Recent cases show how on-board technology is helping companies to increase their productivity and the accuracy of the machines used in their construction works
How technology is translated in advantages for machine users—mainly to reduce liabilities—is a question that always rises when the subject is the cost-benefit of capital goods. And the same occurs with automation devices for heavy machines.
And this is not everything. These solutions may be used in all phases of the project, starting from the bid, passing through the adjustment and development of the design and going till the delivery. In this list of activities, there are tools such as positioning systems for topography infrastructure, weighing systems, design softwares and advanced 2D and 3D systems, among others.
In earthmoving operations—to use a single example—the systems allow the control of the elevation level with accurate tolerances, using laser transmitters and receivers. When capturing the information about elevation they calculate the adjustments needed in both sides of the blade to achieve the desired level. Everything is carried out automatically. The operator just drives the machine.
But each family demands a specific solution, and all of them are imported. It is possible to remove the system from one machine and install it in another. “The system is a mathematical equation with sensors that read all measures, including the physical dimensions of the machine, that are one of its inputs”, explains Tiago Barros, technical coordinator from Sitech, business unit for solutions from the joint-venture Caterpillar Trimble Control Technologies (CTCT), whose operations in Brazil are carried out by the Sotreq Group. “As it receives the readings, the system compares them with the equation and leaves the result, which is basically the movement of the attachment based on the on-board project.”
To operate, the attachment has to be prepared with the installation of hydraulic automation kits. In a mechanical machine such as the 140K, for example, a hydraulic block is installed in parallel with the original. In this block are located the electro-valves that will be driven by the on-board computer. Then the operation occurs, moving the attachment. “But if it is a 140M Grade Control, which is already an electronic machine, it is not necessary to install the hydraulic block. It is necessary just to activate the attachment using the electronic control module of the machine”, says Barros.
Among other gains, the technology allows to increase working speeds, independently of operators’ experience. Since it has the path (and its elements) loaded in its memory, the system replicates exactly the edges, independently of the machine’s position, correcting the blade sideshift. “The difference is in the quality of the work, which practically has no mistake”, sums the expert. “If it is done by hand it is still possible to have some efficiency near the picket, but the leveling will oscillate between pickets.”
In fact, these features control almost all functions (to include all functions will be just a question of time), but their cost is approximately half of the machine price. According to Barros, maybe this is the main cause of the small development of this technology in the country. And the country has a lot of productivity to lose if it gives up these solutions. “It is necessary to make people think about the problems that arise in the worksites”, explains Barros. “This does not mean that technology will solve all problems, what is not true. But it may help in bids, reducing the cost of proposals, the use of labor and the fuel consumption through the increase in production.”
To prove his point of view, Barros presented a technical lecture about the subject in the headquarters of the Sindicato das Indústrias de Construção Pesada de Minas Gerais (Union of Heavy Construction Industries from Minas Gerais - Sicepot/MG), at Belo Horizonte. “Of course technology itself is not the real disruptor, since it cannot be used everywhere. But not understanding what the client needs is the real threatening for any business”, says him. “And the fact is that technology may be the differential when it doubles the production of a machine.”
For the expert, Brazilian contractors must have the courage of taking this step, installing more advanced technologies in their projects to overcome a difficult context of approximately 5,000 projects stopped with no perspectives of restarting. “There is something we can do to change this game”, says him. “We have to look beyond, since the crisis brings the idea of perspective. It separates the amateur from the professional.”
He shows concrete examples of this point of view. Attended by Sitech Sul and by Pesa, Sanches Tripoloni—says Barros—is the sole Brazilian company with 100 percent of its construction methods equipped with technology, from earthmoving to paving. According to him, this leads to a portfolio spread through the whole country, having projects such as the restoration of the road PA-150, construction and paving of the road BR-163, construction of a bridge over the São Francisco River and restoring of the road BR-163/364, among others. “There are plenty of projects for the company. This makes us think about the logistics to move equipment, personnel, etc.”, says him.
Therefore, why are they winning these projects? The answer, says him, may be on technology. “With no piles, road passages, people around the machine or machine stopped... Is it more quick and productive or is it not?”, asks him. “This has to be considered as an important factor in a bidding proposal and may balance the difference on price.”