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23 MAY 2019



Coates Hire is using digital technology to improve productivity and accuracy for customers in its earthmoving fleet.

Coates Hire is improving the efficiency and accuracy of its compaction and earthmoving plant with the inclusion of grade-control technology.

The company’s new Caterpillar 17-tonne compaction rollers – currently being used at the Western Sydney Airport construction site – include Trimble sensors and processors that calculate the relative compaction at each stage of the runway building process, from sub-base to asphalt. The results are sent to the operator’s screen in the cabin as well as via satellite to the project managers’ laptops, says Michael Sekias, Coates Hire Category Manager – Earthmoving and Compaction.

“When building infrastructure such as airport runways, suburban streets and freeways, engineers define the construction method of the various layers of material, and that includes the material type and amount of compaction in each layer or lift,” says Sekias. “On this project the customer is using the new technology to measure the number of passes the roller makes over each lift of material to make sure they are meeting the required number of passes before testing for compaction.

“They can also set their target compaction level and the system shows the operators in real time when they have completed a section of runway, and it is ready for testing to check the level of compaction. This reduces the amount of rework and materials used, increasing efficiency.”

Sekias says Coates Hire recently purchased ten Caterpillar rollers with the grade control system, and they are being serviced from the Moorebank Branch in Sydney. Four of the machines are currently being used by the main civil contractor at the Western Sydney Airport, with the potential to grow as the project progresses.

The rollers are first used on a test-strip of sub-base or road-base. When the site team are satisfied with the compaction levels, the measurements taken from the test-strip are entered into the system and the roller’s sensors can be programmed to detect when those benchmark compaction levels are met.

The trial is already proving successful and a proportion of Coates Hire’s future earthmoving fleet acquisitions will include compaction sensor technology.

“This technology improves accuracy and it also saves time and diesel,” says Sekias. “Contractors no longer have to estimate compaction levels based on pass-count alone and then get someone to test it. It reduces the number of people walking on the job site, which is a good thing. And they are less likely to over-do their compaction and waste diesel and time – they are alerted when the compaction is at a specified point.”

Sekias says this type of system has a red screen/green screen indicator to alert drivers to reaching target-compaction, but the systems are also full telemetry services that stream the live data to authorised computers.

“The drivers and site managers might work to the green and red screens, but the engineers and project managers can access the full data from their computers, from any location.”

Sekias says Coates Hire will be integrating more of the digital systems as new earthmoving plant is ordered, and the plan during 2019 is to locate the new fleet in Victoria, Queensland and Western Australia, where there are also large civil projects.

“We’re doing demos, trials and customer days with this technology, to show customers what it can do and how it can help them with productivity and budgets,” says Sekias. “Currently, the customers who are hiring this equipment understand its capability and they are using it to save time and money and to ensure predictable, high-quality results.”


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