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Is your business ready for construction technology? Get started with Cat® Connect.

For the last three years, Site Prep magazine’s Machine Control Survey has indicated rising interest in machine control and guidance technologies. Many users have gone on the record talking about how technology reduces operating costs and increases margins. And yet, in this struggling economy, it’s easy to understand why many contractors would proceed with caution. Here are some tips to help you take some of the risk out of your technology decision-making and become familiar with what Cat® Connect has to offer.

1. Identify the gaps you think technology can bridge in your business.
As you look at the technology options available to you, it’s important to know exactly what benefits you are after. Cat Connect makes it easy by identifying value in four key areas of your business: Equipment Management, Productivity, Safety and Sustainability. Of course it will depend on the equipment you typically use and the type of work you do, but by knowing the kind of results you expect, you can ask the right questions to make informed decisions on which machines to equip first and why.

2. Learn all you can.
While the benefits of investing in construction technology can be great, it’s a significant investment and you will want to do a thorough job of researching what’s available, what it costs and what will be required to actually get up and running.

Your OEM equipment dealer is a good place to start. Find out if they have specialists that can assist you in the decision-making process, installation, training and testing. Ask if demonstrations are available where you can get some hands-on experience and ask questions.

Read up on the subject. There’s been quite a lot of information published in the trade press about telematics, GPS and machine control and guidance over the last few years. Take advantage of the experience of others and familiarize yourself with the key terms, so you’re prepared to ask more questions of your equipment or technology dealer.

Talk to your trade association or other contractors you trust. There’s nothing quite as compelling as hands-on experience. If you know people in your area who have already made the investment that you can talk to about it, reach out to them.

3. Take technology for a test drive – RENT.
Once you’ve determined that construction technology is something you want to explore, the best way to find out if it will work well for your operation is to “try it on.” The good news is that today you can rent instead of buy. Renting allows you to really see how something like grade control technology will work on your jobsites with your operators. However, rental will require some of the same preparation as purchase, so here’s a quick list of questions you’ll want to get answered:

– Is their control and guidance technology an add-on to their equipment, or has it been developed jointly with the engineers who designed the machines? (Jointly is the answer you’re looking for.)

– What modalities do they offer and which do they recommend for the job you’re going to do? Do you want two-dimensional capabilities or more complex three-dimensional dual GPS and total station-controlled machines?

– How will the equipment or technology dealer support you with the digital modeling of your jobsite? The accuracy of the jobsite model will directly impact your results, so you want to be sure that you use reliable modelers. You may want to ask if they will review your modeling with you (at no cost), so you can be sure that you’re getting off to a good start.

– Will they perform a site calibration? This coordinates the system and the jobsite plan with the model. You definitely want this performed by experts with the system, the machine and jobsite calibration.

– Will they provide onsite training? Even with user-friendly systems, you should expect to get some hands-on training for your operators.

– Does the equipment or technology dealer have support available to you should you have issues or questions?

4. Run the numbers.
Be prepared to take a hard look at whether the technology helped you reduce costs or save time. Be systematic about recording your results so you can map out your return on investment following your rental experience.

5. Think about the long-term benefits.
Investing in machine control technology will provide benefits for specific job functions such as grading work. But the true value in the technology is when you connect it with your office, where you use the information to make better business decisions.