May the ‘Force’ be with you.

The Hub-4 team were recently invited to the ‘Discover Digital’ event at Stratford-upon-Avon which was hosted by industry experts Plantforce Digital.

Aimed at breaking down the jargon of how a truly connected construction site works by letting you get hands-on with one. The well-attended event saw the Plantforce team working in collaboration with industry-leading suppliers, including Sitech and Leica, to give you a guided experience of the technology that allows you to access live data from your projects no matter where you are in the world.

Who are Plantforce:

Established as a regional plant hire company in 1999, the market-leading Tier 1 company has grown year on year to now provide one of the largest and most diverse ranges of plant machinery and skilled operators in the UK. With specialist divisions such as Plantforce Compact, Plantforce Attachments and Plantforce Crushing and Screening, the company can meet industry needs with technology and advanced project-specific equipment.

Plantforce are leading the way in innovative technology, with an extensive fleet of GPS Machine Control Solutions with enabled excavators, rollers, and dozers available for immediate hire. Additionally, by working in partnership with leading brands like Trimble, Leica and Topcon, they can provide a full 360° solution for your site needs, ranging from standard GPS-ready machines for you to fit your own kit, through to a turn-key solution- a fully installed machine with cab kit, base station, and fully qualified plant operator.

Site set-up and in-depth training for site team combined with remote access to your equipment through ConX and TCC is also available.

An overview of GPS/GNSS and what Plantforce can offer:

The benefits of the GPS/GNSS technology which was demonstrated are quite breath-taking and speaking to Samuel Mercer, who is COO at Plantforce, he gave me an insight into this innovative technology.

“With this technology, we are bringing more machine control into play which is like having a virtual engineer sat in the cab, guiding you where to dig and how deep – which effectively means efficiency and fewer site operatives. For instance, site surveys now mean no more dubious pegging out as a site survey can be completed from a remote office which is more accurate. With the inclusion of a drone, this means no on-site operatives as the drone can be controlled from a safe place with a complete view of the site.”

Samuel continued, “From a H&S point of view, we have eliminated people around machines making the whole operation much safer. It also means lots of other efficiencies, including fuel burn and material usage; for example: if a driver over cuts a trench by 30cm x 5 metres long, it will mean more stone and concrete will be needed, which in turn means more cost so it is much more effective to leave the soil where it is instead of bringing more stone and concrete to backfill. It is essential that the job is more time efficient, so it is all about doing things right first time, and this technology provides that!”

Planning perfection:

In the region of 20% of the total cost of construction is derived from reworks or doing things twice, even hitting services that have been put in the ground by the contractor.

Planning time for instance assists in getting all the tickets and time sheets in, then proceeding with a survey. Even on day one you can see you are behind because you have all the information.

Samuel explained, “You can ask yourself whether these trucks are running efficiently. This might not be on the GPS but could be on the telematic side or actually because there is excessive idle time! It would then allow me a couple of options – I could release a truck or two from the job, or alternatively if they are stood around, I could bring another excavator in to help load up.

“GPS allows better ongoing management – the problems we are experiencing as a company and one of the reasons for this event is that the major projects, your major contractors [T1 – HS2/Hinckley Point] all have these systems and are running with them but for smaller contractors [example – leisure centre construction] the gap is huge and for these people what today is all about is getting them on this process. The longer they leave it the harder it will take – 80% are not using this technology because of cost and fear of the technology and every year the technology is getting more complicated.”   

What is GPS?

GPS provides the ability to reduce costs, increase productivity, and stay on top of vehicle maintenance, allowing you to focus on running your business.

Increased fleet visibility identifies what you have and how it is being used. A GPS tracking solution can help uncover hidden costs, while revealing the potential for greater productivity and efficiency.

High-resolution maps with intelligent clustering and detail on demand provide a simple yet powerful vehicle tracking solution to:

  • A reduction in fuel consumption.
  • Provide accurate ETAs.
  • Monitor vehicle maintenance needs.
  • Keep tabs on your mobile workforce and equipment.

Driver Training:

Samuel then told me how Plantforce train drivers; “We have a basic introduction into GPS/GNSS Machine Control/Guidance which is a 3-part course. The first step of driver training is done by the individual himself and for that reason that first hour is basic. He knows it is basic so he will not question in that first hour as he feels he is expected to know it. With the first hour complete then he can come in and do some training.

“Some may have questions as the fear of new technology is a huge one with some seeing it as a threat to themselves whereas in fact the opposite is we want to take our really good drivers and make them better!

