Regardless of the business model and company focus, location or tools used to perform tasks, the landscape of the global marketplace is changing.
Advances in technology are driving this change, and the change-merchants of global businesses are dictating the speed of technological innovation and the effect those new products—both hardware and software—have on a business’s most important asset: the bottom line.
The worthiness of adopting a specific technological change boils down to time. Businesses want to know how to use time more productively, how to save it and how that time translates to increased profits.
Technology-driven industries like construction, surveying, mapping, GIS, scanning, agriculture and civil engineering see new products introduced regularly, sometimes even weekly, which makes short- and long-term equipment investment decisions extremely important and often difficult. What should be purchased and when? What about future innovations? How will making a decision today affect the business tomorrow?
It’s a bit ironic: The technology that is most desired is also the most prolifically innovative; the technology that will allow a business to improve its operation and bottom line can be the one that causes the most hesitation and anxiety while mulling a decision to commit.
Technological changes dictate a change in thinking. Slightly more than a decade or so ago, satellite positioning was rooted in GPS, which relied on geographic positioning signals from a constellation of satellites. That technology was an incredible accomplishment, assuredly, but in actuality it was just a baby step toward a technological revolution.
Today, signal tracking incorporates GPS, GLONASS, Galileo and BeiDou satellite systems, and GNSS precise positioning for survey, construction and a myraid of other businesses can achieve accuracy to within a few millimeters. New technologies incorporate advanced signal tracking and processing architecture to track all available signals and select only the strongest, most reliable signals to provide unparalleled accuracy. High precision measurement can now be achieved virtually anytime, anywhere. Other innovations provide exemplary performance in high-vibration environments, such as operating from all-terrain vehicles, providing high precision and accuracy in the most adverse jobsite conditions.
In any business, information is power. The more definitive and timely information a company has about every facet of its business—from asset location to productivity to data management—the more that company is able to manage its business proactively rather than operating in reaction mode.
Whether they’re working on surveying and civil engineering projects or on global construction projects, businesses no longer have to wonder where “pieces” of equipment are located and what they are doing. Today’s technology can provide real-time 3D data and asset management, regardless of location, anywhere in the world. Cloud-based services connect mobile and office software products, and provide a web-based interface and asset management component to company data in real time.
Digital jobsites are the future. Comprehensive site communication systems, data control, machine tracking and advanced reporting can be integrated into a single system. Additionally, modern 3D machine control systems can provide remote machine monitoring, instant messaging, and the transfer of support and real-time job files as well as project management information from field to office. Access to instantaneous information leads to better decision making.
As high accuracy, real-time positioning and control solutions become a necessary part of the complete automation cycle of a company’s everyday workflow, management of machines and data becomes a critical element to successfully competing in the global marketplace.
In addition to the asset management aspects, the automation during the executional phase of any job now offers direct, real-time connection to the office. Immediate as-built updates to the design allow work to be done once. Rework caused by a lag in change order communications is minimized, and the completed work is well-documented and stored for future use. Advanced software technology systems—often referred to by the catch-all term building information modeling (BIM)—allow companies to plan, collaborate, and predict performances and progress on any project during all phases of design, production and construction, and even before a single measurement is made or any dirt is moved.
This puts the focus of technology on true process automation and advanced productivity solutions that offer more than time savings on the jobsite. The real goal is a complete, optimized workflow. To achieve this goal, onsite equipment must work in perfect harmony with control systems, and the office planning and design, administration and even maintenance staff must have access to complete and accurate data. Such integrated solutions are already possible.
Engineers and scientists around the world are working on the next generation of defining technologies that will further advance the instruments and data management that can more effectively save time, increase productivity and create an opportunity for a company to improve its financial profile. It is up to each business, then, to analyze technological advances and decide which technologies can directly benefit them. Embracing the changes can improve overall operations and help businesses forge a future as an innovative player.
Ray O’Connor is president and CEO of Topcon Positioning Group (www.topconpositioning.com).