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What is Automation for Excavators? These 5 FAQs Cover the Basics of Excavator Technology

9 Dec 2021  •  Scott Schumacher

A growing area of opportunity for many companies lies in an exciting form of excavator technology: automation for excavators.

One of the reasons excavator automation is becoming more popular is because excavators themselves are a popular machine in companies of all sizes and scopes. The advantages that can be gained with excavator automation are realized in several ways, including overall productivity and better performance from novice operators.

Ready to take a deep dive on automation for excavators? Watch videos, request a quote, and get all the information to buy an auto-excavator system now.

Or, read on to get up to speed on the basics of excavator technology. These five FAQs cover the most popular auto-excavator questions, and offer answers and basic info about automation for excavators.

1. What all is automated on a machine with auto-excavator technology?
With an auto-excavator system, the boom, bucket, and arm are automated to follow the set grade. Watch to learn more about the Topcon X-53x auto-excavator system from RDO expert, Mark Anderson.

Newer models of the John Deere SmartGrade™ auto-excavator also offer automated swing and height protection. Not considered fully automated like the boom and bucket, these two functions are primarily designed for safety, to engage when an operator could move into a dangerous situation, like near traffic or overhead powerlines. Both are also soon coming on new Topcon systems.

2. Can some excavator automation be turned off while keeping others on?
Yes, an operator who just wants the excavator boom automated can turn off the bucket automation. The swing and height excavator automations can also be turned on and off as desired by the operator.

3. What bottom-line benefits does automation for excavators provide?
The improved efficiency and production are among the most exciting benefits of using auto-excavator technology. Automation for excavators has been shown to deliver a 30% increase in production and many companies also report significant material savings.

Another efficiency factor that is tough to measure but very real is operator productivity. The excavator technology takes some of the mental and physical load off the operator. Many operators report feeling less fatigued and more energized, allowing them to accomplish more in a day.

4. How skilled do I need to be to use excavator automation technology?
Another great benefit to companies that implement auto-excavator technology is that it helps novice operators perform at a higher skill level. Essentially, an operator does not need to be skilled with an excavator or the excavator technology system to quickly learn it and be able to use it well.

Programs like Topcon’s Sitelink3D and Deere’s JDLink™ Connectivity are offered to RDO Equipment Co. customers at no-cost and create opportunities for virtual training and ongoing support.

Related article:5 important things to know about JDLink

Initial training, whether in person or virtual, is always provided by RDO to ensure everyone is comfortable with the auto-excavator system. The team of technology experts in the Solutions Center can even remote into the excavator anytime to walk operators through everything they’re seeing on the screen. This level of support is helpful both in training new operators and helping troubleshoot during operation.

One piece to the overall excavator automation puzzle that does require a level of skill is building the 3D model. RDO’s expert Solutions Center team offers 3D modeling as a service and can help companies with this crucial step in the process.

5. Is it better to add an excavator automation system to a machine or have one with integrated excavator technology?
There are upsides to both integrated systems like Deere’s SmartGrade excavator as well as systems like the Topcon X-53x.

An advantage of an integrated system is it comes directly from the factory, installed. No work is needed. The John Deere SmartGrade system also includes added features like virtual alerts. The system can set parameters like a virtual ceiling, floor, and swing to give operators more flexibility on a jobsite, and also notify when one is close to approaching and keep them within the set parameters.

An advantage of an add-on auto-excavator system is it can go on virtually any machine. There are also different levels of add-on automation for excavators, some that are more basic to those that are more advanced like the Topcon X-53x. A basic excavator technology system would be one where none of the features are fully-automated, but the screen shows real-time data and feedback to the operator so he or she can quickly adjust to achieve the desired grade.

Automation for excavators is a growing area of opportunity for the construction industry. These excavator technology systems are only getting better, offering the ease and functionality that make them accessible to virtually any company.  

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Learn more about all John Deere SmartGrade technology and all Topcon machine control technology. To see all new, used, and rental equipment options, contact your local RDO Equipment Co. store.

Scott Schumacher

Scott Schumacher is General Manager of RDO Equipment Co. in Grand Forks, North Dakota. Formerly a Product Manager for Topcon, he has extensive experience with construction equipment technology from Topcon and John Deere.

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