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Technology, total stations and an excavator

Roughan Haulage

Since 2018, civil contractor Roughan Haulage & Excavations has been harnessing Trimble’s technology solutions to improve production, decrease rework and increase accuracy on construction sites – a formula that has bolstered its operations and client offering.

Roughan Haulage & Excavations, based in Melbourne, Victoria, was founded in 2017 as an earthworks and land management firm with a modern touch.

Company founder and director Matthew Roughan knew early on he wanted to focus on differentiating his company with skill and technology-enabled solutions. At the time, he was just one man and a machine. While early work was largely focused on the domestic space, such as foundations and drainage/utility trenches for homes, the company moved to civil infrastructure for commercial and government customers soon after. That shift was made possible in part because of a move to 3D machine control.

In 2018, Roughan invested in a 14-tonne Sumitomo excavator equipped with Trimble 3D machine control and put it straight to work on a road project.

Roughan recalls, “Our selling point to clients was that we could up production, decrease rework and increase accuracy – we could only do that with help from technology.”

“It was a challenge to sell to some clients initially, but once we got up and running, we could demonstrate the benefits.”

Trimble SPS930 Universal Total Station (UTS).

One year later, the firm added a Trimble SPS930 Universal Total Station (UTS) for the 14-tonne excavator to further improve operational capabilities. The UTS is able to achieve millimetre accuracy in areas where Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) signals are spotty or inconsistent.

“Very quickly, we found we were able to improve our productivity and quality on major road works projects, especially in tight work areas,” Roughan says. “Versatility is such a crucial part of our work; we have to make sure all of our machines and operators can service all stages of all jobs. That means reducing machine movements and unneeded project expenses.”

That mentality would serve as a foundation for more recent investment that’s generating even greater excitement from his team – and additional satisfaction from customers.

Quality and flexibility

In February 2021, Roughan took delivery of a next generation Cat 308 Mini Excavator equipped with both UTS and GNSS fitted by local Trimble distributor, SITECH Construction Systems – a first in Australia.

When asked why he wanted both UTS and GNSS, Roughan says, “If there’s more that we can offer to our clients, then I want it.”

“We had already learned that the increase in accuracy and consistency compared to GNSS was real, so it was a no-brainer.”

He freely admits that he didn’t realise the full extent of the UTS advantage until he began using the machine across more projects.

The new UTS/GNSS-equipped Cat 308 has been put to work on a number of civil works jobs, particularly road and rail projects with small intersections or areas where graders won’t fit.

“As soon as we hooked up the first time, we could see the difference in quality results and jobsite flexibility,” Roughan says. “As the weather changes throughout the day, the corrections stay the same from morning to night, whereas GNSS can vary, sometimes as much as 20-30 millimetres throughout the day, especially if we’re on various networks or working around obstructions.”

Roughan Haulage & Excavations has relied on skilled workers and an investment in technology to grow its business from residential work to include civil infrastructure projects for government and commercial customers.

“With UTS, we don’t have dropouts so we can achieve those tighter tolerances.”

One particularly notable project was at the Youth Justice Centre at Cherry Creek in Victoria. “We needed to trim the building pads, but getting a grader set up just wasn’t viable,” says Roughan. “Instead, we used the Cat 308 and were able to change tolerances and meet the specifications defined by the road authority with that excavator.”

When asked about UTS specifically, Roughan continues, “We’re three years into using it and we’re hitting our stride at an especially good time. Many of our clients, largely general contractors, are being asked to meet much tighter tolerances, sub 10 millimetres, and tight timelines. We can’t achieve that with GNSS when we don’t have control of what’s going on in the environment. Running a total station with an excavator just blows their mind. Now, we can leave it all in the operator’s hands – we run smoother, very accurately and have a faster finishing process. We request UTS on every machine now.”

Teamwork and specialised techniques

Today, Roughan has a fleet of excavators ranging from 8 tonnes to 25 tonnes in size that are fitted with the most advanced machine guidance systems from Trimble. Moving forward, Roughan believes he will continue to invest in more machines and will likely extend the use of existing software.

“Trimble Earthworks paid for itself in the first year on the first system – the functionality and flexibility has been a key part of Roughan Haulage & Excavations winning work,” he notes.

He points to the value of the software’s profile alignment and infield feature: “Design models are not always as precise as we need. So, the ability to swap between design and infield alignments allows our operators to manipulate the existing conditions as needed and it reduces the need for surveyors on site.”

“Trimble Earthworks is changing the industry, allowing us to rectify problems quickly, because we’re not waiting for a redesign. We can make an adjustment in one-third of the time that it would take a surveyor to come to the site, make measurements and then create a new model.”

While the Roughan team doesn’t build its own 3D models yet, he sees that happening in the future. On the machine side, he’s expecting another Cat 308 with an identical UTS/GNSS set up soon.

One of the reasons for Roughan’s success to-date and its ability to justify future investments, is their partnership with SITECH Construction Systems. “Their support is great in Australia and easily accessible,” he says.

“The techs are very knowledgeable, so if we have any downtime, it’s minimal. Few other brands provide technology for an excavator in the same way that SITECH and Trimble do. The Trimble UTS is a league above the rest.”

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