DirtLogic GPS Model of school track

4 Benefits of GPS Machine Control Modeling

GPS machine control modeling has been on construction sites for more than two decades now. In that time we’ve seen a lot of things change on-site and in the office. But one thing has remained constant. When given the opportunity, the benefits of a jobsite with GPS control modeling, outweigh a site without such measures.

Grading a site today is a critical element in preparing land for development. Grading by itself is an expensive part of any development project. But it’s also a necessary pain for the long term gain.

Why do you need a GPS Machine Control Model?

The beauty of having a GPS model is it allows everyone to be working off of the same data from those out in the field, from operating the machines to the engineers, and even in the office. This gives your team one cohesive look at the job site. But the benefits don’t stop there. In our extensive experience building models, we’ve determined our clients often cite these four reasons for using our GPS models:

4 Benefits of using a GPS Model

Our clients complete jobs faster and within budget.

While working off the one model concept our clients are able to put the model in front of everyone on the job site. This means that machine operators can instantly see what they need to do and avoid any costly corrections.

Just as important as letting experienced operators see their work, GPS machine control modeling allow new operators the ability to get it right the first time.

Access to better tools to manage job production.

Making daily progress on a job is critical for forecasting materials and job site capacity. With a GPS model site foreman you can track the progress of grading efforts and the production levels of machine operators. This ensures that deadlines are met or more importantly if delays are needed they can be discovered early before they become a problem. With over 100 years of combined experience, our Earthwork Takeoffs and GPS Modeling teams are second to none.


Download our GPS Modeling Brochure to learn more.


Virtually eliminate errors in the field.

One of the big benefits of a DirtLogic GPS model is that we build all our models from scratch. Thoroughly checking your plans for errors while they are still in development and not while the machines are running on the job site. We used to build our models using the files we received from project engineers but we quickly realized that a new model found errors more frequently and reliably.

More precision means less environmental impacts.

By clearly delineating on a model where environmentally sensitive areas are on, site operators can easily avoid these areas while maneuvering their equipment for daily operations.

If you’re ever in need of a GPS modeling partner or need to use DirtLogic on a project-basis, we’re happy to demonstrate how you can benefit from our GPS modeling services. If you have any questions or would like to request a quote, our team is ready to help, just contact us to connect with a GPS model expert.

Request A Quote

Construction team taking down dam

Utilizing On-site Machine Control Grading Systems

Welcome to the 4th edition of DirtLogic’s “Machine control” mini-series. So far, we’ve discussed the following topics:

What type/size projects merit the use of GPS technology

How to add GPS modeling into your bid (costs and savings)

Data prep – initiating your project’s GPS model production

If you missed any of these segments or would like to revisit, please click one of the links above for a copy.

Now we’ll focus on GPS Model Utilization.

Here are 5 simple steps to begin utilizing your on-site machine control grading system.

  • Step 1: Download the DirtLogic GPS model to a USB memory stick.  The download should take a maximum of 5 minutes.
  • Step 2: Upload files from the USB to the hand-held, data collector.  This upload should take between 5 and 10 minutes.
  • Step 3: ALWAYS verify you have the survey control points. Ideally, they should be included in the GPS model if DirtLogic was able to collect them.  Otherwise, you will need to request the control points (northings, eastings and elevations) from the land surveyor.  When received, they need to be manually inputted into the data collector. This must be done on-site to calibrate the base and rover. Typically, no less than 5 control points are recommend around the circumference of the site for maximum accuracy.
  • Step 4: Begin calibrating the site by finding each control point.  Once the site is calibrated, you can securely begin grade checking and site layout.
  • Step 5: If you are implementing GPS machine control technology, now is the time to upload the DirtLogic GPS model into each applicable machine.

At this point, you are ready to grade. If you have questions about any of the implementation steps, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Stay tuned for our next edition of the “Machine control” mini-series.  We will discuss how GPS verification is necessary throughout the execution of your project.

GPS model graph

Initiating Your Project’s GPS Model Production

Congratulations on winning the bid!  Now the real work begins.

Here are a couple steps to expedite getting your project’s GPS model production into the DirtLogic pipeline quickly:

In the last edition of our mini-series of When/How to Integrate GPS Machine Control, DirtLogic recommends asking for a price quote on the correlating GPS model at the same time you order your earthwork take-off.

Step 1

If this was your process, then “Step 1” is returning to the original proposal and clicking “Accept” on the GPS model bid to alert our team. If you did not order an earthwork take-off from DirtLogic, or did not request a correlating GPS modeling bid when your take-off was ordered you may request a GPS model quote anytime or call us at (503) 662-7390 to begin.

