Equipment Type

SITE TECHNOLOGY: Making the Best of Bad Times

October 17, 2011

Johan Smet is Director of Technology Consulting and Services for Trimble’s Heavy Civil Construction Division. He joined Trimble in 2004 as Director for the Construction Division. Johan holds an Engineering degree from the University of Antwerp, Belgium, and an MBA from the University of California, Berkeley. 

Every other year, Trimble’s Heavy and Highway group hosts a large users conference called Trimble Dimensions. We always do a survey among attendees to get their opinions about what is going on in their businesses, where they see the industry going, and what they are experiencing with their technology investments.

At our last show in November 2010, we asked “How has owning construction technology made your company more competitive through the recession?” The responses very much parallel the general benefits of machine control and other site technology solutions, but with a definite sense of urgency in this more competitive environment.

For example, “Reducing Rework” had the highest response by far... 80%. Rework is always a profit killer, but can be devastating to the slim margins you have in a soft economy.

“Doing the same work with fewer people” had the second most responses. This is the classic productivity story. If you un-pack it, it includes less waiting on surveyors, less or no staking, fewer machine passes, less operator fatigue, etc. In general, everything is more efficient and more immediate.

Next was “Win more bids.” You would expect this to be the number one response, since bids are the lifeblood of any construction business. But many of the company owners I talk to say it’s a chicken and egg thing. They buy the technology to reduce time and costs, and once it’s in place, and integrated into their business, their bids become extremely competitive.

Fourth most frequent response was “Save on fuel and material costs.” Talk about a double whammy! When fuel costs skyrocket, it doesn’t just impact your machines. It shows up in material and maintenance costs and eventually just about everything. With the increased speed and accuracy provided by machine control, less fuel and less material can be used.

And lastly there was “Win bonuses and avoid penalties.” Either one of these can have a huge impact on a project’s overall profitability... particularly when working with DOTs on larger road contracts.

We even included an option for “Technology has not helped.” Guess what. No one selected that.

You can read many stories about why and how customers made the decision to implement technology, and what their experience has been at Trimble Productivity.

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