Mad Cat Constructions Deploys ‘Game Changing’ Grade Control on Small Machines

Customer Profile: Mad Cat Constructions (VIC) PTY LTD, established by Trevor Reynolds and Jim Knight, is a civil contractor based in Warragul, Australia. Mad Cat operates a large fleet of specialist machinery and attachments to facilitate civil and commercial projects for road corporations, councils, developers and large construction companies.

Business Challenge: Effectively use machine control on small machines to gain productivity advantages



  • Improved productivity
  • Greater accuracy
  • Safer jobsite
  • Less waste
  • Increased profits

As a civil and commercial contractor in Australia, Mad Cat Constructions employs a talented team and a large fleet of specialty machinery and attachments to facilitate a range of projects, from road and bridge construction to demolition and erosion control around Victoria.

Since its inception in 1995, the company has invested in advanced technology to streamline operations and drive productivity and quality. Its fleet, which includes excavators, graders and skid steers with various blades and scoops, is equipped with the latest technology, including the Trimble Earthworks Grade Control Platform and Trimble WorksManager Software to wirelessly transfer data such as 3D designs to the construction site.

Trevor Reynolds, director and project administrator, said, “Since we often work on very large residential housing estates, we have embraced GNSS in a big way, from rovers with Trimble Siteworks software for set out to machine control solutions for greater efficiency and productivity.”

Operators especially like the Trimble Earthworks “Autos,” or automatics mode, which automates the boom and bucket operation while the operator controls the stick for consistent, high accuracy finished grade in much less time.

Just recently, Mad Cat began construction on a large subdivision project in Victoria. The project scope included all civil works, from initial bulk earthworks and utility installs through to completed roads and footpaths. During planning for the project, crews wondered if the same technology-enabled advantages gained on big machines could be realised on small machines for things like drainage, power and communications trenching and footpath preparation.

The Mad Cat team knew that a Kubota U55-4, a 5-ton tight tail swing excavator powered by Kubota’s 47.6 HP direct injection engine, would be ideal for activities in narrow space. Now, they just needed some grade control software—and automatics—to further drive operator productivity.

Working with the local Trimble dealer, SITECH Construction Systems, and the team at Victoria-based Kubota dealer Supergroups, Mad Cat installed Trimble Earthworks with automatics on the U55-4, one of the smallest machines the system has been used on.

When asked about the ease of use, Reynolds confirmed, “As we are running other equipment already with Trimble Earthworks and automatics, it was very easy to implement with a few adjustments—we basically put it straight to work. We simply upload the prepared project design using Trimble WorksManager into the cloud and the machine loads the files and away we go.”

While Mad Cat has not yet calculated the exact ROI, Reynolds said, “It is a no-brainer.”

He points to one example of laying electrical tape over power conduits. “We don't need to mark out trench locations, we don't need to mark the depth or have someone measuring,” he said. “We don't have to worry about locating other services nearby. The operator just gets in and digs to the correct depth and position.”

Another benefit is the ability to deliver perfectly in-line trenches for utilities to the specified depth with no over digging. That accuracy reduces spoil that has to be removed from the site and requires less time to dig and verify depths, As Reynolds noted, the time, staff, safety, and money savings are everywhere.

Bottom line, he concluded, “There are fewer people involved in the same activity and we’re more accurate. Having a small machine with Trimble Earthworks and automatics is a game-changer.”

Expanding Possibilities: Technologies that Span the Design-through-Construction Lifecycle

There’s been considerable excitement and energy around machine control and autonomous operations in the construction space in recent years. And rightfully so – big machines that can grade a site to centimeter tolerances on the first go without operator assistance are worthy of celebration.

But what about the tools and techniques that go into winning and preparing for those machines to move? Sometimes forgotten in the thrill of the dig is the value of some of those familiar technology-enabled solutions to win jobs and set the stage for productivity, efficiency, and quality delivery.

