Machine control brings integrity to earthmoving | Panda Anku

An encouraging trend emerging in fleet asset management is the new generation of owners and device managers like Dan Weinkauf emerging, bringing a more casual, no-nonsense attitude toward new technologies like GPS-enabled devices.

Weinkauf, president of Integrity Grading and Excavating in Schofield, Wisconsin, is a member of the Under 40 in Construction Equipment Class of 2022. He uses technology like machine control without thinking about it, and like his under-40 peers demographically, he doesn’t view computer technology through a ” Gee Whiz lens.

GPS, drones and digital imaging tools available to earthmoving contractors and fleet managers are part of everyday business for managers like Weinkauf.

Fleet managers of this generation are often supported by more experienced employees in their organizations who fully understand the value and benefits of digital device data. However, their own senior roles often do not leave them much time to devote to the process of gathering and applying the deluge of information flowing from their fleet’s telematics-enabled devices.

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Dan and his father Allen started Integrity Grading and Excavating in 2006 with 10 employees. Their first year brought in $4 million in sales. Revenue has continued to grow through the recession, in part because the company has diversified with projects in site development, public works, airports and roads. Today, Integrity has more than 100 employees with a $30 million fleet of 75 units. Annual sales exceed US$50 million.

Weinkauf says that while his father is anti-computer, he was willing to make a significant investment in machine control systems for the company, one vehicle at a time. In fact, Senior Weinkauf was the first in Wisconsin to use Trimble landfill technology, much to the relief of Dan, whose summer job was doing his share of the projects at the time. In 2018, the younger Weinkauf took over the office of President.

After attending college in Wausau, Wisconsin, the 37-year-old decided to go straight into business. As part of the generation that grew up with computer technology, Weinkauf recognized the connection between digital GPS data and device operation early on. His first responsibility at Integrity was working on the GPS models.

“GPS and digital technology have proliferated so much that we now use them for vehicle tracking and machine control, and they help keep our operators informed of what’s about to be built,” he says.

Technology drives expansion

Integrity CFO Kyle Beid says Weinkauf’s focus on technology has resulted in better utilization of equipment and has enabled the company to open a second office in the rapidly expanding southern Wisconsin area near Madison.

“There’s a huge amount of private sector work there that’s building subdivisions and big building excavations,” says Beid. “Madison attracts a lot of young talent.”

Integrity oversees the region’s underground utility, wastewater and stormwater projects, all of which are part of Wisconsin’s infrastructure plans for the next five years. “We want a piece of this pie,” says Beid.

According to Weinkauf, builders are not yet requiring contractors to use machine control as part of their bids, but they are aware of the improved economics of using the technology.

“The listings don’t call for GPS capability, but it gives builders a better product with less surveying of the project,” he says.

Drone fly-over technology also offers huge cost savings. “We can fly over the project to see daily progress and get a better idea of ​​how much material we can move that day,” says Weinkauf. “It also speeds up data entry significantly.”

dealers as partners

Integrity originally used in-house support for its GPS, but Weinkauf says it now makes more sense to enlist support from its retailer.

“They help us troubleshoot and work with the software,” he says. “Because the GPS can measure up to a tenth of an inch — and because our vehicles drive over rocks — it’s easy to knock something out of alignment. Our dealer has technicians who come when we need them. Sometimes the solution is as simple as adding more shock absorber sensors.”

Weinkauf currently uses Topcon GPS systems and prefers to buy its units with the technology installed ex-factory.

Like many construction companies, Weinkauf is also struggling with the shortage of skilled workers. He understands that the people who work with him may or may not be at his level of technological comfort, so the company offers intensive training to its union employees.

“We have very clear goals and objectives,” he says. “It’s a challenge every day and we believe in providing our drivers with the training they need.” With the Madison office, Integrity employees also have the opportunity to work in multiple areas.

“Innovation is the core value of our company,” says Weinkauf. “We are always looking for ways to become more efficient, both in our company and in our customers’ projects. When we see new systems and products, my team and I do our research and decide together whether we can benefit from them.”

Weinkauf advises entrepreneurs considering adding GPS capabilities to their fleets to keep an open mind.

“You’re going to spend some money and expect to go through some growing pains,” he says. “It’s not like you buy new software and you’ll immediately be a better company. You have to invest the time to learn the software and technology.”

Admittedly, the experiences in his own company did not always go smoothly, says Weinkauf. But, he says, “Once we saw what we could do with GPS, we couldn’t be without it.”

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