Tag Archive for 'Topcon Positioning Systems Inc.'

Intelligent Compaction is the Key

Long-lasting, Durable Surfaces Result From Quality Compaction

By Jeff Winke

The most elemental meaning of the word “compaction,” is the exertion of force on something so that it becomes more dense.

In the realm of road construction, compaction is considered one of the most important processes in pavement and roadway surface construction. It is necessary in order to attain high quality and uniformity of pavement materials, which in turn better ensures the long-lasting performance of the road. 

It has been more than a few years since the term and method of “intelligent compaction” (IC) has become a given in discusions of paving. Today, it has become the norm – compaction is pretty much considered intelligent compaction.

IC refers to the compaction of road materials, such as soils, aggregate bases, or asphalt pavement materials, using modern vibratory rollers equipped with an integrated measurement system, an onboard computer reporting system, Global Positioning System (GPS) based mapping, and optional feedback control. IC rollers facilitate real-time compaction monitoring and timely adjustments to the compaction process by integrating measurement, documentation, and control systems. IC rollers also maintain a continuous record of color-coded plots, allowing the user to view plots of the precise location of the roller, the number of roller passes, and material stiffness measurements.

“Operators have told me that intelligent compaction takes the guessing game out of their rolling pattern,” said Daniel F. Brown, President of Phend & Brown, Inc., Milford, Indiana. “They no longer need to remember which utility power pole or mailbox they started or stopped at with their rolling pattern. Additionally, uniform pass coverage is assured because pass coverage is being measured and documented.”

The Background on IC

Back in 2011, the Federal Highway Association (FHWA) reported on a major three-year research project that was designed to verify that IC, which at the time had been considered “emerging technology,” was mature enough to be implemented in the real world. The intent of the project was to create the blueprint in the FHWA IC strategic plan. This study was under the Transportation Pooled Fund project, which included 12 participating state department of transportation: Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Maryland, Minnesota, Mississippi, New York, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia, and Wisconsin.

The report’s Executive Summary states that the project “demonstrated tried-and-true Intelligent Compaction (IC) technologies through 16 field projects and open house activities, numerous meetings and training for State personnel and local earthwork/paving contractors, and assistance on the development of State IC specifications.”

The IC project’s key conclusions:

  • IC mapping of existing support layers is effective in identifying weak support areas for corrective actions prior to the compaction of the upper layers. 
  • With hot-mix asphalt (HMA) paving, IC tracking compaction roller passes and HMA surface temperatures can provide the necessary means to maintain a consistent rolling pattern within optimal ranges of temperatures for coverage of 100 percent of the construction area. 
  • IC technologies can be especially beneficial to maintain consistent rolling patterns under lower visibility conditions, such as night paving operations.

IC Technology Aids Productivity

IC technology, the report stated, will have profound influence on the responsibilities of various stages of pavement constructions and will eventually help produce better and more consistent pavement products. 

“We are currently running Topcon C-53 IC Systems on two Caterpillar CB-534 D XW Rollers, and two systems on Bomag BW190 AD Rollers,” stated Brown. “At the time of purchase, the C-53, which offers the GX-55 control box, was the newest technology available.

“We like that the technology provides for remote mobile access via Sitelink to allow process balance decisions to be based on real-time data for the entire paver/roller operation, which in turn ensures that optimal production rates and density values are consistently achieved.” 

Topcon Positioning Systems offers an IC system that is designed to track pass counts of multiple rollers or IC machines working on the same project. Through secure connectivity to Topcon’s global Sitelink3D service, each compactor not only performs its tasks, but also becomes part of the overall monitored project. 

“Each operator is not only able to see their own passes, but those made by other machines on-screen in real time,” Brown said. “And in real time, the paving superintendant, foreman, and general contractor personnel can also see what exactly is going on via the Sitelink platform. This ensures proper compaction from each machine and eliminates redundancy.” 

