Komatsu’s vision for smart construction

The Smart Construction Retrofit Kit provides information and communication capabilities to existing hydraulic excavators.
The Smart Construction Retrofit Kit provides information and communication capabilities to existing hydraulic excavators.

Roads & Infrastructure catches up with Komatsu Australia’s National Product and Solution Manager Aaron Marsh to discuss how Komatsu’s Smart Construction solutions are addressing the civil construction industry’s pain points.

When Komatsu launched its new Wacol Distribution Centre in Queensland in March 2022, there was more to the project than being the largest building ever constructed by Komatsu in Australia.

While the 17,500 square metre site is impressive in scale and what it signifies for Komatsu’s customers in aftermarket support, helping the construction process run smoothly were a suite of Komatsu Smart Construction tools giving insight to project managers, engineers, surveyor teams and operators.

Smart Construction encompasses a range of smart solutions developed by Komatsu to help contractors and machine operators analyse data throughout each phase of a project, from tracking production and material movement to billing and payload reporting.

The tools in Komatsu’s Smart Construction suite are designed to connect humans, machines and materials on site with hardware and software. They cover everything from intelligent machines and semi-autonomous excavators and dozers to drone data, fleet management solutions and a range of aftermarket solutions.

While the complete package of intelligent tools is not yet available in Australia, according to Komatsu National Product and Solution Manager Aaron Marsh, the civil construction and quarry industries have already embraced the ones that are.

“The current Smart Construction portfolio includes around 15 solutions, some of which are specifically targeted at the civil construction industry,” Marsh tells Roads & Infrastructure.

“Our customers are each using elements of our Smart Construction suite on their various projects, from mass earthmoving to tailing dams and other civil construction projects. The tools adopted on each project depend on the pain points for each customer.”

About Smart Construction

One of Komatsu’s first Smart Construction solutions launched in Australia was an intelligent machine control system known as iMC. The automating tools are available on Komatsu’s latest model “intelligent” dozers and excavators, including the newly released D61EXi/PXi-24, D65EXi/PXi-18, D71EXi/PXi-24, D85EXi/PXi-18 and D155AXi-8 dozers and the PC210LCi-11, PC290LCi-11 and PC360LCi-11 excavators.

The iMC 2.0-enabled intelligent excavators help operators automate a range of functions, from auto stop control to grading, tilting and bucket movements. The intelligent dozers feature proactive dozing control, lift layer control, tilt steering control and quick surface creation – all facilitated by intelligent data for added efficiency.

Komatsu’s Smart Construction Drone and Edge solutions were also launched in Australia in 2022. Together, the tools help conduct drone surveys up to 50 per cent faster than ground walking surveys, where Drone mapping helps with planning and Edge processing provides faster data availability.

The Smart Construction Retrofit Kit (RFK) provides information and communication capabilities to existing hydraulic excavators. It’s a Three-Dimensional Machine Guidance (3DMG) and Payload solution for excavators ranging from 13 tonnes through to 36 tonnes.

Data from iMC, RFK, Drone and Edge directly connect to the Smart Construction ECO System and are visualised through the Smart Construction Dashboard.

The Smart Construction Dashboard is where all construction information from the jobsite is integrated and can be visualised by either surveyors, engineers, supervisors or executives on or off site. The Dashboard also combines 3D design data with aerial mapping and intelligent machine data to confirm quantities and material moved on site.

Currently, some of the functionalities within the Smart Construction suite are ‘agnostic’, meaning they are not limited to Komatsu machinery. The philosophy behind this, Marsh says, is to allow everyone to benefit from the tools, without having to invest heavily on modernising their fleet.

Data from high-precision drones directly connect to the Smart Construction ECO System and are visualised through the Dashboard.
Data from high-precision drones directly connect to the Smart Construction ECO System and are visualised through the Dashboard.