Step 2

Good news though!  For every GPS model DirtLogic creates we also include an earthwork quantity take-off for verification. Regardless of the initial process, “Step 2” involves receiving a phone call or an email from DirtLogic within 24 hours (Monday-Friday) to collect a set of a construction plans AND the engineer’s electronic CAD files.

If your construction start date is tight, you do not have to wait for us to reach out. You may email a link of the construction plans and CAD files at any time too: plans@dirtlogic.com.  This will immediately initiate communication on GPS modeling costs and the production timeline. DirtLogic strives to have a GPS model turnaround of 1-2 weeks.

We’re committed to taking the guesswork out of dirtwork and appreciate the opportunity to earn your trust. Please do not hesitate to reach out to me, Matt Gebarowski, directly if there is urgency or questions at: matt@dirtlogic.com. Stay tuned for the next segment of this mini-series, “On-site Utilization – Verifying and Implementing the GPS Model.”

Bulldozer clearing dirt on site

How to Integrate GPS Machine Controls

Many of you are now utilizing GPS technology and may have questions on how to account for the costs and savings in your bids. Here are a few suggestions to simplify the process:

Next Steps


When preparing your bid, call DirtLogic as early as possible for the earthwork take-off. At this time, also ask for an estimate on the subsequent DirtLogic GPS model.

Next, add the cost of the employee(s) it will take to implement the technology and a surveyor to double-check specifics like property lines, building corners, curb returns, alignments, etc.

For example: If machine control data costs $3,000 to $5,000 then add at least that same amount if not, double to cover implementation and surveyor verification.


If we still suggest utilizing a surveyor you may ask, “What’s the benefit to using machine control?” The fact is value holds because without using GPS machine control, traditionally construction survey costs are 60-70% MORE.

Additionally, there are other savings such as increased production due to no delay for construction staking, increased accuracy even with less-experienced operators and increased speed in execution. The latter is more difficult for us to assign a savings percentage, but you know your team and processes best.

If you have further questions on how to add GPS modeling to your bid or how to begin transitioning to GPS machine control, please feel free to contact me directly, my contact information is listed below.

When partnering with DirtLogic, you can have a stake-less site for an efficient, profitable project from start to completion. We look forward to earning your trust.

GPS equipment with man standing in front

Projects That Merit The Use of GPS Machine Control Technology

Nearly 20 years ago, GPS machine control quickly became attainable for almost every excavation businesses. Initially it made sense to use it on 20+ acre projects. But thanks to significant improvements and decreasing modeling costs, DirtLogic has participated in projects as small as a farmer’s pond to some as large as the San Diego light rail.

The fact remains: There is never a project too small that GPS integration doesn’t make sense (ex. public works,1-4 acre commercial sites, small subdivisions, parks, etc.). GPS machine control always reduces the man-hours needed, increases the quality of execution and profit potential if it is used correctly.

Additionally, it’s been proven that construction companies who integrate technology into their work, make their businesses more attractive to the next generation of construction professionals. The possibilities are endless as we embrace the inevitable.


Gresham High School Earthwork Takeoff

ALOT of schools out for bid and they keep coming!

Amazing year for the number of schools that have been issued out for bid. We’ve now ran over 15+ earthwork take-offs on 15+ High Schools, Middle Schools and Elementary Schools since the beginning of the year and they are still coming. Quite a few of our clients have won their bids using our earthwork take-offs and are turning those earthwork take-offs into GPS models via our GPS department. It’s a great 1-2 punch we offer and keeps it all under one roof for the best results and customer service.

Even further, we do not flip takeoffs into GPS models but completely rebuild them to our Machine Control standards. We also ‘do not’ take engineers surfaces and reuse them. We build them from scratch. This ensures nothing will come back on the engineer who graciously allowed us to use his CAD data and helps to eliminate any errors. We are all on the same team and at the end of the day want everyone to be successful in playing their part.

The year of the track replacement.

It sure feels like every School in the country is getting a new track this week. The artificial turf tracks typically have slope subgrades and flat finish grades. We usually build a subgrade surface for these in addition to our typical finish grade models.


Thoughts From An Old 3D Modeler

I have worked in the engineering and surveying profession since 1965, began cutting line, pounding stakes, and wading through swamps. The survey equipment I worked with was not too far removed from the stuff George Washington used. I saw his survey equipment in the Smithsonian. It brings a tear to my eye. I became a license land surveyor in 1976 and just this month retired officially my license. Now I am a Retired (some think it should be retarded) Licensed Land Surveyor, but I am still working. I should be on my motorcycle riding into the sunset.

