An ‘Automatic’ Advantage
R.B. Jergens Contractors, Inc. Gains Productivity with Grade Control Platform
Based in Vandalia, Ohio, R.B. Jergens Contractors, Inc. has long been an early adopter of technology. The company purchased its first GPS-based surveying equipment, a Trimble base station and rover, in 1999 and has never looked back. Today, the company has over 30 machine control systems and over 50 pieces of equipment that can utilize the machine control technology. Located just down the road from Trimble’s Dayton, Ohio research, development and training center, R.B. Jergens has become both a beta tester and avid adopter of many of Trimble’s newest technology developments.
Specifically, R.B. Jergens relies heavily on the Trimble GCS900 Grade Control System with automatic blade control. Whether grading simple pads and slopes or complex design surfaces and alignments, the operator can get to grade at high speeds, without sacrificing grade control accuracy or quality of the final graded surface using machine control. Utilizing GPS and robotic grading systems, R.B. Jergens can quickly and efficiently complete the most complicated road project.
“In the early days, we would have one or two machines equipped with machine control on a job site, but it’s to the point now where we can better maximize the technology,” said David Reynolds, Surveying Manager with R.B. Jergens. “We have fully embraced this technology. In order to keep up with the production that we forecast and expect, and depending on the size and scope of a project, we may have as many as six machines on a job site running machine control.”
Recently, R.B. Jergens has been putting the new Trimble Earthworks Grade Control Platform to the test on several of its excavators.
“While the user interface is completely different, moving from a soft key control box to a touchscreen control box, the transition from the GCS9000 has not been difficult,” said Reynolds, who noted that the company’s close relationship with SITECH Ohio, the local Trimble dealer, has helped R.B. Jergens onboard new technology easily for nearly 20 years.
The new Earthworks platform includes intuitive, easy-to-learn software, is customizable, and allows each operator to personalize the interface to maximize productivity, regardless of his or her experience or skill level. When the excavator is placed in “autos” or automatics mode, the operator controls the stick, and Trimble Earthworks controls the boom and attachment to stay on grade for a more consistent grade and higher accuracy in less time.
R.B. Jergens has used the machine control with automatics combination on several jobs with impressive results.
The Earthworks Edge
One of the first jobs that the R.B. Jergens team used the Earthworks Grade Control Platform on was to construct a 1,000-foot-long ditch with a very flat profile of about .2 percent.
“For this type of task, the automatics functionality is invaluable, because an operator would have a very difficult time maintaining fall,” said Reynolds. “It averages out to less than 3 inches over 100 feet, which is almost impossible to eyeball.”
Traditionally, on a job with that flat of a profile, the surveyor would have had to set grade stakes at a pretty high frequency.
“We used the automatics feature to construct the ditch and ensure that it held a consistent profile per the design specifications, even though the profile is extremely flat,” said Reynolds.
The R.B. Jergens team also used Trimble Earthworks on a job recently that involved the excavation and testing of soils at a large site.
“We needed to excavate prequalified soil in layers as we dug a gridded site,” explains Reynolds. “We would excavate each layer of soil within each grid and sort the soil accordingly. Autos saved us from having to physically stake each one of those gridded areas and constantly check grade within those excavations for depth.”
Without automatics, a survey team would have laid out grade stakes before the excavation and throughout the dig to determine how much additional excavation needed to occur in order to get to the bottom of that layer, saving time, improving accuracy, and mitigating safety concerns.
Reynolds says, “The depths of the excavations can be as much as 20 feet or more, which puts our surveyors at risk. The automatics functionality eliminated that concern.”
A challenging automatics-enabled excavator project recently was the excavation near a transmission tower for the construction of a soil nail retaining wall. Crews needed to excavate the area around a transmission tower without undermining the integrity of the tower foundation.
The soil nail retaining wall is 25 feet tall and about 150 feet long. To complete the job, the R.B. Jergens crew would excavate and expose up to 5 vertical feet of the bank face, then the retaining wall contractor would drill holes in the soil, install and grout the steel rod, and attach plates and cover the face with a cementitious shotcrete. It’s a stop-and-start process that required about a month to complete.
“We used the autos on the excavator to perform all of the excavations,” says Reynolds. “Without machine-controlled guidance and the automatics capability to pull those slopes in so tightly, I’m not sure how we’d have done this job. It would have required substantial surveying and re-surveying.”
Reynolds estimates that the surveyor and field crews easily saved three days of time each on the job – at least 40 hours – with the use of automatics.
He added that the beauty of having machine control – and specifically the Trimble Earthworks system – is time savings. He adds, “We don’t require a grade checker on all projects such as the soil nail retaining wall. We've been able to reallocate resources more effectively and increase our productivity anywhere from 50 to 100 percent, so we’re leaner and more profitable.”
While R.B. Jergens is happy with the technology-enabled improvements they’ve realized in recent years, the company is not done. Its operators and surveyors continue to beta test Trimble solutions as they’ve done for two decades. These early adopters look to Trimble to push the technology envelope while continuing to reap the value of technology on jobsites of all scopes, scales and complexity.