Business Strategies for Surveyors / Hardware / Construction

Topcon's Technology Roadshow Rolls Across North America

June 24, 2014
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Business owners, contractors, engineers, surveyors and others linked to construction are, by nature, an extremely busy lot. As a result, keeping abreast of changes in technology is not always at the top of their respective to-do lists. Recognizing this, Topcon Positioning Systems has, for years, been staging its Technology Roadshows as a better way to bring new technology to the customer. This year’s version of that event is making two dozen stops throughout the U.S. and Canada, and betters previous incarnations, both in content and style. Housed in an expandable, 53-foot trailer, the 2014 Technology Roadshow — hosted by regional dealer RDO Integrated Controls — recently set up shop at the ERX Motor Park in Elk River, Minn. When done, it left a host of attendees better informed.

 

Technology is the Star

While some companies’ traveling seminars are little more than a thinly-disguised mobile sales effort, the expressed goal of every Topcon Roadshow is education. That effort to enlighten can range from showing contractors how to improve their operations through existing technology, to introducing an entirely new concept of how things can now be done. For those in attendance, it was all abundant and very available, according to Topcon’s Scott Langbein.

“The 2014 version of the Roadshow is both impressive and effective, and a good part of that is because of the new venue from which we can now work,” Langbein said. “The trailer converts to a multi-functional facility which includes a theater and a fully stocked showroom/demonstration area. But having said that, the real focus of this show is the technology and the difference it can make. Even though we are in the early phases of this seven-month tour, the feedback from that message has been outstanding.”

An example of this is offered by Steve Gurtin, specialist for the materials management division of Minnesota DOT, who came to the show to see what applicability there was for his department and came away intrigued with several products.

“We are aware of how far this technology has evolved but wanted to see what it could possibly do for us — and I wasn’t disappointed,” Gurtin said. “Topcon’s Sitelink3D software solution and HT-30 haul truck tracking system look particularly interesting from our perspective. What works for haul trucks could also be a good fit for our fleet of more than 850 snowplows. In storm conditions we would love to have a better ability to confirm where each truck is, where plows need to be to provide the most benefit, how we can get them there as quickly as possible, and so on. Right now, that’s done solely by radio contact; that could definitely be improved upon.”


Meeting Future Needs

Langbein’s presentation to attendees cited some impressive numbers regarding the potential for construction in the near future. It is, he said, an ideal time for companies to put technology work for them.

“Several studies done indicate that projects in the current global construction market are valued at about $10 trillion,” he said. “Based on population growth and other economic factors, it is also estimated that by 2020 we will be looking at that number growing to $35 trillion. And that’s great for everyone in the business. However, that same study shows that, if we look ahead to 2030 and assume full worldwide workforce were to work to 100 percent capacity, by 2030 they would only be able to meet about $24 trillion of the then-$60 trillion demand.  That leaves a $36 trillion gap that needs to be filled.”

To do that, he said, will take a concerted effort on the part of everyone involved in construction, from industry business owners to engineers to those in the field to manufacturers of equipment and systems to support them. But it is ultimately do-able, he added, given the tools available today, many of which were available at the Roadshow.

 

We’ve BIM Busy

The Roadshow “command center,” a fully equipped showroom (which makes it easy to forget you are in a trailer) offers attendees an in-depth look at solutions for virtually every facet of the project. That includes a full range of instrumentation for site design and layout, earthwork, bulk excavation, paving and compaction, etc. It also covers demonstrations of newer technology such as mobile scanning (via a truck-mounted IP-S2 which RDO Industrial Controls had on site); Topcon’s Enterprise software solutions such as MAGNET andSitelink3D; and, of particular note, Building Information Modeling (BIM) technology using the company’s new LN-100. Langbein said that Topcon, which proudly boasts a laundry-list of “world’s firsts,” is taking the lead on the push toward BIM as well.

“As a company, we have a great track record for identifying and providing solutions for emerging technologies, and BIM is shaping up to be one of those areas,” Langbein said.  “Right now, BIM is mostly occurring on the structural civil side of the business, but we are certain that it will push through to civil infrastructure. BIM pulls people like drywall contractors, electrical contractors, fire suppression people, and so on, into the construction positioning and layout business. We understand that selling a full-featured survey instrument to a drywall contractor is not easy, so we took our survey robot, pared it down a bit and, while maintaining its power and accuracy, made it easy to operate. The result is our  LN-100 (layout navigator); a layout tool designed with widespread BIM in mind.”

That particular approach definitely piqued the interest of Matt Hanson, owner and president of Hanson Silo Company, a fourth-generation manufacturer of concrete bunkers and silos, primarily used in an agricultural setting.

“We met with the folks from Topcon at World of Concrete in Las Vegas this past January and really liked what the LN-100 could do as a layout tool,” Hanson said. “When I found out that the Roadshow was coming to this area, it seemed a perfect opportunity to see more of what Topcon had to offer and, at the same time, see the LN-100 and other equipment in action. It couldn’t have worked out better.”

 

Start Your Engines

The facilities at ERX Motor Park could not have been better suited to meet the Roadshow’s needs if it had been designed solely for that purpose. A covered grandstand area served as the perfect gathering space for additional vendor displays as well as background on Topcon’s machine control systems for excavators, graders, and dozers. Both Topcon and RDO personnel offered some solid background on the technology and the benefits it can provide, before opening up the track area to some highly anticipated hands-on drive time.

“This is ultimately what most of those in attendance come for,” said Mark Jones, Topcon’s machine control product representative. “The chance to sit down and see what the technology can really do is very compelling, and the depth of questions the onsite equipment reps are fielding everywhere we go, tells us that the interest is genuine.”

One of those in attendance, Fred Rudolph, sales manager from Rice, Minn.-based All Rental, Inc., came specifically to look at the X-63 3-D machine control system for excavators.

“We rent dozers with Topcon machine control on them now, so adding that capability to new excavators would be a natural progression for us,” Rudolph said. “We try to maintain an up to date fleet and know that, ultimately, machine control will save our customers time and manpower on any given project. We’ve had people come back after renting a 3D-MC or 3D-MC2-equipped machine and be just blown away; they are immediate converts to the technology.”

Over the next several months, that technology will be making its way through almost every state and province in North America, working hard to drive home one main point: that there are solutions available to make your company better equipped to meet the needs of today’s rapidly-changing industry and jobsite.


Larry Trojak of Trojak Communications is a Minnesota-based content marketing specialist. He has written extensively for the construction, survey, demolition and recycling markets. For more information on the Topcon Roadshow, visit topconroadshow.com.

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