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Grade control for excavators

Contractors reap the benefits of iDig 2D excavator grade control

Two New Zealand contractors share their experience with the latest 2D excavator grade control technology.

Ireland Earthmovers, based in Matamata in New Zealand’s North Island, specialises in a wide range of earthmoving work including small civil jobs, site clearance, building, drainage and agricultural projects.

Owners Ricky and Jenn Ireland (pictured above) have one 6.5-tonne and two 13-tonne Hitachi excavators and the company recently invested in an iDig 2D excavator grade control system that they saw recommended online.

Grade Control for Excavators Between a laser and a full-scale 3D grade control system

“I was interested in a cost-effective machine guidance option that was more advanced than a laser receiver on the dipper, without being a full-scale 3D system that is better suited to large scale civil sites,” Ricky said.

iDig 2D excavator grade control provides an ideal solution because it gives real time depth, distance and slope information to the operator to enable accurate excavation to the required height.

“For the jobs we do, there’s no engineered 3D design that you need for more advanced machine control systems to work. We have the reduced level and the batter ratio, as required, so I needed a system that could suit the type of work we do,” he added.

Since implementing the iDig system, Ricky has been impressed with how versatile it is and loves the fact it can be swapped between machines to get even better returns on it. Each of the excavators is fitted with the sensors and cabling, so the system can quickly be switched out and moved around as needed.

“We can do everything with this system including batters, level sites, depths, falls, culvits and water troughs or tanks on farms,” he added. “Recently we’ve been doing a lot of farm work digging ponds and troughs – water doesn’t lie and you can see how accurate the system is by the results we’ve been delivering to customers.”

Ricky says another key benefit is reducing the hassle of setting up a laser. “Particularly for jobs like a pond where you’d have to set up the laser in different stages of the project and keep changing your reference, iDig really comes into its own as you consistently get within 10mm without having to re-set or find a laser reading,” he said.

Getting it right the first time

Reducing guesswork and rework through an accurate grade control system has also been vital. “iDig helps with everything from pricing out a job to proving our results – we find now that there are no discrepancies with the engineer because the system also works as a record keeping tool,” Ricky said.

Before working with the iDig 2D digger system, the company like many earthmoving contractors, would use methods such as lasers and batter boards to get to grade, but there was still room for error. “If you make a slight error on the batter you can be a metre out overall, which all comes out of your back pocket,” he said.

“It comes down to accuracy and speed – if you don’t have the accuracy, you have to re-work to correct the error and that adds to the time, let alone the materials. It all hits your bottom line.”

Local service and support

Ireland Excavations bought the iDig 2D excavator grade control system from Position Partners, the distributor for New Zealand, Australia and South East Asia. Having local support and training helped to get everyone comfortable with using the system.

“The team at Position Partners has been great – we’re a pretty technologically disadvantaged bunch and they can help us out with everything either on the phone or coming out to see us, even with more unusual things,” Ricky said. “For example, we’ve been doing some tree clearance and we had issues with the sensors getting knocked with branches, so the Position Partners team figured out a way to reinforce the mounts and protect the sensors so we could keep working,”

Ricky’s advice to other contractors thinking about getting machine control? “I think you have to be open to technology – it’ll get to a stage where you won’t win work unless you have it so it’s better to get on board and embrace what it can do,” he said. “We’re looking to get a second system because the one we have is in hot demand!”

Grade control for excavators | iDigMike Powrie, owner of Northern Excavations that services the Rodney and North Auckland area, reports a similar story. Specialising in residential house builds, the company has six excavators and three that are fitted up to use the iDig system.

“We put the system on as a trial and never took it off, it’s great to have one product for multiple machines so we can use the bigger machines initially for bulk earthworks and then bring on our five-tonner using the same grade control setup,” Mike said.

Northern Excavations has the iDig setup for its 14-tonne Kobelco digger, as well as an eight-tonne and a 5-tonne Yanmar.

Mike explains that it is an ideal machine control system for excavators on the jobs they specialise in. “It fits the work we do perfectly and I find you get a lot of technology for the cost,” he said.

Using labour more efficiently has been a great benefit to the company. “It’s not efficient having someone on the ground checking heights all day when you could put that person to more valuable work,” Mike explains. “iDig took a man off the ground straight away as the operator has continuous grade checks straight to the cab so we can use our labour more productively.”

In addition to labour savings from grade checkers, Mike said that iDig 2D excavator grade control also makes his operators more productive. “It takes away the guesswork and means you never over cut, so you can work faster,” he said.

“It’s a really simple solution from a user’s point of view, you just dial in your height and dig,” he added.

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