Curt Bennink spoke with Kris Nagy, industry sales representative for Caterpillar, about using Caterpillar skid stters or compact track loaders, a box blade and Trimble Earthworks Go to make jobsite grading faster, accurate and require less people.
Bennink: Hi, this is Curt Bennink with ForConstructionPros.com. I’m here with Kris Nagy, he’s going to help contribute to our Digging Deeper podcast. We’re going to be discussing Caterpillar’s new solution for making jobsite grading more productive with less people using Trimble Go, along with the Caterpillar skid steers or compact track loaders and a box blade.
Nagy: Thank you. Curt, yeah, what we do here in building construction products, we’re the division that handles the skid steer type products. In this particular case, it would be the Caterpillar Compact Track Loader (CTL) — maybe something as small as a 259 or as large as the R299.
The labor force is getting tighter, less skilled and less available, and so what we’ve done is we’ve come up with a box blade solution — which is not anything new. We’ve got a skid steer type product in our Caterpillar CTL, again nothing new, and then we incorporate that with some technology from Trimble called Trimble Earthworks Go. And we pull all these things together. We can take an unskilled operator, or not a highly skilled operator, and get a pad or a two-dimensional surface flat within a quarter inch of grade.
Let me give you a couple examples of what that means. So, for example, we did a study at Caterpillar. You can see it on YouTube, it’s a 40-ft. by 60-ft. pa
d. We did one traditionally with thre e workers. One worker was driving stakes and one was checking grade. The third guy was actually using the machine. It took them one hour and 45 minutes to do a 40-ft. by 60-ft. pad. That’s reasonable, they were placing 3 in. worth of gravel to get you a 3-in. lift for the concrete.
We did the same exact size pad using the Caterpillar system, again with the Trimble Earthworks Go, a track loader and a box blade. Earthworks go is very, very simple and relatively new on the market. It allowed us to do that same job that took one hour and 42 minutes in 36 minutes with one guy. So, one guy, 36 minutes versus three guys — an operator, a stake checker, a stake guy and a brake guy. We eliminated two people, and we did it in a third of the time. That works out pretty well.
The other important part of it is, you’ve got to be a good operator, or have a reasonable skill set as an operator when you do it manually. What we’re doing now is, when you incorporate something like Trimble Earthworks Go, it’s a laser level system. You’ve got two poles on the side of your box blade with receivers on them. It automatically lifts and lowers the blade, and articulates the blade, to give you the best, flattest surface.
As we said before, it takes 36 minutes to do it versus an hour and 42 minutes. It took one guy instead of three and we were more accurate. We were more accurate on that little pad by basically one cubic yard of concrete, so it was an eighth, but we just round up. If we were to multiply it out and get a larger pad 10 times that size, so 24,000 sq. ft., we would be off by nine to 10 cu. yd. That starts adding up.
We’ve got one guy, and in about six hours he could do that whole thing and be done with it and be accurate. So, what we want to do is using technology and knowing that the labor force is tight, it makes it much simpler. You could train a guy to do this in probably about an hour or so.
Setting up a Trimble Earthworks Go is a very easy system. It’s a step by step system. It actually uses your smartphone as the screen to see what’s going on, and you just level it out once, and you’re done. Once you set grade in the very beginning, you’re done. You just operate the machine — go forward and back, forward and back working the material, so we’re saving you time.
And then when the job’s over, it’s an attachment to your skid steer. Remove that, put a different one on there — whether it’s a hammer, an auger, a saw. Caterpillar makes over 700 different attachments for the skid steers, obviously different buckets, different sizes. We have a large variety. So, if you’re interested in this type of product, contact your local Caterpillar dealer. Ask them about the box blade — the BB121 or the BB124 — which compact track loader would be right for you, and the Earthworks Trimble Go system, and you’ve got a heck of a system at a very economical price.
Bennink: Now is it pretty much a plug and play system when you put an Earthworks Go system on a Caterpillar box blade?
Nagy: It is. Some call it a toaster, and that’s the brains of the system. You put that on the box blade, it stays there with the magnet. We run the electrical into the electrical of the skid steer, and obviously the skid steer, the hydraulics are hooked up, but it takes over. It uses your smartphone as a device to interface with the, I’ll use the word toaster, to get your job going. So again, it’s economical.
I don’t know of anybody that doesn’t have a smartphone — whether it’s an Android or an Apple product — and you use those together, something that somebody’s already got, so we’re not worrying about displays, and those types of things, or losing things. The application is super simple to download. The app is downloaded, and you’re done. And the accuracy is just there, like the older system they used to have.
Bennink: Is the return on investment of the systems when you are grading multiple pads a day or a lot of pads a week?
Nagy: It adds up over time. I mean, other folks used to do it with, let’s say, a skip loader and a box blade behind it. On really large jobs people know Caterpillar for the large earth moving stuff and motor graders. We’ve had technology on that for quite a while. But to be able to downsize it and put it into a small contract, maybe the guy’s got one, or maybe he’s got three crews. They can move this stuff around really easily and quickly, and be efficient. Because that’s the name of the game, to be efficient. We can’t drop our standard is what we talked about in one of our other presentations. It’s not acceptable to drop the standards. We have to work faster, quicker, even with a less skilled workforce, and this’ll do it for you.
Bennink: That brings up the point of these guys aren’t large earthmoving contractors, so do they have to have familiarity with grade control products?
Nagy: No, it doesn’t. That’s the one thing that’s nice about this Trimble Earthworks Go. It’s a simple product. I don’t want to say my 10-year-old nephew could do it, but he could. I mean, it’s just that simple. It’s step by step directions, how to set it up, how to do it. You might start seeing it in the Caterpillar realm of fleets because they are simple and easy to use. And that’s what it has to be — it has to be simple, non-complicated, accurate and give you the quality of finish you deserve at a relatively low cost.
So Curt, thank you so much for having me on today.
Bennink: Thank you, thanks a lot, Kris.