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Melbourne-based excavator owner-operator Noel Power has recently switched from hourly hire to contracting – and doubled his income – thanks to Topcon’s X63 GPS system on his Kobelco SK350-LC excavator.
Noel, who carries out drainage, boxing roads and wetlands works, primarily contracts to leading Melbourne contractor Winslow Contractors.

  Noel Power and his excavator fitted with Topcon’s X63 3D GPS system.
  • Customer: Power Excavations, Melbourne, Victoria
  • Topcon systems: Topcon X63 3D GPS excavator control system
  • Applications: General civil construction projects.

When he first bought his excavator, about three years ago, Noel did only hourly hire work.
“But then I got the opportunity to go into contract work with Winslow, and it was a bit of a big step, but it’s actually worked out pretty good so far,” he said.

“They’ve given me the contract mainly because of the Topcon system. That’s because they can trust the work, so that they know I am going to do the job right.

“The advantage for them is that they have got one person to come in and do the job and get it right the first time,” Noel said.

“I can dig on-grade, on-line, without any pegs or any levels or anything like that, so it’s good for a one-man band; you just keep digging all day and you don’t need anybody to check on your work or anything, everything comes in spot-on,” he said.

According to Noel, the big advantage for a head contractor is that he’s a lot less expensive, because the company can use a one-man-band on projects – such as one recently, where he put in the drainage system for a subdivision development in Melbourne’s northwestern suburbs.

“Usually, to do a job like this, it would be three or four machines digging and there would be a labourer with each machine and then they’ve got to bring the pipeline crew in after that.

“But with the Topcon system, it’s just me and two other guys, and we’ve done the whole job here. It’s a pretty big job, it’s nearly 2 km and we’ve got it all done in four weeks,” he said.

And the advantage for Noel is that he’s more employable, his costs are lower, and he can complete jobs quicker.
“It certainly costs me less, because I don’t have to have a guy with me all the time, and it saves me time, because I can just dig in and out of a pit.

“Even if you box and roll, you can just keep going, nobody needs to check your levels – that’s usually time-consuming – you’ve got to get a guy there to peg your levels and you’ve got to repeg every single morning, whereas now I can just get in and dig,” he said.

“And I’m not affected at all by the weather. Usually, if it starts raining, you stop, unless you want to get in and out of the machine yourself and check all the levels – which is not safe as well.

“I just put the wipers on and I just dig for the rest of the day and the guys go home. In fact, when it rains, it’s actually been a godsend, because it’s giving me more time to dig.”

It’s also safer, as no one has to get into his trench excavations to check levels.

“With the Topcon system, especially when the trench gets a bit deeper, you don’t need a person down in the trench to check your levels,” Noel said.

“If you’re digging rock, you just keep digging and digging and digging and digging… in and out of pits, left and right, up and down, and your work comes in spot-on.  “As an owner-operator, it makes me more employable, because the major contractors don’t need to worry about you.

“They just give you the job and you just go and do it – to the millimetre – whereas before you would have to rely on labourers,” he said.

“If you’ve got a GPS on your machine, it’s easy for a major contractor, because they can just put the plans on the machine and the job will be done, just as they’ve given it to you.”

Noel also maintains the Topcon X63 system makes him at least twice as productive. “It’s twice as fast, digging with the Topcon,” he said. “Especially with boxing roads and doing wetlands – where there are all different levels and there is a crown in the road and all that – you can just dig, check your level, and keep going and going.

“I do not stop, whereas before I would always be waiting five minutes, waiting for somebody to come and take a level.

“Now we just keep going all the time; as long as you get the information, you’re off, especially with drainage, it’s excellent.”

Power Topcon
 Owner-operator Noel Power has switched from hourly hire to
contracting – and doubled productivity and income – through his Topcon
X63 3D GPS excavator control system.

Since he’s had the X63, Power has had a lot of interest in the system from other owner-operators. 

“A lot of people are a bit scared at the start because it’s a computer system in the machine; I even find it hard to use a laptop, but this thing, it’s just that easy, it’s a touchscreen and you can’t make a mistake. 

“And if you charge for it on a daily basis, you make a lot more than what you pay back for it. So, if you set yourself up right, you can nearly pay for your machine by using this system,” he said.

“Hopefully, I’ll be making close to double what I was before I had it,” said Noel. “This is job number one and it’s looking that way – but don’t tell anybody else that!”

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