The IC system is designed to:

  • Leverage multiple integrated temperature sensors, so each compactor can achieve consistent results through constant feedback into the system.
  • Provide accurate pass counts, geographic locations of each run, as well as georeferenced task assignments and their completion via its GNSS technology.
  • Ensure that regulatory IC standards are being met by documenting surface stiffness values through its accelerometer.
  • Connect to the Sitelink3D Enterprise service which provides 24/7 access to project data, team collaboration, custom reporting, as well as standard export to Veta management and analysis software, which can provide additional customized information. 
  • Provide data to demonstrate specification compliance and confirm proper density claims.

“We’re using the Topcon C-53 IC System with a GX-75 control box on our 850 Series Sakai Oscillation/Vibration Paving Roller, which allows the machine operator to monitor the compaction pattern and the temperature as they’re working,” stated Sergio Muniz, Paving Superintendent with Payne & Dolan, Inc., Waukesha, Wisconsin, who acquired the system working through his local Topcon Solutions Store. “I like that I can jump onto my laptop and see the work being completed in real time and make certain we’re complying with the tough DOT state specifications.”

Muniz added: “We’re finding the Topcon system to be essential for our high-profile big jobs to ensure we remain on task and is instrumental for when we work at night. It also is proving handy for smaller parking-lot-type jobs as well.”

The key benefit of IC is greater control over the compaction results, which in turn provides better finished paved results. Compaction at its most elemental is the exertion of force on something so that it becomes more dense, while IC provides the technological means to ensure that compaction is performed consistently, thoroughly, and accurately. The goal is to achieve optimum densities that ensure adequate support, stability, and strength. Achieving these densities uniformly is key, and clearly IC aids this process.

This feature appeared in the January 2020 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

Technology Training on Workflow Helps Address the Need for New Workers

By Jeff Winke

It is a scary world out there for you construction contractors who struggle with tight deadlines, demands for regulatory-governed quality, better productivity, lower costs, more time in a day, and that ominous need for a competent workforce.

The Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) released a study of construction firms in the United States.A few key statistics included in their Workforce Shortage Report include:

  • Eight out of 10 construction firms cannot find sufficient qualified employees
  • 19 percent are investing in labor saving equipment and tools that require smarter workers
  • 82 percent believe that it will be more difficult to find qualified workers over the next 12 months

“As the U.S.-based construction workforce becomes increasingly thinly spread,” the AGC report stated, “owners and managers of construction firms will be required to approach the problem of labor shortage creatively, in order to convert these problems into opportunities. A key to overcoming the labor shortage, in the construction industry, is to invest in current employees to increase their skills, knowledge and abilities, as well as to support existing employees with labor-saving tools and equipment.”

Investing in existing employees has definite advantages, when compared to hiring new employees.

  • Current employees know how the company operates and manages its project sites. 
  • Current employees are a known entity. Managers know their strengths and weaknesses and may be better able to manage and lead them than new hires.
  • With new employees, there are start-up administrative costs, drug testing, equipment and safety training, and general acclimation to new managers, co-workers, and procedures. 
  • Current employees pose less risk. Studies have confirmed higher injury rates among workers who have been on the job for less than a year. Consider also that hiring new employees with less experience and then moving them quickly into the field to meet demands may create greater risk.

Clearly, on-going skills and technology training of existing employees can prove to be critical not only for retention but the success of the company.

“The penalty for not keeping current with technology is longer project timelines,” stated Ron Oberlander, Vice President, Global Professional Services, Topcon Positioning Group, Livermore, California. “Successful training focusses on the work process which yields greater efficiencies and better results.”

An Emphasis on Workflow

With the training emphasis on workflow, employees can develop a broader perspective on construction projects and all that goes into the tasks that culminate in their completion. The emphasis on work processes demonstrates a respect for the intelligence of employees and invites them to think in a partner role, which can strengthen their commitment to the job and the company.

“I’ve completed a couple of training programs conducted by Topcon and I am scheduled for another in the next six months,” said John Poirier, Project Manager with Warman Excavating & Trenching Ltd., Waldheim, Saskatchewan, Canada. “It is well worth the time; and the cost is inconsequential compared to what I learn. Unbelievable trainers, seasoned experts with 20 to 30 years of experience, are training me. They know the products, the market, and understand the workflow.”

“Technology changes too frequently,” said Oberlander.”When we host attendees – distributors and end users – at our training sessions we focus on workflows and how the key features of our products and systems improve the productivity and efficiency of end users.”