In the following, we look at a few familiar technologies that are helping facilitate projects well before machines and materials arrive on a site.

A View from Above

By now, almost every contractor has likely heard of or applied data captured by drones. In the last few years, these flying robots have become almost commonplace on earthwork projects around the world as a foundation for volume calculations and progress tracking.

For many, the speedy, accurate survey data also provides a tremendous preconstruction advantage.

Australian infrastructure contractor McConnell Dowell has built some of the most challenging roads, rails, dams, pipelines, marine assets and other infrastructure in Australia, New Zealand and Southern Asia. The company’s latest endeavor is the Level Crossing Removal Program (LXRP), a multi-year program to oversee one of the largest rail infrastructure projects in the Australia’s history. As part of the Western Program Alliance (WPA), which also includes Arup, Mott MacDonald and Metro Trains Melbourne, McConnell Dowell is charged with removing and renovating a set number of the crossings. To-date, the alliance has completed six of the crossing projects, and is currently working on another four.

“Just surveying the individual project sites was a challenge,” said John Dyer, Engineering Manager with WPA. “Even the best surveyor in the world might only survey on five- or 10-meter grids, so we would only get a snapshot of that particular point or area, which then had to be interpolated on a 2D drawing. We needed a way to survey the whole site quickly to provide a timely resource for optimal collaboration and project management.”

McConnell Dowell put Trimble Stratus, powered by Propeller, to work for them. For Alex Wong, Senior Digital Engineer at McConnell Dowell, the Trimble Stratus platform has become an essential tool in the pre-planning phases of the project. “Quite often during the tender period, we have people with different ideas of how things work,” he said. “With the 3D aerial data, that discussion becomes much more focused and everyone is better prepared for the next phase.”

Wong says another advantage of Stratus is coordinating people, equipment and materials for a job. “Material delivery planning can be a challenge on these sites. Recently, a subcontractor from Tasmania needed to deliver some very large steel piles for a bridge structure. Due to the pandemic, we were not able to get to the site,” he said. “Trimble Stratus enabled our subcontractors to plan the safe delivery of these very large elements in a laydown area. Further, we provided the piling contractor access to the topo data of the site in question, and that team is able to pre-plan activities from material laydown to equipment locations, with full awareness of site restrictions.”

Satellite Connections

Integral to everything from watches to automated wheel loaders, GNSS is certainly a familiar technology. But even the application of this now-common navigation solution continues to expand, especially for pre-construction applications.

The capability came in particularly handy for the multi-year $3.7 million Wanaka Lakefront Development Plan, initiated by the Queenstown Lakes District Council and Wanaka Community Board. Key objectives of the plan are to restore and develop native vegetation to maintain the lakefront’s rugged, wild landscape, improve and expand a shared pathway for pedestrians and cyclists, and the construction of a lakeside boardwalk.

The modernisation includes the restoration of 300m long native revegetation of lake edge as well as vegetation along a steep bank, the construction of a 3m wide shared path alongside Lakeside Road and a 2m wide boardwalk along the  lake edge with connections to the existing pathway network as well as an 80m of timber and concrete retaining wall.

For Blakely Construction, a Rolleston, New Zealand-based civil contractor, the project was an exciting opportunity to demonstrate technology enabled benefits both before and after construction start.

The project is about a five hour drive from Blakely’s headquarters, which could create some logistical and communication challenges.

Mathew Havill, General Manager for Blakely Construction, and his team took advantage of Trimble SiteVision, a new, outdoor augmented reality (AR) system purchased from SITECH New Zealand, originally purchased to support project progress. SiteVision is purpose-built to help project teams communicate design adjustments to field crews, conduct inspections, track progress and make quick survey measurements.

“Initially, I wanted SiteVision mostly because I thought it would help bring our clients on the journey with us as we built projects,” Havill explained. “We found it could do so much more.”

