Unlimited Vision

Jan. 1, 2001

Technology can be a contractor’s closest ally. A new device, machine, or system can make all the difference in completing the job quickly, easily, and at the lowest cost. Increased efficiency and precision result in contractors being able to take on more work. In effect, a contractor taking on more work, while keeping costs down, will most likely end up netting a greater profit. Mesa Contracting Corporation learned just how valuable cutting-edge technology can be with its Trilogy Project. Located in Corona, CA, the Trilogy Project involved the grading of 470 lots and the Trilogy Glen Ivory Course, a deluxe 18-hole golf course. Time restrictions plagued the project, however, allowing only 90 working days for its completion.

With a little over three months, Mesa Contracting’s grading foreman, Ted Perry, knew that the job needed to be done swiftly and smoothly. “The time for the project was very constrictive,” he maintains. Therefore, Mesa Contracting decided it would be a good idea to try out SiteVision GPS. Created by Trimble of Sunnyvale, CA, SiteVision is a global positioning system (GPS) that combines satellites with grading and surveying.

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SiteVision GPS involves three integral pieces: a base station, satellites, and machinery such as bulldozers and blades. “It’s pretty quick installation,” relates Perry. “It took about one day to hook it up. Once you set up the base station, you don’t need to set it up again.” The base station is essentially the brain of SiteVision GPS. A rover backpack gathers a digital terrain model. These data are then input into software known as the site calibration file. The site calibration file is loaded into the base station so that it knows the levels of the terrain in a 6-mi. area. The base station sends signals to satellites that, in turn, send signals to the bulldozers and blades telling operators where they need to go and how to position their equipment. Light bars and monitors mounted in the grading machines guide the operator with such tasks as repositioning the blade vertically or moving to the left or right. Perry says, “It’s very simple. It took 30 minutes of training to learn how to read the screen.” Total Control Construction Systems Inc. of California installed the SiteVision GPS equipment on the Trilogy Project. It also thoroughly trained operators and assisted whenever support was necessary.

The Trilogy Project had no need for traditional lasers to guide the dozer and blade operators. Perry states, “(SiteVision GPS) is more accurate than lasers because it has a lot less restrictions.” He explains that some of the restrictions that decrease lasers’ efficiency include wind, fog, and darkness. Nevertheless, with the GPS method, conditions and lighting are not limiting factors that often obstruct working with lasers. As a matter of a fact, Mesa Contracting was able to do a topo at 7:30 p.m. “It only took 20 or 30 minutes,” Perry recalls. “We wouldn’t have been able to do a topo that late or that quickly [with traditional means].” Indeed, the Trilogy Project was reaping the benefits of a system not restricted by lasers.

The absence of lasers was definitely an advantage for Mesa Contracting. In addition, the contractors were impressed by the significant increase in efficiency on the Trilogy Project. “The dozer is at full potential all the time,” Perry notes. “[We no longer needed] a grade checker waiting for the dirt to move or an operator who has to wait for layout.” Instead, the base station directly transmits the information to the operator. “I don’t have to wait for surveying, wood, or any grade checkers,” he adds.

As any grading contractor knows, a golf course can be a very challenging and time-consuming project. Normally the various grades and levels require many stakes, measurements, and plenty of laser positioning. Yet this did not prove to be the case for the Trilogy Glen Ivory Course. SiteVision GPS made the staking obsolete and increased the movement speed significantly. Perry points out that hole 18 specifically seemed like it would be a problem: “It’s about a 300-yard shot, and the hole is on this 100-foot-high ridge. We couldn’t disturb the vegetation on either side. Without SiteVision, it would have been a nightmare.”

The Trilogy Project was Mesa Contracting’s first time using SiteVision GPS. After the completion of the grading, grade checkers went on-site to verify the accuracy of Mesa Contracting’s cuts. “It was right on the money,” Perry says. The grading foreman is also impressed: “I’ve become so reliant on it that I can’t believe I worked without it before. It saves us around 30% on both time and labor.” Perry also points out that it potentially could be used on different jobs. “If you had a different job within 6 miles you could use the same base station. It works on an unlimited amount of dozers and blades in this radius.”

Trying a new system paid off for the Trilogy Project. Working with Total Control Construction Systems provided Mesa Contracting with complete training and installation of the SiteVision GPS equipment. Total Control Construction Systems also offers free demonstrations and full support with the systems.