If you think technology is revolutionizing our personal lives— with smart phones, computers and televisions that seem to do everything but make a lattè, imagine what it’s doing for industries such as construction, which has seen huge advances in technology over the past decade. 

Equipment performance and functionality that was thought unachievable just a few years ago is becoming more common on work sites. While regulatory considerations have been driving some of these advancements—fewer emissions and noise—manufacturers themselves are continuing to develop new technology creating greater efficiencies and reducing operating and maintenance costs.  This includes hybrid-powered machines, which capture and reuse wasted energy. 

"Never before have I been this excited about new advances in our industry," says Dan Hendriks, VP Sales for Geoshack, “Nothing can get a faster return than implementing new technology.”

Leveraging the power of mobile technology and the Internet

While the company offers cutting edge solutions for visual surveyors and utility companies, the biggest part of their business is machine automation with GPS technology installed on heavy equipment, such as bulldozers, pavers, and graders.  Now the operator just has to drive and not worry about things like the elevation and placement of the blade—technology takes over the machine. 

"Companies utilizing GPS technology are seeing productivity gains of up to 50 percent."

While the adoption rate of this new technology is still low—about eight percent—it is beginning to increase. “People are often reluctant to change, but more and more we are seeing the use of new technology in construction, which allows operators to be more competitive,” says Hendriks. “The experienced operators will benefit by making their work easier, and those new to the industry will be able to cut down the learning curve from years to hours.”

According to Hendriks companies utilizing GPS technology are seeing productivity gains of up to 50 percent. When it once took a day to pave one kilometre, some operators are now paving double that in the same period. It’s no surprise that added productivity is a major benefit of new advances, but there is a huge payback on the control of materials. For example, instead of laying down six inches of material in one place and two in another, the machine can lay down four inches across the entire project. This cuts down on costly material overruns.  

It’s no secret then that continually investing in new equipment is good for business. With greater reliability, productivity and lower operating costs, a positive return on investment is achievable.

Bigger isn’t always better 

Brad Stemper, Solutions Marketing Manager for Case Construction, is equally excited about advances in construction. “It used to be that machines were overbuilt. They were twice as heavy, and the engines were twice the size they needed to be,” he says. “Now they are being built for specific applications, and are more technologically advanced—smaller engines that can do more and leveraging gravity to make machines more efficient.”  

He adds that the technological advances we see in our everyday lives are making their way into heavy industries. Telematics, the long distance transmission of computerized information, is being integrated into machinery like once never thought possible.

Two way communications between machine operators and the owner or technician at another location is now possible. There is less reliance on needing people and resources at a job site. Telematics is also helping to identify areas for improved machine efficiency. 

One operator told Stemper recently that when he used telematics he learned that in nine hours of operation, his machine was idling for four hours. Think of the fuel spent and extra wear on the machine. “He didn’t know this was happening, but with this information he can adjust his work to be more productive, and extend the life of expensive equipment,” he says. “Technological advances catch us by surprise, and I am amazed at what we are able to do.”