Topcon Positioning is continuing to develop digital tools for its building and construction portfolio as the industry increasingly gets behind the digitalisation trend. It is also tackling the challenge of a lack of expertise among some customers by offering consultancy services to bring them up to speed with the new possibilities such technology offers.
The firm is in a strong position as the wider market embraces digitalisation, said Ulrich Hermanski, chief marketing officer at Topcon Positioning. “Everybody is talking about digitalisation and automation and everybody has a solution. Digitalisation is becoming a buzzword for companies and that’s completely different from three years ago.”
Hermanski sees this as a positive development as it will make construction operations more efficient and productive. He said, “That’s good for the business.”
The company is continuing to develop its portfolio to meet this growing demand and he said, “We are filling the gaps in the workflow.”
The firm has had its Smoothride surveying package for some years, but did not have a planning or logistics tool to sit alongside the system. However with the introduction of Pavelink, the firm can now provide a digital connection from the asphalt plant to the finished road. In terms of road construction, this allows for far better finish quality as factors such as asphalt grades, temperatures and compaction can all be optimised.
The firm has had success already with its latest technology, particularly for airport runway paving. The airports at Frankfurt and Bologna have already benefited from the use of Topcon’s advanced systems, with several other major airports also now looking to employ the technology. He said, “Now we have tenders for other sections.”
The airport sector is an important market for Topcon. The fact that this is a niche market focussed on quality means that it has been quick to adopt these more advanced paving systems. The company has around 20 projects in hand for the coming months at present, most of which are for airport runways, although it will also be working on a racetrack.
But in general road construction, there are larger challenges, particularly from road authorities many of which are behind the curve in terms of technology. Hermanski said, “We have a lot of new technology but road regulators are still sticking to the old methods. They are forcing us to find a work around to meet the old protocols.”
He said that road authorities need to be convinced of the benefits of these new technologies and the potential gains in finish quality and reductions in cost and construction times that they can offer. However, the state of Baden Wurttemberg in Germany is now adopting many of the new road building technologies, but is an exception in that it is so forward looking. He said, “The state changed the tender documents to meet the demands of the new technology.”
He explained that the problem in some countries is not a lack of financial resources, but rather one of expertise. Hermanski said, “There are not enough companies and not enough engineers.”
This is why Topcon is now offering a consultancy service for its customers and Hermanski said, “Topcon can handle the data wherever it comes from. Smoothride is good if you know how to do it. You need to manage the whole process. We are teaching people how to use the technology.”
The benefits of the Pavelink system, in providing a monitoring solution for the whole asphalt paving process, are substantial. This package provides a connection from the asphalt plant, through the materials logistics operation to the paving machines. Hermanski said, “The system is really important regarding BIM processes. We can see material volumes, which plant the asphalt was from and at what time it was produced and also the temperatures. We can see all the data for general reporting.”
Hermanski explained that the comprehensive data generated from asphalt supply and road construction operations allow for full analysis in real time of the information. Moreover, the data recording allows for BIM processes to be met.