Three Questions with Bill Painter, Concrete Applications Specialist, Topcon

Sept. 13, 2018

Another in a series of byte-sized one-on-one visits with construction industry insiders. Construction Equipment sat down with Bill Painter, Topcon’s concrete applications specialist, to discuss construction technology.

Topcon offers land positioning systems (LPS) as well as GPS. What factors determine which system you use?

It all depends on application here on earth, and what we’re trying to do. The GPS can be affected by tree cover, buildings, or deep in the mountains where you don’t have a lot of sky view. If we were in one of those situations, we would go to an LPS with a robotic total station that wouldn’t be affected by buildings, trees, or mountains.

[For example] in the Colorado mountains, they’re not going to have much view to the sky, so we would use an LPS. If we’re in the middle of Nebraska where it’s really flat, not a lot of tree cover, then GPS.

How do contractors react when introduced to Topcon’s jobsite technology?

When we bring a product to the market, many times the contractors didn’t even realize they could [complete projects] this way. They say, “How can we make this work for us?” and “How can we use this in different areas?” It’s kind of a twofold thing. We come up with new technology, bring it to them, and say “This is how we developed this, this is our thought of how you would use it.” And they’ll say “This is great, we’ve been trying to think of ways to do this quicker for years.”

When we go back to that customer a year later, we discover they’re taking it to a new level, and doing something with it we never thought about. In many situations, fixing it and making it better for them.

We’ll work and talk with anybody, but when it comes down to the end result, if they don't have the right people on staff, this technology isn’t going to help them. With Smoothride, we’ve been a bit selective as to who we go to. We don’t want to sell something to somebody that we know is going to fail--for them and for us--it’s just not good. As the contractors progress and get more people on staff that can handle the technology, we’re wide open and ready to go.

How does Topcon update and add innovations?

Every time we introduce a new product, it’s basically called “system one,” or our first release of that product. What excites me is that we’re already working on system two, or even system three, of a product that’s being used today. We’re not just sitting back; we’re already looking at the next generation of that product.

Millimeter GPS and LPS have been sold for 10 to 12 years now, and we’ve had updates to them. With millimeter GPS we’re onto system three already. So the way I look into the future, I can’t wait to see how much system two of Smoothride is going to change the current way contractors are using it. I look forward to the next thing we do, and the improvements we can make to the technology we already have out currently.