Equipment World Contractor of the Year, 2012
Better Roads Staff
Rigorous cost disciplines also extend to the management of the asphalt plants. The plants have the ability to use a variety of fuels, waste oil, diesel, propane and natural gas and will use whatever is least expensive at the time. Additional effeciency is found in stockpile management, material handling and yield management.
At the end of every week cost data is collected from every component in Granite Contracting – labor, materials, equipment and management – much of it compiled digitally via telematics, laptops and other technology tools. The data is then dumped into cost control programs and closely scrutinized. By Monday noon Cosper and his project managers have a too-the-penny look at the performance of all the jobs for the previous week and have compared it to estimates to figure out exactly where they stand. Adjustments are made swiftly to any component, machine or process that isn’t performing as expected.
In the office, they use AutoCAD, AgTek Earthwork and Bid2Win software in the preconstruction phase. In the field they have deployed Trimble GPS rovers, various truck telematics systems, Caterpillar’s Vision Link, J.D. Link and Precise MRM.
Cosper says he may have gotten into the deep end of the technology pool at little early. “Instead of cutting edge it was more bleeding edge,” he says. But the early experimentation helped them refine what they needed and what they expected out of the digital product offerings.
The company sets up geofences at the asphalt plants and the jobsites to time when the trucks come and go and establish the most efficient routes. If a driver detours from the route, or sits too long at the plant, quarry or job, the project manager is notified. As with any paving operation, material delivery is a major cost component and an area of potentially big savings if you can manage and monitor it.
“We saw that the cycles we’d run at the bid table were not the cycles we saw on the cost reports and we’ve been better able to monitor those,” Cosper says. I think we’ve probably reduced our trucking expense anywhere from 10 to 14 percent with telematics. If you haul enough asphalt and stone, that’s a big number.”
On the equipment side, all Granite Contracting’s graders and most of its dozers are set up with GPS machine control. “It allows you to do more with fewer people,” Cosper says. “There are significant cost savings in the quickness and in reducing the number of people you have to have on the job.”
Getting sufficient satellite signals to run GPS machine control isn’t always possible where Granite Contracting works. Trees, mountains, even tall buildings can compromise the integrity of the signals. So Cosper’s strategy is to use GPS for rough grading and then set up a total station, but still running on the same digital site model, for the final passes.
One of the biggest money savers Granite Contracting developed out of it its GPS technology is in site inspections. “Before we start any grading job we throw the GPS on a four-wheeler and run the site, just to establish a grade,” Cosper says. That clears up any discrepancies between the site plans and the reality on the ground. In the past Cosper says he’s had to move dirt that was on the ground but not on the paper and that can be an expensive oversight.
“Before we stick one bucket in the ground we resolve these disputes and get a change order upfront rather than arguing about it down the road,” he says. “It’s a big money saver – straight to the bottom line.”