a rather lengthy, specialty process and compresses all the steps, reducing the overall verification time. The infrastructure group Balfour Beatty originally tested the GTL-1000 in the field. 

“In our use and testing, we have found that the new robotic scanning solution will increase productivity on site by accelerating the construction process and identifying design challenges more efficiently than traditional methods,” Salmons said. “We are delighted to have collaborated with Topcon over the last 12 months to trial this new tool, which will significantly benefit the industry as a whole; reducing cost and program duration, for both clients and contractors alike.”

The benefits of the combined scanning robotic total station are also said to extend to subcontractors, who can share the verification data, meaning all parties are working from the same construction-quality heat maps. For example, the first electrical ducts and conduits can often cause problems, as alterations can often occur that go unnoticed. With Topcon’s new system, the speed at which everybody working on the job can understand mistakes means the effects can hopefully be minimized before they become expensive problems.As efficiency becomes increasingly important in the market, time cannot be wasted and mistakes cannot be tolerated. Clearly, the demand for quick construction verification is on the rise, which supports the need for new technologies that can 

This feature appeared in the December 2019 issues of the ACP Magazines:

California Builder & Engineer, Construction, Construction Digest, Construction News, Constructioneer, Dixie Contractor, Michigan Contractor & Builder, Midwest Contractor, New England Construction, Pacific Builder & Engineer, Rocky Mountain Construction, Texas Contractor,
Western Builder

Embracing Efficiency

13 Reasons to Add Machine Control to Your Existing Fleet or Next Equipment Purchase

Adopting  Machine Control- Adopting  Machine Control-2