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Digitalizing construction with new machine control solutions

Construction plays a vital role in supporting economies for healthy societies. Today, the construction industry is in the midst of a disruptive revolution that changes how work is done, how construction professionals’ skills are developed, and how customers interact with construction organizations. Digital Construction encompasses many things, such as 3D digital modelling of entire construction sites and visualizing end-to-end construction project workflows. This evolution enables the industry to be more efficient, productive and accurate while also increasing safety. Christian Luttenberger, Vice President Heavy Construction at Leica Geosystems, discusses how Hexagon provides the means for digitalizing construction with construction solutions that integrate data to create seamless workflows and make entire projects safer and more efficient.

BK: Construction plays a vital role in supporting economies for healthy societies. Today, the construction industry is in the midst of a disruptive revolution that changes how work is done, how construction professional skills are developed, and how customers interact with construction organizations. Digital construction encompasses many things, such as 3D digital modeling of entire construction sites, and visualizing end-to-end construction project workloads. This evolution enables the industry to be more efficient, productive, and accurate, while also increasing safety. Welcome to HxGN Radio. My name is Brian. Joining me today is Christian Luttenberger, vice president of Heavy Construction at Leica Geosystems, and he’ll be discussing how Hexagon provides the means for digitalizing construction, with construction solutions that integrate data, to create seamless workflows and make entire projects safer and more efficient. Christian, thanks for joining us.

CL: Thanks for being here.

BK: I appreciate it. So, let’s start with a little bit of information on the Leica Geosystems’ machine control solutions and how they are taking the lead in digitalizing construction.

CL: We have a lot of solutions within Hexagon Geosystems, that are taking the lead in transforming the way construction is done. But you can say that we have two main categories. We call it the on-machine solutions and the off-machine solutions. So, the on-machine solutions, there is mainly what is known as machine control, to make the heavy construction machines more productive. We are taking the lead here with our new Leica MC1 machine control software. MC1 enables the machine to be around 50-60% more productive by simply enabling the machine to work on a job with about 30% less fuel consumption, with about 40% less re-work, and about 40% less equipment hours. Then we have what we call our off-machine solutions, so everything around the machines, which enables the contractor or the project manager to check and see what has been done on-site. For instance, with our drones or our scanning technology, they easily can do volume or project-progress checking. Or with a solution like GPS rovers or total stations, they can easily do grade checking to verify what has been done on-site so that they can be sure that the project is built on specification. Briefly, our solutions enable our customers to be on time, on budget, and on specifications within their projects.

BK: Excellent. How are the machine control solutions digitalizing the workflows?

CL: When you look at it, about 80% of the projects, they are over time and about 40% over budget. Then about 30% of the projects, or within the projects, they also need to do a lot of re-work because it hasn’t been done the right way in the first place. Now, most projects are already designed with a digital 3D model, as you said before. In the past, stakes have been used on sites so that the contractor could build to this 3D design. But with the machine control software, the digital 3D data can be sent now directly to the machines, and our MC1 machine control software makes it now very easy for the operator to build on specification and to build to design. And not only that, the MC1 software does show the operator what needs to be done. MC1 is now also controlling automatically some functions of the machine with this digital data. Like what we can do is control the blades of a machine, for instance, or a dozer or a grader, which makes it now even easier and faster for the operator to operate this machine. Again, as a result, then, the operator can be around 50% more productive with the machines, which is a huge cost saving on site.

BK: Absolutely. Excellent. Now, what heavy construction machines are supported by the MC1?

CL: We are supporting all the main earth-moving machines. Right now, we have released our new MC1 software for excavators and compactors. But soon the new software will be also released for graders and also re-loaders. And then we do, also, support special machines like drillers and pilers. And last, but not least, our MC1 machine control software also supports the main finishing machines like asphalt pavers, concrete pavers, curb and gutter machines, and milling machines, for instance.

BK: Okay. Now as Leica Geosystems takes the lead offering solutions at digitalized sites, will human machine interfaces, or HMIs, and software become too complex for site operators?

