How to lower material handling costs

24 April 2014

There is much written about lower productivity levels in construction compared with other industries. Manufacturing is acknowledged as more productive and much of its productivity gain is attributed to IT adoption driving automation. There are also claims that around 20% of construction costs go to waste. As a result, global construction is expected to become an industry that will benefit significantly from improvements in collaborative practices and technology innovation.

In addition to the general uptake of technology in the construction industry, one key area for improvement is to connect various aspects of a project from initial design and mass haul planning through to haul progress and reporting, enabling different disciplines, contractors and subcontractors to collaborate across the job.

According to Standing and Fulford (International Journal of Project Management, Feb 2014) excessive fragmentation, together with disparate project management processes and non-standardised information, is impeding efficiency gains.  Improvements in collaborative practices are cited as the key to increasing productivity. An important aspect is to connect various technology components together to streamline information between the various collaborating parties involved in a project.

“At Position Partners, we share the construction industry’s vision for a new impetus on productivity,” said Martin Nix, Position Partners CEO. “Innovations that support collaborative practices can benefit our customers beyond single machine control systems. Working closely with global technology innovators, we are investing great time and energy into making various platforms connect across a construction project to improve efficiency.”

Design Flexibility

How can you choose the best design if you can’t review all of the options? Because DynaRoad reduces initial project design from the traditional two to three weeks, to two to three days, it enables contractors to go to tender with an array of design options. Alternatively, the various design possibilities can be reviewed in order to tender with the most cost effective and optimal version.

Specifically designed to optimise the planning, cost and design of major civil projects, DynaRoad calculates the optimal earthworks balance, haul distances and mass usage. It also includes sophisticated comparison metrics that compare earthworks optimisation with other disciplines such as structures, to optimise the total cost of the project and weigh up risk scenarios with various material types. 

“DynaRoad gives contractors more choice in the designs they put forward to tender and the ability to make informed decisions that will have a significant impact on the productivity and deliverability of a project,” explained Harry Katsanevas, Business Manager of Machine Control at Position Partners. 

Scheduling

In addition to overall project design optimisation, DynaRoad contains advanced resource and location-based scheduling functionality to make project management tasks more efficient and productive.

“Project managers can fully visualise every stage of the project with both Gantt timeline views and colour coded map views,” explains Mr Katsanevas. “With a clear picture of what each stage looks like in terms of traffic flow, road closures, cut/fill levels and so on, project managers have more information at their fingertips, allowing them to do their jobs as efficiently as possible.”

Resource management

DynaRoad calculates task duration based on volume and production rates of all available machines on site. It enables plant to be estimated and priced more accurately, with production rates and machines changed to suit the application. If additional plant is required to complete work on time or catch up after a delay, online technology can make the plant hire process faster and more convenient.

Online plant hire search site iSeekplant connects project managers and civil contractors with machine owners and contractors Australia-wide, based on their capabilities and availability.

“The old ways of paper- and phone-based plant sourcing are time consuming for project managers and can add delays to the project,” explained iSeekplant CEO Matthew Peters. “In contrast, our customers average a turnaround time of between 48 and 72 hours, with the ability to search from over 15,000 pieces of machinery either on our website or via our mobile app.”

Position Partners recently formed an alliance with iSeekplant, creating new solutions for the companies’ mutual customers. “In 2004, the Australian Bureau of Statistics indicated that the construction industry ranked last on all four key performance indicators in relation to e-business uptake in comparison to all other industries,” explained Mr Nix. “We’re encouraged to see that over the last 10 years many of the barriers inhibiting e-business uptake have lifted – it’s a good time for the industry to embrace online technology that can save time and increase productivity.”   

Earthworks progress

In the earthworks stage of a major project, contractors can further improve productivity with the use of machine control systems. Although the benefits of machine control are widely accepted for saving time and improving accuracy, many sites continue to use the technology only for final trim work.

“The benefits machine control can bring to a project can be seen across all plant on site, including bulk earthworks applications,” explained Mr Katsanevas. “We now offer customers a new range of Topcon indicate-only 3D systems, that ensure bulk earthworks are completed right the first time, eliminating over cut and ensuring operators are always working to the latest 3D design.”

Remote support and site management software enables project managers to get real time information on the earthworks progress, with live cut/fill information from all machines on site running machine control. Machine downtime is drastically reduced as surveyors and managers can update the design file on each machine from the office, sending the latest design file instantly and without having to visit the machine in person.

“With Tokara remote service, our technical support team can log in to the operator’s control box to give instant support,” Mr Katsanevas said. “Often they can resolve the problem remotely through configuring settings or updating software, to get the machine back to work in minutes. If there is a hardware issue, we are able to gather more detailed diagnostics with Tokara that will make the on-site support visit as efficient as possible.”

Haul reporting

Topcon’s new HT-30 system for haul trucks is an extremely simple yet highly efficient solution that connects real time haul count information with project management software, for live haul reporting across the site.

“In addition to eliminating human error and saving time by automating the haul count process, this new haul system enables project managers to get instant updates on the haul progress,” Mr Katsanevas said. This reporting can be connected to DynaRoad to update task progress information for each stage of the project.”

According to Mr Katsanevas, DynaRoad is a must-have tool for a wide range of project deliverables, which can be complemented by an array of additional online and offline software and technology solutions throughout the life of the project. 

“It is an ideal time for contractors to explore the technology options that are available to them, technology that can drastically improve day-to-day work, save huge amounts of time and have a significant impact on the bottom line,” he added. 

 

By Gina Velde 

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