Key to Havill’s decision to use the augmented reality system was access to a 3D model of the boardwalk.

“As contractors, we’re very good at envisioning how projects come together, but that’s sometimes difficult to portray to clients and the community in a visual way,” said Havill. “With SiteVision’s AR capabilities, we were able to draw them more into the process by providing clear visuals about how each piece of the project would come together, including, in this case, the interaction between hardscape and vegetation.”

It also allowed the Blakely project team to highlight areas of potential concern so that decisions could be made in advance. In one instance, the technology was used to assess potential concerns during early site assessments. The Lake Wanaka boardwalk runs along the shoreline with a vertical bank in some areas with a lot of existing vegetation.

He continued, “We knew there were concerns about the local ecology, but we were able to show the client and community how that vegetation interacted with the boardwalk—and more importantly, get clarification about removal. SiteVision allows us to communicate those areas that need more detail with clarity.”

Robotic Rewards

One of the challenges in the estimating, bidding and pre-construction phases of a project is often the limited ground-based infrastructure like base stations, radio or internet connectivity necessary to survey and develop estimates for materials, labor and machines. The most common survey approach would be to use RTK, but that requires a fixed base station to acquire correction data.

But what if ground access is not readily available? That’s where a GNSS solution such as Trimble RTX comes into play. RTX is a family of real-time GNSS positioning services available via IP/cellular or satellite delivery worldwide. The services utilize real-time satellite measurements from a global network of tracking stations, along with highly accurate atmospheric models and algorithms to generate Trimble RTX corrections. These corrections are then broadcast to the receiver via a set of geostationary satellites or over the Internet, which the receiver uses to improve the accuracy of its GNSS positions.

While stand-alone GNSS positioning without corrections provides horizontal accuracies that are typically more than one meter, Trimble RTX correction services can provide horizontal accuracies better than two centimeters—ideal for pre-construction activities.

Imagine the possibilities of an RTX-enabled ground-based survey solution such as Boston Dynamics’ Spot the robot dog as a pre-construction tool for gathering as-built conditions inside or out?

As contractors continue to expand their high-tech toolboxes, keep in mind that many of the systems and solutions used to drive project productivity can also better prepare your crews for success before ever putting blade to dirt.

Running with Plan A

BuildingPoint Australia recently added Trimble Tilos to their software portfolio and who better to strike up a partnership with than Plan A, to continue to provide outstanding sales, service, and support to Tilos customers.

Luke Charet, Managing Director at Plan A started his business in 2019 after recognising the value in offering project planning support exclusively with Tilos. With over twenty years of experience in project planning and management, Luke has been adapting and implementing the most current and updated techniques on the market, giving him an edge with some of the biggest names in construction and projects across Australia with Tilos outputs.

Now an authorised Tilos Reseller, we caught up with Luke recently to find out more about Plan A and what they can offer.

Give us a brief history lesson on how the company got started.

In my role with various construction companies, I found Tilos is the best way to communicate a program, so much so I base my business around it.

I think project planning at times can be over complicated, but Tilos makes it very clear and simple to see and understand so I decided to start my own business to use this method to help companies achieve great results.

What have been the milestones in growth that have occurred?

We’ve met growth milestones regularly with new clients, large construction companies, Tiers 1, 2, and 3. Anytime we get a new client we haven’t worked with before leads to future growth by repeat business, mainly because they are so happy with results achieved with Plan A.

Additionally, now Plan A is a reseller for Tilos Software, and we can now provide the software we love as well as the training, it brings another new growth milestone for Plan A Project Planning as a company.

Geographically, what market do you serve?

Plan A serves all of Australia and has great plans to enter New Zealand and other overseas markets in the future.

What are the key services you sell?

These are some of the things Plan A can deliver:

P6 to Tilos conversions – includes analysis, improvements, presentation
Tender Construction from scratch and delivery in Tilos (dynamic planning)
End of month status updates (Tilos à P6 output)
Training in Tilos (beginner to advanced – group/ one-on-one)
Tilos Licence sales and distribution

What is the percentage makeup of your business currently?

