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Machine control adds efficiency to A14 earthworks

a14 topcon

Work on one section of the £1.5bn A14 upgrade between Cambridge and Huntingdon calls for 12M.m3 of earthworks and contractor Walters Group is using machine control technology from Topcon to automate the process.

Walters Group is one of two earthworks contractors working on the upgrade of over 32km of road, which will increase capacity and cut journey times when it opens in December 2020.

The vast scale of the excavations meant that Walters Group needed equipment and technology that would give them the most accurate results on-site. The team were already familiar with the range of Topcon technology and chose to use the Topcon 3D machine control systems on excavators and dozers.

“We started using Topcon equipment around seven or eight years ago,” explains Walters Group/A14 Integrated Delivery Team earthworks project manager Andrew Burde. “The drivers get on with it really well because it’s quite easy to use. We message them and they’re able to message us back. They know when we’re going to use it remotely and we tell them when we’re going to play around with their system, so they know if anything will change on their screens.”

The Topcon 3D machine control platform has been designed to provide material control capability, that Topcon claims is unmatched, and acts as a productivity tool. It simplifies grading and gives operators the opportunity to put the focus on material and safety. By using the SiteLink 3D, any potential machine downtime is significantly reduced as most issues can be resolved in real-time without the need for a technical team on-site.

As part of the 3D machine control software, Topcon’s SiteLink3D was used as a way of connecting the machines and the office. The technology provides remote access and support to every machine connected to the system, including file transfers, messaging and reporting and analytics.

“If drivers need to activate the service or they don’t know how to select a line or choose an offset, I can remotely access their screen on my desktop and change what it is they need to change,” explained Walters Group/A14 Integrated Delivery Team sub agent Martin Langhorn. “I can also delete and add different models to their screen so they never get mixed up or use an old revision by mistake.”

Burder added: “Site Link is definitely in front of the other systems at the minute for what it can produce, especially the information we can feed into it and the live data we can get out of it. We can see instantly where the machines are, what programme they’re working on, what construction offset they’re working to and which areas they’re working in – so we know instantly if they’re working on the right model and at the right level.”

Other Topcon technology used as part of the project included the Topcon GNSS receivers and Topcon FC-5000 hand-held field computers, as well as Site Link 3D in partnership with Walters Group.

A14 Integrated Delivery Team survey manager Mark Lawton commented: “SiteLink makes my life easier because of its efficiencies. We’ve got the data links out there so we can send data from the office to the machines, and another critical factor is that the people planting phase has been reduced – there are no people working around the machines. The quality of the data being sent to the machines is always consistent too.

“We’ve used 3D machine control on a number of sites before and we’ve asked our contractors to adopt this too. Walters have taken this a step further and pushed it wider into their fleet, and now we’re starting to reap the benefits of that.”





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