Moving forward with customers:

Reporting from a jobsite of SMARTCONSTRUCTION

Reporting from a jobsite of SMARTCONSTRUCTION

We at Komatsu define growth by innovating customers' jobsite operations together with them and creating and providing new values designed to improve jobsite safety and productivity as a basic management strategy. SMARTCONSTRUCTION is one of these “growth strategies based on innovation”.

It is designed to connect all information about jobsites on KomConnect, a cloud platform of SMARTCONSTRUCTION. Information includes high-speed, high-precision site survey data made possible by drones, and operating conditions of intelligent Machine Control construction equipment capable of automatic control of bulldozers' blades and hydraulic excavators' buckets. In addition to developing optimal construction plans and making real-time progress of construction “visible” by utilizing the functions of KomConnect, SMARTCONSTRUCTION achieves safe and “smart” jobsite operations of the future by dynamically improving jobsite safety and productivity through full use of machine functions.

We embarked on the market introduction of SMARTCONSTRUCTION in Japan in February 2015, and have deployed it at over 1,100 construction and civil engineering sites on a cumulative basis as of March 2016.

Looking into the future of construction and civil engineering industries

Sunagogumi Co., Ltd. (Head Office: Sorachi District, Hokkaido. President: Mr. Kunihiro Sunago) engages in civil-engineering and construction mainly in the center of Hokkaido, Japan's northernmost prefecture, and has adopted ICT-intensive civil engineering very early in the prefecture. Furthermore, Sunagogumi is an active presenter at seminars and conventions concerning ICT-intensive construction information gained in its jobsites, in addition to routine exchange of related information. It has gained a leading presence of the industry in Hokkaido as the top runner of ICT-intensive construction.

Sunagogumi's ICT-intensive jobsites have received many visitors from the civil engineering industry. While visitors' questions centered on machine performance and costs in the beginning, they have recently changed to more technical matters, such as how to generate 3D drawings, which confirms growing interest in ICT-intensive construction.

Sunagogumi adopted SMARTCONSTRUCTION last year. “I am sure that ICT-intensive construction is the future of the civil engineering industry. There is no doubt that application of cutting-edge ICT to jobsite operation will advance rapidly into the future. Our image of the future civil engineering industry, based on this assumption, perfectly matches Komatsu's stance on SMARTCONSTRUCTION,” confirms Mr. Satoshi Kondo, Junior Managing Director.

Mr. Kondo, Junior Managing Director
Mr. Kondo, Junior Managing Director

Developing human resources through new technologies

As to the background of ICT-intensive jobsite operations, Mr. Kondo says, “Against the backdrop of a falling birthrate and an aging population in Japan, the number of employees in Japan's civil engineering industry has been declining, resulting in a lower number of veteran machine operators. Therefore, our important task is to secure employees and develop them.”

Sunagogumi utilizes SMARTCONSTRUCTION to not only respond to tasks faced by the company, but also to use it as a tool for human resource development. “I would encourage our employees, especially young ones, to try and study KomConnect. Young people are not “allergic” to ICT and thus are quick to get used to the system. Some are well fit to start with the system which represents virtual reality, and then understand real jobsite operations. ICT-intensive construction will play the role of a human resource development by offering a variety of opportunities for a diverse range of human resources to demonstrate their skills and grow into ICT-construction specialists,” says Mr. Kondo, expecting the civil engineering industry to become an industry where females enjoy working.

On SMARTCONSTRUCTION jobsites

On SMARTCONSTRUCTION jobsites

Sunagogumi is using two intelligent Machine Control PC200i-10 hydraulic excavators and intelligent Machine Control PX37PXi-23, each at a highway construction site (as of the interview in June 2016). Their combined length is 780 meters and the volume of soil to excavate is 38,600 cubic meters. The volume of soil to fill is 64,000 cubic meters. Sunagogumi is planning to deploy a vibratory roller (optional) at a part of the site.

Mr. Chiba, Manager
Mr. Chiba, Manager

By the date of our interview, jobsite supervisors had pointed out positive outcomes of SMARTCONSTRUCTION, including improved speed of decision-making, thanks to information sharing, and the convenience of 3D data.

“As one of its advantages, SMARTCONSTRUCTION calculates the volume of earth to work on by comparing the site survey and completion drawings. This system is very accurate and practical,” evaluates Mr. Hiroki Chiba, Manager of the Civil Engineering Department and Project Manager of the ICT-Intensive Construction Department. “In the conventional calculation method, we have experienced big surveying errors of complicated landscapes and sharp bends of highways.” He also adds, “We can download a variety of information from KomConnect, so I have become able to use 3-D drawing data when meeting with clients. When communicating with the SMARTCONSTRUCTION Support Center, KomConnect also merits users. Mr. Chiba evaluates, “When consulting with the Support Center, KomConnect is very useful, because both parties can see the same data on the cloud platform, while talking over the phone. Communication is very smooth.”

Mr. Kazuhiko Sato, Manager of the Civil Engineering Department, has adopted 3-D drawings of SMARTCONSTRUCTION to his work. He points out, “I definitely feel that my work instructions to workers have become more accurate on the jobsites by using 3-D drawings.”

With respect to automatic excavation performance of the intelligent Machine Control hydraulic excavator, Mr. Shinji Hirogami, Deputy General Manager of the Civil Engineering Division, says, “It is a game changer when operators with no previous experience of ditching can perform on a level comparable to veterans after training them on the PC200i for about half day.” He also hopes that SMARTCONSTRUCTION will eradicate the conventional “3Ds” image of civil engineering work, i.e., Dirty, Dangerous and Demanding.

Mr. Sato, Manager
Mr. Sato, Manager
Mr. Hirogami, Deputy General Manager
Mr. Hirogami, Deputy General Manager

In the making of a “future” together

Komatsu receives a variety of requests to improve SMARTCONSTRUCTION from Sunagogumi's jobsites. From the viewpoint of promoting ICT-intensive construction in the company, Mr. Chiba also feels the need to improve the “visualization” of jobsite operations. He points out, “While the position information of excavator bucket teeth or bulldozer blade edge is very effective, we are still far from understanding the entire progress of construction which includes work by non ICT-intensive machines. He advocates, “Jobsites of the future call for improvement of the entire processes of work from receiving orders to delivery. As of today, SMARTCONSTRUCTION can improve the productivity of work where machines are involved. That's a very small portion.” He also adds, “Improvement of KomConnect is indispensable for us to achieve the civil engineering jobsite of the future which we are projecting. I truly hope that Komatsu will incorporate jobsite opinions and ideas in a speedier manner in order to refine the system which will even surprise us.”

We have just begun taking steps toward the jobsite of the future concerning civil engineering and construction.

The power to improve SMARTCONSTRUCTION and make our dream come true lies in customers' jobsite operations.

Mr. Kondo concludes, “We feed back our jobsite opinions as a contractor, because, together with Komatsu, we want to improve the productivity of jobsite operations.”