It takes a strong presence to rise above the competition in Auckland’s explosive construction market. For the past eight years, Sureway Civil Limited has been building a reputation of strength and value through careful expansion of their fleet of modern Cat machinery. And high-accuracy GNSS positioning is fast becoming a critical contributor to its success.
Sureway Civil is a young construction company, but with careful planning and strategic partnering with strong brands such as Cat machinery, it’s riding the wave of Auckland’s housing construction boom. Employing 30 permanent staff and specialising in residential subdivisions of up to 70 lots, Sureway Civil’s continued growth enables them to take on larger clients and more complex projects, so the company is even extending its reach outside Auckland.
GPS Technology for Stretched Surveying Resources
Auckland’s residential construction work has doubled in the last four years. But the same explosive construction market that has assisted Sureway Civil’s growth has also presented a number of challenges. For one thing, an abundance of construction work makes it hard to find quality workers for subcontracting grading work. Similarly, surveyors around Auckland are spread very thin. A call to a surveyor may require a multi-day standstill of machines and related work until he or she can visit the site. These delays are costly and challenge the company’s mission to complete projects in the minimum time. Brandon Hands, owner of Sureway Civil, puts it this way, “As we’ve expanded, and even when we were smaller, we’ve always had delays for topos. You’d prepare a surface but couldn’t work it till an outside surveyor could come and topo. You’d pencil them in and something would change and there’d be a holdup and then you couldn’t get them when you need them. It’s the downtime of our equipment that’s the main cost, even more than the cost of the survey.
Sureway Civil is addressing some of these issues through advanced positioning technology. Initially, the company purchased a new Cat 120M motor grader that is ready to be fitted with a Caterpillar ACCUGRADE GPS system—positioning technology that helps operators work to the design plan by accurately cutting, filling, and reducing material cost. ACCUGRADE GPS combines digital design data, in-cab operator guidance, and automatic grader blade controls to increase productivity by up to 40%. And by virtually eliminating the need for survey stakes, an ACCUGRADE GPS system can reduce surveying costs by up to 90%.
The latest addition to the Sureway Civil fleet is a new 320EL excavator, which Sureway Civil ordered with ACCUGRADE™ GPS grade control installed. ACCUGRADE™ GPS assists the 320EL operator work to design plan by accurately cutting, filling, and reducing material cost. It compares the excavator blade position to a 3D computerized site plan and signals the operator or hydraulic system to raise or lower the blade to achieve the design requirements. This allows the operator to quickly and accurately excavate trenches, slopes and complex designs without traditional survey stakes.
Says Brandon, “Surveyors can’t put in pegs every metre—you’d have a forest of pegs the machine would have to dodge—so they do it every 10 m. With the ACCUGRADE GPS you’ve got pinpoint accuracy everywhere you go. Constant live survey setout is basically what it is.”
Sureway Civil have also purchased a Trimble SPS985 GNSS rover for grade checking. This system has empowered company employees to perform basic surveying tasks—including site calibration, grade checking, setting out, and as-builts—without relying on a surveyor. Furthermore, incidents such as the loss of a surveying peg, which would once have caused work to grind to a halt until a surveyor could visit the site to replace it, are now easily addressed using the Trimble system. Project delays have been enormously minimized and surveying costs reduced.
Initially, 3D digital plans from the subdivision designers are prepared in Trimble Business Center-HCE office software then loaded onto the Trimble TSC3 controller. Thus armed with 3D digital design data, Sureway Civil’s own employees can use the grade-checking system to carry out measurement tasks very quickly. An initial site survey verifies elevations and volume estimates, while regular site measurements allow them to check progress without waiting for a surveyor.
The response of Sureway Civil’s employees to the new positioning technology has typically been positive. “Some of my guys are a bit dubious to start out with, but as soon as you show them how user friendly it is they see the advantages of it,” says Brandon.
He adds that his employees are very surprised at how simple the ACCUGRADE GPS system is to use on the excavator. “They get in there and see straight away what’s going on, so there’s very little actual training required.”
Next Steps for Sureway Civil
As Sureway Civil continues to grow and expand, Brandon’s vision is clear, “You want one heavy machine with the ACCUGRADE GPS installed on every site. There’s just no comparison.” Soon Sureway Civil will be trading another of its old excavators in for a new ACCUGRADE GPS equipped one. “The market is busy,” Brandon adds. “We look forward to further expansion with high-accuracy positioning technology in order to meet demand.”