The web-based solution allows Ballou to see a machine, or a group of machines, and monitor progress, provide remote support assistance, enable file transfers and message operators at any job site. That ability to transfer and update files is key at a time when the workforce shortage is extending well past simply the laborers.
“Engineering firms are getting the data out slower than they have in the past because they are often understaffed,” he said. “As a result, we will sometimes get the jobs before plans are actually approved, only to be followed by a stream of revisions. Having a way to quickly get those changes out and installed in every machine, helps us avoid the risk of a costly error or re-do.”
Eliminating Drives (and Drives)
Before Sitelink3D became a part of their workflow, Ballou had to make certain he had a USB drive handy for each job and get it to each respective operator. While effective, it was anything but efficient and, because some drives could still contain older versions, it opened the operator up to the risk of installing an outdated file.
“Operators are not going to ask if it’s the latest version, they will just pop it in and go,” he said. “Unfortunately, I then get the phone call that ‘something’s not right.’ We’ve eliminated that issue entirely. We also use the solution to deal with connectivity issues — if an operator is having trouble getting or keeping signal, I can remote into the machine, diagnose it remotely and get them back online.”
Similarly, if Ballou finds that a machine needs a firmware version update, he no longer has to go to the site; he simply sends them the update via the Topcon solution. While it’s true that he is now spending a lot less time shuttling to and from job sites, that’s been offset by the fact that DXI has more work than ever before.
“The difference is, I’ve replaced trips that cost the company money with ones that make it money — that’s a much better situation.”
Breaking Down a Barrier
In citing anecdotal evidence for the benefits their site management solution provides, Ballou recalls a recent case involving an operator, his inability to grasp a concept and a third, very important component to the situation.
“This particular operator was dealing with a bit of a language barrier, leading to a call from the foreman asking for my help,” he said. “He was trying, unsuccessfully, to get the operator to grade slopes. So, I asked the foreman to have him call me and, when he did, I used Sitelink3D to pull up that job and view his machine on my screen.”
As Ballou was watching the operator, he could see what he was trying to do, as well as where he was at on the job. With that info, he asked if the operator was re-spreading topsoil. Confirming that he was, Ballou proceeded to help clear things up for him.
“Since I was controlling the screen, I told him: ‘You need to be at minus .34” — just watch what I do.’ It was so easy to get the message across and it obviously hit home because he completed the job well and we never heard from him with an issue again. That’s a value we never foresaw when we were first considering Sitelink.”