“The idea is to make more and more of the Komatsu aftermarket machine tools agnostic so they can be retrofitted to existing machinery and supported through Komatsu’s experts,” he explains.

“The Smart Construction Drone and Edge tools are among solutions that are currently agnostic. Similarly, the Smart Construction Fleet, which is used for tracking movement of material and fleet, can provide a pathway for customers, irrespective of the brand of their mobile earthmoving fleet, to view their payload information both on and off project,” he adds.

Soon, Marsh says, the Smart Construction RFK will also be applicable to machinery other than Komatsu.

“Having a machine equipped with Smart Construction RFK Payload and reporting to the Smart Construction Fleet enables customers to see the history of payloads, which helps them comply with the chain of responsibility by making sure that all trucks leaving the site are correctly loaded,” he explains.

The Smart Construction Remote application allows contractors to tap into their machines remotely to upload design files, remote control or remote view their 3D project data. It also helps operators and surveying teams troubleshoot issues without having to travel to the jobsite.

The Smart Construction suite is not limited to the applications listed above. Komatsu has other applications and products that Marsh says will gradually be introduced in Australia. At the 2022 IQA National Conference in Newcastle, Komatsu provided industry an early look at Komatsu iSite – a fleet management tool suitable for both quarry and civil construction.

Tools such as Smart Construction Fleet, Smart Construction Rover, Smart Construction Simulation, Smart Construction Field and Smart Construction Office are also in the pipeline.

Addressing pain points

According to Marsh, the solution package aims to address the existing “pain points” in the industry, without placing a heavy burden on contractors to renew their entire fleet. Safety is one of these pain points addressed by Smart Construction.

“Every day, Drone and Edge eliminate the need for surveyors to be on site in hazardous environments. The Edge processing allows for a significant improvement in survey data processing from the drones to give the users data that they can make immediate decisions,” he says.

“On some sites, we have seen up to 90 per cent improvement against other survey processing packages available in the market.”

Productivity is another typical pain point in the sector. Here, Marsh says, the Smart Construction tools come to play in different ways.

“By reducing redo works and having effective utilisation, productivity is increased. Also, factory integration of tools such as iMC help reduce downtime and maintenance time.

“The important thing, however, is not to view these solutions as siloed technologies. Together with the customer, the Komatsu support team can deep dive into specific pinch points on their projects and help resolve them by integrating the right Smart Construction tools.”

The Smart Construction automating tools are available on Komatsu’s intelligent dozers, including the newly released D61EXi/PXi-24.
The Smart Construction automating tools are available on Komatsu’s intelligent dozers, including the newly released D61EXi/PXi-24.

Levelling the playing field

As Marsh observes, smart construction technologies create opportunities for smaller contractors to play along with larger companies in the market.

“Our solutions help level the playing field by allowing all contractors to access to the benefits of technology and giving the adaptors a competitive advantage,” he says.

“We understand that smaller contractors don’t have the access to technologies included in the Smart Construction suite, nor do they have the IT infrastructure or the resources to support them. This is where we go on the journey with them and act as their partners.”

Another aspect of levelling the playing field, Marsh explains, is bridging the gap between subject matter experts in all positions within civil projects and novice operators.

“All Smart Construction applications reduce the need for resources tied to the office chair and multiple spreadsheets to manage a project. These solutions also address the skilled labour shortage by presenting to users the information that they need, without them having to be subject matter experts.”

Marsh says Komatsu’s Smart Construction team can provide technical support and training throughout Australia and New Zealand.

“Komatsu also has the ability to provide Technology Consultants embedded in the projects, or with customers’ day-to-day operations, to help onboard new technologies or provide services to these contractors and projects,” he says.

“More recently, we have opened a dedicated Smart Construction support centre at our new distribution facility in Queensland, which will service all customers in Australia and New Zealand, including our own regional teams. Customers will never be alone when they need support.”

This article was originally published in the May edition of our magazine. To read the magazine, click here.

 


 

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