CL: No, no. It’s completely the other way around. For instance, our MC1 machine control solution is really designed to be very easy to operate, no matter how complex the model or task might be. It is very easy for the operator to get, first of all, the 3D model files via our Leica ConX cloud solution to the machine. And then, MC1 will display and tell the operator what needs to be done. It is way easier than it has been in the past, when the operator had only the stakes on-site as a reference, for instance. That it is easier shows also the fact that they can work now about 50% faster, like they used to be able to work before, with about 30% less re-work like in the past. Like I’ve said, our MC1 machine control software also automates some functions of the machines, like automated play control or automated tilt of an excavator bucket. This is another step to make it way easier for the operator to work with a machine.

BK: Okay, so it’s easier, it’s faster, it’s more productive and efficient, essentially.

CL: Correct.

BK: That’s great. How is Leica Geosystems enabling a connected ecosystem across construction sites?

CL: We do this with our ConX cloud solution, our telematics solution. ConX, for us, is the enabler to share data between the office and the field, and also, for instance, to analyze the productivity and also the project progress. All Hexagon solutions on-site can work now with the same data. For instance, the 3D design for us can be sent to the machines to be able to build on specification, but it can also be sent to a GPS rover to do some grade checking or to do a volume calculation on site. So, with ConX, our cloud solution, all Hexagon sends us on sites, do become what we call the Internet of Things. Everything is connected. As a result, the machines are also, for instance, UAVs or a scanning solution, scans, sends data via ConX, also back to the office so that the project manager can easily see what has been done on site. We do call this reality capture, or As-Built checks. With getting all the data back within ConX, the project manager can look, for instance, at live cut-fill maps, you can see what the machines have done, or if the project is on time compared to its plan. At the end, with our ConX solution, a project manager can see what has been done today and what needs to be done tomorrow.

BK: That’s very impressive. Going along with that, too—because I think you’ve already touched on much of this, which is just incredible, how everything’s becoming more connected and really right at your fingertips—where do you think the heavy construction is going in the future, and how is Hexagon a part of this in leading the way in this?

CL: Yeah, this is definitely a good question. Well, I think the digitalization on a construction site will continue and will even grow further. You can see it because a lot of contractors now also do half their BIM experts—and BIM stands for Building Information Model—so they already have the BIM experts within house or in-house to implement a specific data and workflow within their company. They’ve realized if they can improve by connecting all the sensors together by using new technology, they can be more productive. They would even now take the next step to be more productive.

 

That means, also, before they start to build, they already do one to detect with simulations, clashes, or mistakes in the model. Before they build something, they want to see if there is already an error or mistake in the model. Also, the models a contractor needs to build will get more and more complex, but he would have less and less time to build it. The answer to overcome, again, this dilemma is that they have to use new technology like machine control systems or UAV technology. We are really trying to simplify that, to make it more productive for our customers. Then with machine control, the machines will also get more and more autonomous, also something Hexagon’s Geosystems division is really focusing on, because, again, it makes it way easier for the operator to operate a machine, that will make the machine more productive, or the operator, let’s say, can work faster with less re-work. And because sensors on-site will become more and more Internet of Things, more and more data will be available to analyze the project progress itself. That means data needs to be made what we call visible. It means that out of all these megadata, it will become easy for a contractor or project manager to get information so that he can make the right decisions, because that is very important to them. For the construction industry, these are really exciting times and changes ahead. We at Hexagon’s Geosystems division are focusing on heavily to understand the problems and the challenges on-site, and to come up with solutions to make our customers more productive and competitive. We want to help them, so that they do build everything right in the first place, with less time needed to do so.

BK: Absolutely, yes. I like that. Well, thank you very much for sharing that. That’s really fantastic information, and good to hear how things are moving forward. So, Christian, thanks for your time.

CL: Thanks for having me.

BK: Absolutely. For more information on today’s topic, please visit leica-geosystems.com. And, of course, to learn even more and listen to additional episodes, head over to hxgnspotlight.com. Thank you very much for joining us here on HxGN Radio.