Looking beyond the surface with Trimble technology

Embracing the latest in surveying innovations since its inception, Survey Management Solutions has now adopted Trimble technology to streamline the delivery of its projects.

Customer profile

Survey Management Solutions provides surveying and digital engineering services to the construction sector, utilising innovative technologies and equipment. The company is a driver of innovation in the Australian construction industry by pioneering and investing in the latest technology.

Business challenge

Demonstrate the value of augmented reality to surveyors and construction crews.

  • Trimble Earthworks Grade Control Platform with augmented reality.
  • Trimble SiteVision.
  • Trimble WorksManager Software.
  • Trimble Business Center.
  • Improved operator confidence.
  • Reduced risk of hitting underground utilities.
  • Better decision making.
  • More streamlined workflows, particularly when issues arise.

After being introduced to augmented reality (AR) by Trimble dealer SITECH Construction Systems in 2021, Survey Management Solutions (SMS) quickly saw the value of integrating the technology into its business. The practical and purposeful application of AR on its machines has enhanced SMS’s operations, enabled by the computer generated, real-time view of its teams’ physical surroundings both on and beyond the surface of a project.

The surveying company has built a reputation for its ability to handle challenging infrastructure projects in a timely and cost-effective manner. That skill set is, in part, due to its commitment to investing in and applying advanced technology and state-of-the-art equipment to deliver innovative solutions.

Looking beyond the surface with Trimble technology
Joe Lloyd, National Technical Manager for SITECH Construction Systems, a Trimble distributor.

AR is one of the industry’s most anticipated technologies and SMS says it has directly improved workflows when put in the hands of its surveyors and the cabs of its heavy equipment.

Joe Lloyd is a National Technical Manager at SITECH Construction Systems and was the first to get in touch with SMS when the new technology became available. He says SMS has been adopting Trimble technology for over 10 years.

“SMS has always been an innovative, forward-thinking company and is always keen to hear about Trimble’s latest offerings,” says Lloyd. “When SITECH Construction Systems first introduced Trimble SiteVision, an outdoor AR system, three years ago, SMS was one of the first to invest in the technology.”

As the industry continues to see more construction businesses jump on board the AR bandwagon, SMS has positioned itself ahead of the pack by adopting the technology early on.

Workflow visualisation

Industry experts have predicted that AR will be one of the top technologies to watch in construction for its ease of use and expanding integration into commercial solutions such as smartphones. According to a Research and Markets report, the global AR and virtual reality market is projected to account for a revenue of US$1.2 trillion in 2030, rising from US$37 billion in 2019 – that’s a compound annual growth rate of 42.9 per cent during the forecast period (2020-2030).

Much of that growth is likely to be in the construction space, where technology adept owners and project teams are using it to better visualise design intent relative to real-world conditions, simulate changes and adapt more readily to onsite conditions.

In the past three years, Lloyd says the demand for AR technology in the construction industry has increased significantly. “The market for AR continues to grow and for good reason,” says Lloyd. “This technology can solve many of the complex challenges currently being faced by the industry from productivity issues to lack of safety onsite.”

“By improving productivity, safety and efficiency, and enabling professionals to identify problems before they arise, AR is changing the construction game.

“The companies like SMS that are taking advantage of this technology now are the companies that will have the competitive edge in the fast-moving world of construction.”

For SMS, the early introduction to AR has been through workflow visualisation technology, such as Trimble SiteVision. SiteVision is a user-friendly outdoor AR system that is lightweight for handheld operation. It incorporates a high precision (centimetre accuracy) global navigation satellite system (GNSS) with an electronic distance measurement laser rangefinder that works with a smartphone’s AR capabilities. The AR application provides a 3D model of a project site at a true-to-life scale, above and below the ground, by overlaying 3D digital content with a camera-captured live image. The sensors track the movement of the system and adjust accordingly, allowing the user to walk around the worksite and visualise a model of the project from any angle.

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SMS bought its first system two years ago when SiteVision was first released and has since invested in many more. Today, every SMS foreman has a SiteVision system that is used regularly to assure construction is proceeding according to specifications. It takes measurements and records information that can be fed back to the construction and survey team to support decision making.

Travis Gains, Business Unit Manager – SMS, says SiteVision is a game changer. “Before we start any activity, we require a pre-construction commencement walk with engineers and stakeholders that includes SiteVision and ground penetrating radar (GPR), so that everyone understands the requirements for the project, has clarity about what’s underground and recognises the potential risks,” says Gains.

