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Thanks to a GCS platform (pictured), Dundrum Excavation moved 15,000m3 of gravel inside six days.
Thanks to a GCS platform (pictured), Dundrum Excavation moved 15,000m3 of gravel inside six days.

Grade control system assists lightning excavation at RAAF base

Taking part in a redevelopment project to grow a Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) base while it is fully operational is no easy feat — not least when it employs 5000 uniformed and civilian personnel and has aircraft such as F-18 jets and C-17 transporters taking off and landing multiple times a day.

That’s the challenge Dundrum Excavation signed up for when it entered a tender for a project to remove sub-base material from 500m by 45m of runway. The required tolerances were tight and specifications high — Dundrum would have to dig to a level of +0mm or -10mm. And the company would be working to a deadline.

“This was a live base and they wanted their runway back as early as possible,” Dundrum’s managing director Michael O’Brien said. “We had to excavate 700mm of gravel, trim to detail, and have it ready so the bitumen could be replaced by concrete — all within six days.”

Dundrum Excavation has a significant presence in construction. Based in Brisbane, the company employs about 65 people excavating on major projects, including roads, gas pipelines, fibre-optic cable laying, and more. To ensure maximum productivity and competitiveness, Dundrum equips its fleet of heavy machinery with 3D control systems from Trimble.

At the time of tender, Dundrum was running 20 machines with Trimble 3D GCS900 Grade Control Systems installed, but none were available for the job. Confident of winning the tender, Dundrum approached its Trimble dealer, SITECH Construction Systems, for support.

"For the simplicity of what we were doing, GCSFlex was great for the job, especially since it was so straightforward to install."
Michael O’Brien, Managing Director of Dundrum

Cameron Godwin, the sales representative at SITECH Construction Systems, suggested Dundrum install the Trimble GCSFlex grade control system as a fast alternative to a full Trimble 3D grade control system. GCSFlex is an entry-level 2D machine control system that is easily installed — without welding — in just a couple of hours, and is very quick to deploy. It is also easily upgraded to a full 3D system as a company’s needs change.

“For the simplicity of what we were doing, GCSFlex was great for the job, especially since it was so straightforward to install,” O’Brien said.

SITECH Construction Systems and Dundrum have had a long partnership, so commitment to the project’s success was equal on both sides. The team from SITECH Construction Systems carried out all installation and delivered initial training to Dundrum’s operators, with SITECH’s support and system integration technician Chris Samuel supporting Dundrum on-site for two days.

Two GCSFlex systems were installed on Komatsu PC 450 and Caterpillar 349 machines. A Spectra Precision Laser GL512 rotating laser was set up in the centre of the base’s runway ,with the excavators working on either side to the height of the laser. The box (trench) was trimmed by a John Deere 772 grader working with a Trimble Universal Total Station.

Dundrum’s operators adjusted to the GSCFlex system very quickly because its interface is similar to that of the 3D system. “It was basically the same screen — less information but the same thing,” O’Brien said.

Samuel supported the machine operators with grade checking, benching their machines, and transferring their positions using laser reference.

“We had one operator on-site who had never used any form of machine control,” Samuel said. “But he learnt the GCSFlex system really fast, and his accuracy was spot on right from the start — even better than the operators who were used to using 3D.”

Throughout the project, aircraft continued to use the runway even while the excavators were working. F-18s would take off — often two at a time — and land just 100m further along the runway. The noise level meant operators and any other personnel on-site were required to wear extra ear protection whenever aircraft were flying.

“We didn’t need to be asked twice to wear our ear plugs” Samuel said. “I’ve never known a noise like it!”

The heat from aircraft afterburners easily rivalled that of any Queensland day in summer. However, the unique challenges of the environment didn’t hinder Dundrum’s progress.

With the GCSFlex system on board, O’Brien’s teams moved 2500m3 of gravel each day, thereby meeting their six-day deadline with ease and without overtime.

“We had the solution to be quick,” O’Brien said. “Without optimised machines and the right support, things could’ve gotten a little bit messy.”

Source: SITECH Construction Systems/Trimble Loadrite

Saturday, 23 March, 2019 5:45pm
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