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Trimble: Grading smooth as butter

On a project on the Butterfield Landfill — about 45 miles south of Phoenix, Arizona — Buesing Corp. needed to excavate and haul 1,850,000 cubic yards of dirt from a landfill more than 60 feet deep while grading the slope, basin and stockpile; inserting storm drains; and making an operations layer.

Buesing, founded in 1965, specializes in modeling and building complex underground systems in challenging conditions. It had four months to complete the initial mass grading, with another month for shaping the stockpile and a final month for the operations layer and piping. The mass grading of the site required an accuracy of plus or minus one tenth of a foot in a landfill with 4:1 slopes and a slope length of 300 linear feet, and the operations layer had to be two feet thick. The project also required installing storm drain inlets, flow lines, and outlets to grade.

To remain on schedule, the project required moving large quantities of soil quickly and efficiently, as well as adjusting grading models to incorporate design updates and changes while in production. “We used DTMs and orthophotos collected with our UAV to track progress quantities and adjust the stockpile model to minimize haul distances and slope rework as well as maintain proper drainage and control of stormwater,” said Rio Byman, Buesing’s GPS manager, who is responsible for building 3D models and managing the maintenance, calibration and updates for the company’s machine control (MC) solutions.

Photo: Trimble

A caterpillar CAT14M3 motorgrader is guided by Trimble’s dual-mast Earthworks system. (Photo: Trimble)

For this project, the company used heavy equipment both with and without MC, including blades, excavators and dozers with MC, along with GNSS-based grade checkers to control the earthmoving operations. Specifically, Buesing, which started converting its equipment to Trimble around 2018, used the Trimble Earthworks Grade Control Platform and the Trimble GCS900 Grade Control System on the site and Trimble Business Center at its office.

Buesing works in a variety of market segments for public and private entities in seven states, though it performs most of its work in the Phoenix metropolitan area. Key to its success has been an emphasis on skilled crews, continuous training and technology. In fact, Buesing was one of the early adopters of machine control in 2006. “A decade ago, the technology was pretty rudimentary, which limited adoption,” Byman said. “That’s changed a lot in recent years, particularly in the ease of use and flexibility. Today, grade control is an integral part of the company’s ability to build ever-more-complex solutions in even more challenging site and soil conditions.”

The company started with the Trimble GCS900 on single-mast and dual-mast blades, excavators and dozers. It has since moved to the Trimble Earthworks Grade Control Platform along with Trimble Business Center for managing 3D models. Working closely with SITECH Southwest, Buesing has gone from six machines with grade control to more than 20 in just five years. The company relies on grade-control solutions on its excavators, dozers, motor graders and scrapers, and has used them on projects of every scope and scale, though their value is most evident on urban high-rise excavation.

“It takes time for operators to gain faith in the data, and know that the machine will excavate efficiently and accurately, whether building pads or cutting basements,” Byman said. He believes that improved productivity in the field comes with trust in the technology.

Using Trimble Earthworks’ Autos mode, the software controls the implements while the operator controls the machine’s direction and speed for consistent, high-accuracy finished grade in much less time than it would take without automation. “On any jobsite, the operators have to be aware of everything around them, as well as what’s going on with the blades or scrapers,” Byman said.

“With Autos, they’re able to focus on what’s going on around the job and plan for watering and other environmental conditions with confidence that the machine is digging to grade. This makes our jobsites more productive, safer and more efficient. We have happier operators who are excited to come to work with newer equipment.”

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