The evolution of the equipment has been incredible with robotic total station, GPS rover and network, tablet data collector, and 3D scanner, and the new gear just keeps coming.

In the office, the new design software does in seconds what it took us days to do. I used to copy 8 places sine and cosine to a coordinate sheet and multiply with a mechanical calculator that shook the whole drafting table, then had to manually draw the points on a working drawing.

The capability of the new design products is incredible. It is almost like telling the computer `see that piece of property, I want a yield of x with half acre lots’ and it does it. You tear off the prints and give them to the contractor.

The final plats are in a digital format that can be emailed to anyone. The site itself is available in CAD digital format that gives you ready access to all of the features of the site. Amazing who would have ever thought, but now it is expected.

This data can be converted into a product that will enable the survey equipment to very easily layout everything on the site. It can also be used in heavy earth moving equipment to automate the grading process and paving process.

So where am I going with this article, I am not really sure it is just that Randy Nolan wanted something to publish. Actually, I am about to make a point that could be a little controversial.

My current profession is making 3D digital models of construction sites from the plans and CAD files that will be used in the survey and automated grading equipment.

I really enjoy building the 3D models. My wife sends me up to my man cave in the morning and tells me she will let me know when I can come back down.

I have said all of this above to set the stage for the real intent of my article. I am going to comment on the quality of the CAD and construction plans that are being released as final products.

With the incredible capability of the newer CAD design products, it appears that the actual quality of the final plans is decreasing in inverse proportion (I think I know what this term means). In old guy technical terms a lot of the plans really suck. I know it is risky to write this, but it is an everyday experience. I have compared notes with several of the 3D data professionals (I use the term loosely) that I know and they all seem to agree.

I write this to my fellow data preparers, review the plans closely, ask a lot of questions, and don’t take anything for granted.

I write this to any engineer who may read my article, if you get over being pissed and offended at my comments, maybe you will take a harder review on the plans before they are released.

Details and Typical Sections
I will not do a project in most cases without the accompanying set of final construction plans. Just the CAD file is not enough. I need the details for the project. Even the details need to be closely examined, as shown on previous page.

Notice the shoulder slope in the detail of 0.05%, interesting. When asked, the answer was `oh yeah that should be 2%). The 0.05% slope was on every detail for shoulders in the plans.

Same Job, notice the mountable curb detail. When asked, `oh yeah that is a 1″ drop’.

Kiss my grits; I live in the south now. Tip of the iceberg, the Titanic is coming.

The Plans
Now just a few items from some plans.

The CAD files have a different building footprint than the PDF construction plans. Will the real building please stand up?

I was modeling a mid-sized apartment complex and it appeared the plans were rushed out the door. The road grade profile did not agree with the design contours and neither agreed with inlet elevations. They ended up using a road profile that I created, an old bald Italian ugly biker dude. Then the revisions started occurring. The parking lots did not drain to the inlets. Buildings were raised and lowered. I would get a notice that a new CAD file was in the Dropbox, and that is all there was. The entire new CAD file with everything in it, how am I supposed to know what changed. I think the revision cloud is a thing of the past and well as clear description of the revision.

Lastly, below, is the CAD information for a small fast food chain. I opened the file and the site was in three different places. Which group was in the right coordinate location, NONE, the north arrow was pointing southeast. Then I did a quick measure from the front to the back of the project. The title block said 1″=20′, well the distance measured was 2,900′, YIKE. That is one big hamburger joint. The real scale was 1″=1 CAD unit, so scale it down by 0.08333333333… I have to work with the surveyor to get the right coordinates and rotation for the site

One of my team partners sent a 6 to 8 page document listing the issues on a large roadway project to the client and the engineer. There are so many things that should be documented if not for just CYA.

And so the story goes, it seems that this is business as usual. Someone has signed and sealed the plans, they are putting a lot of things at risk when the plans are sent.

What has happened to quality control? I worked at an engineering firm just a few years back and one of my responsibilities was managing the company plan reviewing and quality control processes. It was one of the most thankless jobs. I managed a person who was excellent at reviewing plans. When he was finished it looked like he strapped two red pens to his boots and did an Irish River dance on the plans. The startling thing was when reviewed closely each one was real and well thought out.

It is interesting that 80% of the project is done with 50% of the budget and the last 20% goes 10% or more over the budget before any quality control review takes place and you are over the deadline.

I am concerned that there is an assumption that the new high tech design software will automatically produce a completely accurate product. NOT TRUE. Who is behind the wheel pushing the buttons? Who is sitting down and sheet by sheet reviewing the plans and this should be done by someone other than the designer, preferable by the one signing and sealing and putting their reputation on the line.