We work with some of the biggest construction companies throughout Australia, and I would say our major involvement is with both Roads and Rail, each having approximately 30% share in our current workload, although there’s also a mix of 30% ongoing within the mines and dam markets too. The last 10% would be electrification projects.

Do you consider yourself a big, medium, or small consultant?

We’re currently a small business but with new opportunities with the Tilos reseller agreement, and with current expansion planned soon we are working towards building our Team under the Plan A banner

What are some significant projects Plan A has worked on?

Plan A has worked on many projects over the years, and some of the most recent are

Copper String 2.0 in northern QLD
Gold Coast Light rail
Inland Rail
Coffs Harbour Bypass.
and many more. Visit our website

What Trimble products do you own and how are they used?

Plan A uses Tilos Software on all projects we work on, roads, rail, civil, dams, etc. For those not familiar, Tilos is a world-class linear infrastructure project management software tool, specifically created to make linear project planning easy. This robust scheduling software combines time and distance into one graphical view, successfully planning large and spread-out civil construction projects.

Why did you decide to buy Tilos?

I started using Tilos 12 years ago and found the ease of communication was needed and appreciated in my business for managers, engineers, project managers, project schedulers, and project owners, as well as all the people on the ground so they can understand the program and critical path.

How does Tilos help with cost and time savings?

Tilos allows me to quickly present a program or an idea or strategy to show, for example, the indicative direction of construction – what end are we starting on and what impacts will affect programs – weather, soil, etc., so by the ease of Tilos we can identify these issues quickly and prevent this from happening and have a plan in place.

What would a job be like without Tilos?

What’s been done forever are P6 and Gant charts which take over many pages to convey a message. Tilos is a true time chainage software tool, not only does it present time location charts but there are some serious tools to help planning. My favourite is the ability to easily produce a mass haul program. With Tilos, this is all done within the one software solution – a one-stop-shop for your planning and scheduling workflow.

How has your Trimble Dealer supported your success?

The best thing about our Tilos dealer is the quick turnaround in the resolutions of issues. Great communication is the key even if the issue isn’t a quick fix, and I’m informed of a time and turnaround to help me work around this to ensure I can still deliver my programs on time to my clients.

What three things do you remember when a project is complete?

For me, it’s the introduction of Tilos software to a broader audience and seeing the client’s ability to understand and recognise our critical paths so quickly and easily. I get great satisfaction as I have been lucky enough to work on a diverse range of large nation-building projects. And most importantly finishing a project ahead of time and everyone is excited to see what the Tilos output looks like.

If you would like more information on how Plan A can help you achieve success when it comes to project planning, call Luke on 0411 367 279 or visit their website

Dredge Contractor ‘Sees’ Under Water and Dredge to a 3D Design


Real-time positioning and visualisation from SITECH NZ and Trimble’s Marine Construction Software (TMC) and positioning technologies, help contractors tackle landmark dredging and remediation project.

Working under a consortium headed by EnviroWaste Services Limited, NZPGS was hired for a large-scale canal remediation project for Whakatane’s Kopeopeo Canal in New Zealand. Because of the complexity of the dredging required, coupled with extensive decontamination work ,NZPGS,s engineering team turned to SITECH NZ and Trimble Marine for help with positioning and 3D real-time visualisation of work.

TerrusM – Fast Mobile Mapping

After recognising a gap in the marketplace for large scale maps, UPG, part of the SITECH Construction Systems Group, has become an authorised distributor of TerrusM, a lightweight, portable mobile scanner that rapidly documents and manages large scale assets in the underground, and quarry industries.

This mobile mapping platform fits easily to light and large vehicles and collects map data in busy environments easily using a simple touch screen interface.

For more information on TerrusM visit our website or talk to our TerrusM experts.