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AEM’s new report, Benefits of Construction Technologies and their Impact on Society, details how four key innovations are helping construction sites become safer and more productive, while also reducing their environmental footprint.

One of those technologies, machine control, is changing the way earthmoving and paving tasks are completed. Previously unimaginable levels of accuracy and efficiency are being achieved, resulting in jobsites that are safer and more productive, and projects that are completed faster and with less waste.

“Machine control is a technology system that calculates the position of machinery,” said Brad Viernow, OEM director for North America Heavy Construction at Leica Geosystems, a supplier of sensors, software and services for geospatial data intelligence. “To determine precise location, machine control uses measurement data from either satellites (i.e. GNSS) or an onsite surveying instrument called a total station. Then machine control is able to compare that positioning data to a project design.”

Armed with all of that information, machine control is then able to guide and assist the person operating a piece of equipment. It’s pretty simple: Better information leads to better results.

“On average, 52% of all rework globally is caused by poor data and missed communication,” said Viernow. “Sharing up-to-date data via cloud connectivity allows the equipment operator to see all of the design information on the panel in the cab while they are working. Going one step further, machine automation can also come into play. Machine control can actually take some of the work out of the operator’s hands while achieving the desired accuracy even more easily.”

Earthmoving and paving applications lend themselves well to machine control. Equipment operators must work within tight tolerances with respect to things like material placement, grade, cross slope and compaction density. That is why motor graders, dozers, excavators and pavers are among the most common pieces of equipment utilizing machine control today. However, the potential for machine control spans much further.

“There is no piece of machinery within the construction industry that isn’t seeing this type of technology being used in some way,” said Adam Woods, general manager of innovation and product portfolio Strategies at LBX Company, manufacturer of Link-Belt excavation equipment. “Even something like a compactor, which seems like a relatively simple product that just rolls back and forth, will benefit from machine control. Machine control helps determine how much compaction has taken place, and if any further compaction is needed to meet the desired specs. Automation is even allowing machines to do that all on their own. It’s all in the aim of making jobsites more efficient.”

That goes for smaller jobsites and equipment, too. “The utility of something like a compact track loader, paired with the benefits of a technology like grade control, is really a winning combination,” said Sean Mairet, group product manager for Grade Control at John Deere.

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