Canadian Contractor Benefits from Topcon Machine Control
The Okanagan Valley is the third largest metropolis in British Columbia, Kelowna’s population is roughly 220,000 people, making it the 22nd largest city in Canada.
As Kelowna continues to see notable expansion in real estate development and infrastructure spending,
the construction marketplace is becoming more competitive with many contractors bidding local work. As the marketplace becomes competitive and economy tighter, contractors are calling for equipment to perform more efficiently, increase productivity, and deliver lower costs of operating
as competitive firms from neighbouring provinces and
cities bid for local work.
Bluepoint Construction – A Partnership
Growing up in the Okanagan Valley, Jason Gedig and Ron Stewart had been running their own companies while occasionally working together on construction projects since the early 2000’s. In 2014 they decided to partner up and rebrand as Bluepoint Construction given their track record of working together in the Okanagan construction market. In the early days their main focus was civil and road construction for municipalities, however that focus shifted to private subdivision work as that sector of construction in the Okanagan market was gaining significant activity. Although Bluepoint has a focus on private subdivision work, Jason Gedig explained “We do everything that includes dirt, pipe, and heavy equipment”, which includes municipal, private, mass excavations, lift station upgrades, lake intake, pipelines, highways, and for that matter nearly every dirt related project in the Okanagan Valley, making them one of the most diverse earthworks contractors in the area.
Fully Equipped Fleet
Bluepoint Construction runs a primarily Deere dominated fleet with a few mixed in Cat Dozers and Linkbelt excavators. However, their fleet of Deere equipment is what is equipped with both 2D indicate only and 3D capable GPS machine control. Their current GPS equipped fleet of equipment includes a John Deere 470G, 350G, 300G, 290G, LinkBelt 245, 210 excavators, John Deere 850K and 750J dozers, and 870G grader, along with four Topcon base and rover sets.
With a fleet of GPS equipped equipment not matched by any other contractor, Bluepoint holds a very competitive place in the local construction market being able to take nearly any project, regardless of design specifications. On the jobsite, their operators have design information at their fingertips and
can work more effectively being empowered to complete everything from simple tasks to complex 3D designs.
During construction of the Glenmore Sports Field in Kelowna, BC. Bluepoint Construction leveraged machine control to make what should have been a challenging project, easy. Colton Stewart, surveyor for Bluepoint explained “We were required to excavate a holding pond for storm control/environmental purposes. The design of the pond was extremely intricate consisting of many grade changes and lots of shaping. We used a Topcon GPS equipped John Deere 350G with a wrist bucket and it turned out unbelievable.” While their 3D capable equipment allows for complex design builds to be completed, in contrast their 2D systems are effective in keeping operators consistent
“You won’t find good operators complaining about GPS, it makes everyone’s lives easier.” Although not the industry standard yet, machine control has benefits beyond mega projects as smaller contractors begin to realize the benefit from a process improvement standpoint. The savings in fuel burn, reduced labour costs, reduced wear and tear on equipment, and overall safer production as less people are required to be near working equipment. All of which has allowed Bluepoint to maintain a competitive marketplace ranking, winning projects based on the fact they can complete them faster and more cost effective than a comparable size earthworks contractor.
A Formula for Success
Machine control adoption rates continue to rise as contractors realize the efficiencies and production capabilities it offers. Although GPS systems have a high upfront cost, the returns far outweigh it, and not investing in GPS machine control now will inhibit future marketplace opportunity. Jason explained,
“We couldn’t imagine life without Topcon GPS…” …the control, the efficiencies, the precision. You just can’t get that out of wood stakes in the ground.”
Being able to do topographical surveys for quantities and as builts, there is no other method that can compete with what GPS and machine control achieves. Operators have real time information on where grade is without the need for grade stakes or string lines, and that is huge for decreasing downtime in the field. It also streamlines the workflow of surveyors, reducing the amount of time they have to spend laying out a design or verifying excavations. Colton Stewart, surveyor with Bluepoint Construction mentioned “It gives the operator full control of what they are building without any hesitation or uncertainty. As long as they have the proper information and design to work from, it’s a huge weight off my shoulders from the survey end of it.” Colton started off as a labourer in 2014 with Bluepoint and since then has picked up machine control, now working as the main surveyor and machine control tech on projects throughout the Okanagan. Having had experience with Topcon machine control since the late 90’s, Jason mentioned, “I can’t say how much it has improved production because this is the way we have always done it. I could only imagine how much lost production and quality there would be without it.” With experienced operators becoming harder to find, perhaps one of the most important gains from leveraging GPS machine control is the opportunity for less experienced operators to gain experience in a production style setting. It certainly doesn’t replace an experienced operator, but it guarantees a minimum level of production from younger operators as they acquire experience on a variety of projects. Bluepoint Construction continues to be the leader in private and public earthworks throughout the Okanagan Valley. If you want to learn more about Bluepoint Construction, check out their website: www.bluepointconstruction.ca or find them on social media @bluepoint_construction
Mack Plovie, a 24-year-old mining geologist with heavy equipment and dirt in his blood. As the President of EarthMovers Media, he draws upon four years of experience in surface and underground mining, coupled with a 65-year family history with Caterpillar.