We used to have a standard note on all the plans, These Plans Are Not To Be Taken Seriously.

To the 3D data preparer, don’t assume the plans are correct. Look at things and use your good judgment. Stop and do a screen capture and send information up the line. Thank goodness for Snagit, it makes screen captures and notations very easily. Don’t be afraid to stop work on a project until some answers are obtained, otherwise you may throw away days’ worth of modeling. I have gotten to the place where I just shut things down if the issues are really bad and give the engineer time to review and respond.

In defense of the engineer, in most cases they appreciate the review, questions and the chance to correct things before they are built incorrectly. A few have told me to take a long walk on a short pier.

Another benefit, if we as data preparers do a complete job, most of the design issues are caught before the first pile of dirt is moved. In theory, we actually build the project before it goes on the ground. This is a secondary service we are providing our clients.

Someone who shall remain nameless reviewed and commented on this article, see below:
1. Technology makes things easier and faster but doesn’t fully eliminate the human element to ensure accuracy
2. The more controversial thing I see is this, if the civil engineer stepped up and produced the 3D model as a service, their business would be more valuable, marketable and more relevant. It would also reduce the number of those other lower performance 3D’ers (I wonder if he is referring to old bald Italian ugly biker dude) by natural selection. Hell the civil guys have a HUGE opportunity here. (Old bald Italian ugly biker dude comment: The models better be more accurate than the plans!)

So I hope my ramblings will be of some help to you. Model On!

Ron Ciccarone, LS, has been involved in survey automation since the 60s, data preparation and 3D modeling since the late 90s, and owns his own business building data files.

Digger on site

Excavator Attachments for Demolition

If you think about the equipment and skill sets your company already has, it makes perfect sense. No matter if you own the smallest of skid-steers, or the largest of excavators, you’re leaving money on the table if you’re not offering demolition services to your customers. So let’s take a look at some of the latest excavator attachments for demolition in this growing product category, and see how they can double and triple your productivity.

Since we mentioned skid-steers, and of course, they’re one of the most common assets in a contractors equipment arsenal, we’ll start with some perspective from Katie Althoff, an attachment specialist at Bobcat Co., Fargo, ND. Althoff notes that breakers are one of the most popular attachments and Bobcat’s products attach easily to their line of excavators and loaders. “Our breakers install in five minutes or less and they’re easily switched over to an excavator, so you have a lot of versatility. And they are great for breaking up an area where you need a little more precision, such as a small sidewalk, or a road repair where you just need to run a sewer system or something.”

Another excavator attachment for demolition that performs a similar function is the drop hammer, a large style of breaker that lifts a free falling tool. Drop hammers are useful for flat work such as a parking lots, driveways, and large concrete slabs. It’s not as precise as a breaker, but it’s efficient for large areas such as concrete pads, because it works very quickly and it fractures the concrete and subbase. Breakers and drop hammers are categorized by the foot-pound or joule of impact energy.

When you’re breaking up concrete, it can create plenty of debris and rebar. Those materials can damage a machine’s undercarriage, so Althoff recommends some preventative measures. “It’s very nice to have an excavator with a grapple to go in and clean up the hazardous materials. We have a three-tine grapple on our excavator, and with a clamp you can pin it up and continue to use your bucket, so if you need to dig and use the clamp again, this offers a little more versatility. For demolition projects, they’re great because they don’t pick up things like sand and aggregate-sized sub-base materials. For road construction, demolition crews often recycle a lot of the asphalt and we have a sweeper with a bucket on the inside of it so it’s a broom and a dustpan sweeping up and collecting it, and putting the asphalt shavings into a pile and so they can be recycled.”

Bobcat offers planer attachments that are typically used on asphalt, but they can be used on concrete, and for milling. If you’re taking off a layer of asphalt, a planer will scarify the asphalt, so the new asphalt sticks.

How about a heavy-duty ripper for your skid-steer? These brutes are designed for powerful ripping in applications with caliche, frost, or rock. For example, Paladin Attachments, Dexter, MI, makes rippers that are compatible with most pin-grabbing couplers. It’s available as a pin-on or quick hitch attachment. Paladin also makes the FFC Concrete Claw, designed for removing concrete sidewalks and driveways or on any construction site. It can also be used for shrub and stump removal.

The value of excavator attachments for demolition have also been recognized by Hyundai Construction Equipment, Norcross, GA. The manufacturer of earthmoving and material handling equipment recently introduced its first attachment product line to the North American market. Not surprisingly, the line includes 14 models of hydraulic breakers, offering chisel diameters from 1.6–7.9 inches. Operating weights range from 271–12,401 pounds and overall lengths range from 44.4–159.8 inches. The breakers have four chisel options—moil, wedge, blunt, or conical, and are designed for a wide range of demolition applications.