“With the benefit of automation, the driver has more time to observe and ensure it is safe which allows them more time to manage other issues which makes the whole operation more efficient. The site should be driving fuel efficiency and costs savings, so it is important that we get more people on board before the technology goes too far – we are currently at 3D with automation, so it is essential that we train more operatives before the costs escalate.”

How will my drivers react to GPS tracking?

In most cases it depends on why you want to use it, and how you explain it to them. If you want to use it to improve the efficiency, security, and safety of the business, and help mobile workers to get more done, with less paperwork and phone calls, then most employees will understand that. They will also appreciate you are trying to keep the business profitable and improving their job security. If they think it has been done because you do not trust them then they may not be as welcoming.

How does GPS work?

A GPS tracking device interacts with satellites that are continuously transmitting signals to pinpoint locations. GPS systems may use over eight satellites at once. This allows the location calculation to be accurate to within 100 feet. Construction sites require this high-level of accuracy because they are complex, highly active workplaces. Site managers cannot afford to waste time wondering about the location of various assets.

Why GPS technology is important for construction

Operational efficiency can be the difference between a successful construction project and one that suffers from delays and unforeseen expenses. With the right technology, construction site managers ensure the entire team benefits from higher productivity and improved safety.

In order to efficiently manage a construction site, several types of GPS technology are needed for diverse types of equipment. Specific GPS solutions are available for vehicles, powered assets, and unpowered assets. Regardless of type, GPS technology is important to successful construction projects for following reasons:

  • On-site vehicle and equipment location tracking: With GPS, you can monitor the real-time location of your assets and oversee all the moving parts of the jobsite remotely. This can enable you to monitor how effectively you are utilising fuel, vehicles, and employees. GPS solutions can also provide you with automated inventory reporting, giving you access to a visual map of all your assets on one platform.
  • Proper equipment maintenance: GPS technology lets you monitor the usage of your construction equipment and helps you reduce downtime or prevent breakdowns of frequently used equipment. These systems will not only track your equipment’s usage but can also provide customised preventative maintenance alerts for specific equipment and vehicles.
  • Theft: In the unfortunate event of a theft from your construction site, GPS technology can help you locate and retrieve the missing asset. Furthermore, when using GPS solutions with geofencing capabilities like Samsara’s, you can instantly receive alerts when a tracked asset leaves a certain perimeter. Not only is having real-time GPS location important in removing any guesswork regarding an asset’s location, but it can also be helpful to have this information to share with authorities in case of theft.
  • Data-based resolution of client disputes: In the event of a disputed invoice, construction GPS technology can provide data to prove that your team was on site and on time for the job. Having digital evidence is a simple and effective way to ensure that everyone is paid fairly for their work.

Training Partnerships:

Currently Plantforce has a practical training apprentices’ partnership with LP Training, and they are also in partnership with Weston College.

Their on-line platform for learning contains a series of training courses to help with everyday construction work, courses range from GPS/GNSS machine control/guidance to fuel efficiency dynamics. These training courses are complimented with YouTube help tutorials and practical training at our partners Weston College in Weston Super Mare.

Samuel, continued, “Our training is very well received although some people struggle to manage the data. He explained further, Currently Plantforce are producing data reports for people because the client is saying I can see all of this but what is it trying to tell me?

“An example of this would be a site is more efficient than another one, which points to a machine problem, so we highlight any efficiency problems they have on that working site, bearing in mind we are not present every day to observe. So, we offer a hire insights package which is data machine telematics, a portal to the customer service, and POD which is the plant operator database.”

Samuel concluded, “In terms of training LP Training manage the apprenticeships for us as we are the end user. This enables Plantforce to bring new people into the industry and introduce them on their very first day on-site to the most advanced equipment there is. We have a specific programme which provides 50% of their training before they go to site. It is all about giving the apprentice all the tools so he can last and not be rejected. We cannot have them fail, there is a massive skills shortage, if we do not bring these people in it will only get harder and harder. From experience, we have found that resistance from older people to adapt to modern technology is not seen in younger people.

“Our apprenticeships cover a minimum of 4 tickets which have been very successful and released new people into the industry which our clients are pleased about. The digital training, we do is becoming more common, we actually manage upskill training for our customers operators and introduce the new technology because they do not know where to start. It is hard to understand every aspect of it as what the QS sees is different to what the plant operator sees, so we try to breakdown down those barriers. We operate a training trailer which takes people off-site and into a comfortable environment on a simulator where we can do it in a controlled manner.”

Associated Businesses

  • Weston Super Mare, BS23 3YW