With the strong job economy today, it is sometimes difficult to find talent to fill open positions.A benefit of training and the power of easy-to-use technology means that contractors can hire less-skilled talent.They can either send them to instructor-led courses or put them through e-learning-based training.Either way, the knowledge and skills gap can be bridged.

Technology Evolution

Since every construction project is unique, and may require different technology and solutions, it is important – actually imperative – that workers at all experience levels engage in training regularly to remain up to date.

“Think about the advances in consumer technology such as the Apple iPhone,” Oberlander said, “The innovations and high-powered processors that upgrade the iPhone annually are being used in construction equipment. Look at the displays and systems inside of a new excavator, dozer, or other heavy equipment which now make them more productive to run and service; and in turn, makes the contractor more efficient and profitable.”

Oberlander went on to describe how GPS machine control has evolved during the past 20 years from little adoption of machine automation to a market where some machine manufacturers are integrating machine control technology direct from the technology-provider’s factory floor into their machines or even wiring heavy equipment so that they are capable of later adding aftermarket systems.Some government agencies are even specifying that contractors working on their projects must employ GPS machine control on their equipment.

An Investment in Training

Topcon Positioning Systems’ current project is an example of the interest and commitment to training occurring in the construction industry. The company is investing by building state-of-the-art training facilities in the United States, Italy, and Japan. 

The new 6-acre training facility in the U.S. is being constructed at the Topcon campus in Livermore, California, and will cover training for construction, geo positioning, and paving. Vertical construction and layout training will include a half-built building for real-world demonstrations. Two state-of-the-art classrooms will be included. The training facilities in Italy and Japan are being built to the same parameters.

“Since we focus heavily on workflow training, our training will mimic live applications that take place at a typical construction site,” Oberlander said. “The main difference is we can focus on the application and training without distractions of a contractor’s live jobsite. We always offer on-location training at the contractor’s jobsite or home office, but we believe that it is important to establish a baseline of education with a contained workflow at our training center.We also offer the students a tour of our manufacturing facility so they can see how the products they use are made.”

Construction contractors struggle with the need to keep up to date on the latest technology and trends that make their projects more efficient, while attracting and keeping a full workforce in a tight labor market. The answers may be found in training both existing employees and new inexperienced workers on labor-saving technologies with a focus on the work process which yields greater efficiencies and better results.

What do you tell others considering training? Poirier said: “Go for it. There is 100 percent benefit to training; otherwise you’re looking at your technology being the world’s most expensive paperweight. Training gave me knowledge and confidence to feel comfortable with the technology. I recently set up a new excavator using a system I had mounted on a different machine. It works great and would have cost me $42,000 to have someone come in and set up and initialize the GPS system on the excavator – all work I did myself.”

Clearly training can benefit contractors. It can add knowledge, skills, and the confidence to succeed.

Tomorrow’s Internet –Fundamentals of IoT for Construction

Ray O’Connor, President and CEO of Topcon Positioning Systems represented AEM at Bloomberg Government NEXT Infrastructure conference

Our infrastructure is critical to the future of our country. Recently American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) publicized its 2017 Infrastructure Report Card. To review the 2017 ASCE Infrastructure, which earned a D+ you can click  here.

The infrastructure is critical to everyone without exception. We depend on it for not only transportation but also everything we eat, drink, wear; going to work, going to dinner; going to the doctor, the hospital or emergency rooms, getting our children to school to the movies or the playground. Pay attention to local, state and national infrastructure issues and the proposed legislation that attempts to address some of the more critical issues. And the next time you hit a pothole think of the damage being done to the tires, rim, suspension and undercarriage of your care.

Ray O’Connor, President and CEO of Topcon Positioning Systems represented AEM at  Bloomberg Government NEXT Infrastructure conference in Washington D.C. last week. He spoke with Marcia Hale, president, Building America’s Future Educational Fund, in the Smart Infrastructure and Global Advantage segment of the conference.

Dennis Slater, President and Secretary of the Association of Equipment Manufacturers (AEM), made the opening remarks.

It’s our infrastructure. Think of it this way, the better the infrastructure the safer our world.