In March 2017, W. Gardner, a company focused on land clearing and earthwork, was born. The company started clearing one lot at a time for small homebuilders, and then that grew into clearing acres for subdivisions and commercial parcels. Today, the company has positioned itself to meet the expectations of today’s owners and developers and does basically everything on the surface or below the surface. It is a company of dreamers and tech enthusiasts—a factor that helps set the company apart and accelerates its business.
Just a few months after the company was launched, it brought on Elliot Jones, whose background was as a project manager, to serve as president and oversee all business operations and the overall construction management process, ensuring that the day-to-day operations meet or exceed the expectations of the clients.
“We just were bidding everything we could get after,” explains Jones. “And luckily the relationships we had built were starting to pay off. Like they were sending bids our way left and right. And we finally got started on something like right around March. We had a pretty crazy week for basically a new construction company.”
One of the ways it was able to compete on this scale was with the help of technology. The company went from a dozen, to 15, to now about 100 employees. Jones who was called BPG (Baby Bill Gates) when he was an intern in college, says he has always embraced technology, as did other executives at W. Gardner.
“And sure enough, it grew legs from there,” explains Jones. “We started getting some new technology.”
This is where machine control from Leica Geosystems, a Hexagon AB company, enters the equation. Jones says it uses machine control for all of its equipment including dozers, motor grader, curving sidewalk paving machines, and now it is also in the process of getting an excavator wired up. It also has invested in total stations. The data gathered from the total stations can be used in the dozer.
“It’s triangulating between that base station satellites in the sky and the information that floated into it to grade the dirt and basically graded perfectly the way it was designed to be,” he says. “So that was our first initial investment with those base stations and machine control for our dozers. And so, the next phase of investment was to wire up the motor grader, and then start wiring up our excavators and investing in these things called tilt rover.”
While the technology is easy to use, the company has two workers training foreman, superintendents, and operators on how to use the technology with the equipment—and the benefits here are huge. Jones explains that it’s one less person on a job that could risk getting injured, which translates into improved safety and quality and saved time or production.
“There’s just more efficiency. You fire the thing up and go,” says Jones. “We establish control and we’re ready to rock and roll. So we’ve got that lead time upfront to get all that stuff in order. And when we’re ready to go, we can go. We don’t have to wait for anyone to get out there and put stakes in the ground or anything like that, you turn the switch on and start digging.”
The value of using the technology, BIM (building information modeling), and digitalization extends throughout the entire lifecycle of a construction site from moving dirt to an actual building. Consider the example of AGTEK, which delivers on its slogan of providing “Dirt Simple Solutions.” The company, which was acquired by Hexagon AB back in March 2018 offers tools to accurately takeoff and estimate construction quantities, model construction processes, and measure progress throughout the construction lifecycle. AGTEK has very tight integrations with Leica Geosystems, which was also acquired by Hexagon back in 2005.
Leica ConX, which is a cloud-based solution that enables construction companies to manage, monitor, and share construction and survey data in real-time, helps create a connected jobsite. With open standards, the technology helps contractors like W. Gardner to move dirt “smart” with easy-to-use products.
Hexagon’s overarching construction portfolio leveraging its various brand—including AGTEK, Leica, and IDS Georadar—helps construction companies from bidding, estimation, earthwork, as-built, to the actual building and verification, as is the case with W. Gardner.
“I guess that’s what excites me is that I really think we have a … competitive advantage over our competition,” says Jones. “Maybe not being on the cutting edge but being in front of the rest of competition as far as technology gets.”
The company is also currently using a drone for video and photo documentation purposes and marketing and advertisement as well. In the future, it might use the drone for recording progress of the movement of dirt and recording the topography of an entire site with a flight. “I mean that is very, very cool technology, and that’s where we’re probably going to,” he adds.
Looking even further out, he also predicts there might come a day where there might be one worker in an elevated scissor lift trailer with buttons, and when he hits the buttons, all the machines are automated, using sensors. He calls it “an orchestrated movement of dirt.” While W. Gardner has its eyes on the future, it is also very much leveraging technology today to maintain a competitive advantage.
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