The use of SiteVision and GPR before and during construction is essential to reducing the chance of hitting utilities on projects.

“It’s standard practice to use the system on every project, but especially on complex projects where damaging utilities can be extremely unsafe, is costly, creates project delays for necessary repairs and can damage reputations,” says Gains. “For us, SiteVision is an essential safety improvement and risk mitigation strategy.”

SMS has also invested in Trimble WorksManager and Trimble Business Center to move project data back and forth from the field. SiteVision works with data from both Trimble WorksManager and Trimble Business Center and brings that data to life in a digital 3D model for the machine operator.

Trimble Business Center is a survey computer-aided design software that integrates with WorksManager and helps surveyors deliver high-accuracy GNSS data to create 3D models. WorksManager is then used to remotely transfer those construction-ready models to machines in the field.

“As soon as we get a new design or updated survey of underground assets in Trimble Business Center, we can get it to the machine operators very quickly through WorksManager,” says Gains. “No more USB’s or trips to the jobsite.”

Excavating with precision

The success of AR-enabled SiteVision raised expectations about the potential of AR on machines.

This led to a partnership between SMS, SITECH Construction Systems and Australian-based manufacturer Webbair to develop 3D avoidance technology. A civil construction company, working closely with SMS, introduced 3D avoidance technology on an excavator on one of its projects in Melbourne when it was introduced to the market last year. The technology relies on a digital map of utilities prepared by the SMS survey team. If the excavator attachment gets too close to a defined ‘avoidance zone’, the onboard sensors restrict and then immobilise the digger, thus minimising the chance of costly subsurface strikes and project delays while improving crew safety.

According to Gains, the operators also receive real-time updates on underground services from surveyors working remotely, which allows work to continue without needing to wait for new data. Gains explains that allowing for the operator or supervisor to add in any new hazards or high-risk areas on the fly without requiring them to be defined digitally is potentially one of the biggest benefits of the system, which was demanded from the market at the start of the due diligence phase.

Looking beyond the surface with Trimble technology
Trimble Earthworks Grade Control Platform display.

The next step was introducing AR in the cab. As part of the Trimble Earthworks AR Camera and a Workflow Optimisation Demonstration Program facilitated by SITECH Construction Systems and Trimble, the civil construction company also took the opportunity to see how precision grade control, 3D avoidance technology and AR can combine to support operator actions.

SITECH Construction Systems’ Joe Lloyd says during the demonstration program, his team mounted a camera on the outside of one of the civil construction company’s excavators with the 3D avoidance technology on a project in Melbourne. “The camera enables the operator to view a 3D model of the real-world site environment,” says Lloyd.

“Through the Trimble Earthworks display, the model is then overlaid onto the existing ground to give the operator an accurate understanding of all cut and fill information, slope data and the work that needs to be done.

“The display also provides visibility of the bucket improving safety, precision and efficiency onsite by making the operator aware of the people and objects around them.”

Gains says the implementation of these technologies is the next level of integration and a great addition to the excavators. “We strongly believe that the quicker an operator gets an understanding of the job, the faster the build,” Gains adds. “With Trimble Earthworks and AR, our operators see an alignment in 3D and the software also provides options for multiple views.”

“Overall, the addition of AR raises the level of awareness relative to the design model – we also think it will be essential for getting less experienced operators up to speed on the job.”

That raised awareness is particularly valuable for the civil construction company, where some of its projects have large numbers of underground service requirements in tight work areas. According to Gains, when an issue arises, they can quickly get the utilities modelled accurately and back to the operator to keep work progressing.

“A big part of my job is to push innovation,” says Gains. “We’re a big investor in technology and we’re always looking for innovative solutions and want to lead the industry.”

As a civil contractor, Gains says SMS always wants to do things safer, faster and more cost effectively by continuing to work with and invest in the latest in Trimble products – fostered by the strong relationship the company has with SITECH Construction Systems.

“We’re definitely going to invest in any solution that can help us get a better understanding of the job and also help the crews build faster, safer and with greater precision,” says Gains. “Our workflow visualisation system, the 3D avoidance system and the Trimble Earthworks AR camera are prime examples of that focus.”

The post Looking beyond the surface with Trimble technology appeared first on Inside Construction.

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