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Lowcock Builders achieves accuracy from the get-go with Topcon

Lowcock Builders achieves accuracy from the get-go with Topcon

By integrating Topcon’s surveying and machine control technology, Lowcock Builders is realising enhanced efficiency, accuracy and control in its projects.

Lowcock Builders is a fourth-generation, family-owned construction business based in Bowen, Queensland. Specialising in commercial builds, director Jack Lowcock explains how deploying surveying and machine control technology has helped streamline workflows and increase accuracy on recent projects.

The company invested in the Topcon LN-150 robotic total station to enable the fast, accurate set out of designs without the need to offset from PDF plans or create profiles.

“Before the Topcon total station, we had a manual instrument that you needed two people to operate,” says Jack. “The LN-150 is much more user-friendly as a fully-robotic, one-person setup.”

With Topcon’s FC-6000 field controller running MAGNET Field software, the LN-150 solution employs optical positioning technology to set out plans and check work with survey-grade accuracy. Now, contractors can utilise the Topcon LN-150 as a machine control solution with the newly released MC-Mobile system.

“When we first purchased the LN-150, I asked if it could work with machines, but at that time, it couldn’t, so we just used it for staking out and as-builts,” says Jack. “Then, when we were ready to get a second system, our account manager from Aptella said that Topcon’s MC-Mobile was coming out and works with skid steers and excavators, which was just what we wanted.”

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Digital set out enables contractors to work accurately and efficiently. (Image: Aptella)
Digital set out enables contractors to work accurately and efficiently. (Image: Aptella)

Installed on an ASV Posi-Track with a box blade and a 1.7-tonne excavator, the MC-Mobile system includes a prism mounted to the machine that locks onto the LN-150 total station for millimetre-accurate earthworks. The Android tablet runs Topcon Pocket3D software and can be used both inside the machine and fixed to a rover pole for setting out and checking as-builts.

With the ability to measure, design and build from a single system and switch components between machines, MC-Mobile has been designed to provide multiple benefits at every stage of a project and give contractors more control over their work.

Jack explains that with their own in-house drafting capabilities, Lowcock Builders uses the system for building and checking as-builts rather than designing plans. “Although we don’t use the design aspects, it would be easy to create a design that works with the MC-Mobile system – all you need are a few known levels and you’d go from there,” he says.

Jack’s team loves the new technology, using it every day for their projects. Currently, Lowcock Builders is building a car wash at Airlie Beach and a large commercial warehouse in Bowen which will become the company’s new office.

“The Topcon systems don’t stop,” says Jack. “I’ve got two supervisors trained up now and we use them for everything – staking out, levelling pads, all our civil sub grades, drainage, electrical, tilt panels, plumbing – literally nothing is built until it’s drawn up and set out with the Topcon system.”

To ensure everything is built to design, the team also conducts the set out for all subcontractors and trades. “We set out everything so we know it’s all correct and negate any rework or delays from things not being where they should be,” says Jack. “I had that happen once on a job a couple of years ago where the survey had been done and they were working away but it was all wrong.”

“It’s easier for us to control it from the get-go, that way we know what we’ve done and that we’re building to design.”

Components can be swapped between machines or used as a survey rover. (Image: Aptella)
Components can be swapped between machines or used as a survey rover. (Image: Aptella)

Operators found it easy to pick up the technology and the setup has reduced manual labour, without the need for laser levels and screeds to keep checking levels.

Training and support from Aptella, Topcon’s Australian distributor, has helped the Lowcock Builders team confidently adopt the technology. Tokara, Aptella’s remote access platform, enables users to receive fast support over the phone, with technicians able to view and control the user’s tablet for on-the-job training and technical support.

“We haven’t had any major issues, but Tokara has been great for getting a quick fix to little things with minimal disruption,” says Jack.

Overall, Jack’s team is getting great productivity gains from the technology. “There’s no profiling, you can get onsite, set out two points and start digging right away while you set out the rest of the job,” he says. “It’s much faster and more efficient.”

“With the Topcon system, you’re building accurately,” he adds. “You could go ahead and get your fabricated steel and panels built straight off the model with the confidence to know that they’ll slot in perfectly because the job’s been built accurately from the get-go.”

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