Earthworks is not easy

Earthworks is an often undervalued piece of the overall construction project. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard “Earthworks is Easy”, usually expressed by people who don’t know a thing about it. Any Earthworks Professional knows quite the opposite is true. Earthworks is certainly not easy if you want to make a profit. It’s an ultra competitive industry, with high equipment costs, high risk and tight margins. The difference between success and failure is razor thin.

I’ve spent many years working in a large variety of earthworks projects, and continue to encounter new challenges. My particular area of interest is quantity reporting and progress monitoring. This particular aspect of earthworks is fundamental to the business, yet it continues to be plagued with ambiguity, uncertainty and conflict. Here are a few reasons why this is the case:

  1. Earthworks construction is dynamic with many different activities all happening on at once. Even a relatively small site could have simultaneous stripping, common excavation and gravel stockpiling. Each material and associated activity must be independently tracked. Simultaneously tracking multiple activities requires significant effort and is complex with existing software.
  2. The second challenge of earthworks tracking is that one geographic area will have different material types over time. For example; an area may start out being stripped of topsoil, then subsoil, later it may get filled with clay before being used to stockpile gravel. Each layer must be captured and tracked, but frequency each layer can only be partially captured and the data must be managed over time to create accurate quantities.
  3. Data gaps are common in quantity reporting for various reasons. Perhaps a soft area was cut out and then back-filled prior to survey or maybe stripping was completed and common excavation started before the conventional surveyor was called in to complete a topo.

Because of challenges such as those listed above the traditional methods such as load counts and conventional surveys can be inaccurate, time-consuming and sometimes both.

Technology startups are furiously trying to make Earthworks Easy(er). Increasingly earthworks companies are looking to these startups to drive improvements in almost every aspect of the business to increase safety, improve productivity and reduce downtime. The movement is equally supported by anecdotal experience and research. There are great companies such asAnyQuip aka “Tinder for your Tractor” based here in Calgary working to connect and change the way business is done in earthworks.

Civil Tracker exists to accurately and quickly create definitive quantity reports and progress monitoring. We’re not there yet, but we’re working hard to create a product that will accomplish 4 key objectives:

  1. Generate accurate quantity and progress reports. We believe that by incorporating redundancy and trace-ability into our product we are creating an auditable tool that will ultimately be trusted by both the Project Owner and the Construction Company.
  2. Usable by anyone with earthwork construction experience. Most small and medium projects can’t afford a dedicated surveyor or geomatics technologist on site. Our vision is to empower site foremen or equipment operators to create their own quantity reports.
  3. Near Real Time Reporting. Actionable information has a short half life in construction. A quantity report of the day’s progress generated before work starts the following day, is more valuable than one created half way through the following day.
  4. Affordable reporting for every project. Regardless of how small or remote, we want to provide a solution that is affordable for any project.

We’re excited about the work we’re doing and would love your feedback, input and support!