For efficiency, an anti-blank firing (ABF) system prevents the breaker from continuing to strike once material has been demolished, and comes standard on the HDB50–HDB800 models. This system helps protect the chisel pins, tie bolts, and front heads from blank firing and increases theservice life of all components. On the HDB600 and HDB800 models, an energy regeneration valve captures upward flow energy after the piston hits the chisel and retracts back up the cylinder. The technique harnesses up to 15% of the energy to be re-applied on the flow energy back down. This feature increases blow speed without the need for additional flow, resulting in higher production rates.

John Deere truck on site

John Deere E-Series Articulated Dump Trucks Feature a Load of New Updates

Bolstered with big updates, the new 370E, 410E, and 460E articulated dump truck (ADTs) are designed to keep materials moving and profits flowing. The three models are highlighted by an EPA Final Tier 4 (FT4)/EU Stage IV John Deere PowerTech™ diesel engine and a pressurized Deere-designed cab – both of which combine to boost productivity and uptime, while minimizing daily operating costs.

“The new E-Series articulated dump trucks are the result of our most important asset, our customers,” said Mark Shea, ADT product consultant, John Deere Construction & Forestry. “We worked with our customers to find out what they need in an articulated dump truck to make their jobs more safe, efficient, and productive. The E-Series is equipped with several features to accommodate these requests. Efficiency and productivity are boosted by standard best-in-class diff lock and powerful transmission retarder; while safety is paramount through ground-level daily service, auto horn, rollover protection and remote park-brake release.”

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Designed and built in Dubuque and Davenport, Iowa, the E-Series ADTs feature 422 hp (370E), 443 hp (410E) and 481 hp (460E), delivering impressive power and torque with exceptional power-to-weight ratios and fast cycles. A purpose-built ZF transmission includes eight forward gears and four reverse gears, and a high-capacity retarder to increase service brake life. In addition, the John Deere hauler axles are designed for heavy-duty applications and include on-the-fly differential locks and outboard planetaries, and each axle is independently pressure lubed and filtered. The E-Series axles use internal wet disc brakes that utilize independent cooling circuits.

Perhaps the biggest change to these new models is the updated cab. The ultra quiet, redesigned cab is sealed and pressurized to keep out dust and noise, affording enhanced operator concentration and efficiency. Creature comforts include push-button start, low-effort push-button controls, air-suspension heated high-back seat, tilt/telescoping steering wheel and optional premium radio with Bluetooth®, auxiliary input and satellite radio capability. Stairway lights can be turned on with the push of a button from ground level for easier visibility when entering the larger cab entryway.

The E-Series models are equipped with an updated 7-inch high-resolution LCD monitor for easy access to onboard diagnostics, digital gauges and vital system indicators — all conveniently located within arm’s reach and view during rough haul conditions. Two ergonomically positioned sealed switch modules simplify operation and convenience controls. The auto shutdown feature turns off the engine after an owner-determined period of inactivity to reduce emissions, idle time and subsequent wear on the power train.

An integrated tire-pressure/temperature monitoring system comes standard to help maximize tire life and fuel efficiency. If pressure drops by 10 percent, a passive alarm appears on the monitor. In addition, further pressure decreases or overheating result in an audible warning and an email alert that is sent via JDLink™.

An optional, onboard weighing system is factory calibrated, which allows contractors to view the weight and the number of loads carried via JDLink. The system displays the payload on the monitor during loading while transmitting real-time load and tonnage data via JDLink, so productivity can be monitored from virtually anywhere. The onboard weighing option also comes equipped with mirror-mounted LED load indicator lights that illuminate for the loading operator as the truck approaches capacity (green flashing), is at capacity (green) or is 10 percent or more over capacity/overload (red flashing).

A favored customer-driven feature of the E-Series and a hallmark for John Deere is centralized, true ground-level servicing to simplify daily maintenance and overall serviceability. All daily service can be completed from the ground. Hydraulically controlled fans with swing-out cooling packages on both sides of the engine highlight the cool-on-demand system. For dusty environments, there is a reversible fan option available for simplified cooler cleanout.

Operators looking to get the most out of their E-Series can rely on Ultimate Uptime featuring John Deere WorkSight™. With Ultimate Uptime, operators receive predelivery and follow-up inspections; three years of JDLink™ telematics, machine heath prognostics and remote diagnostics and programming capability; and the ability to add additional dealer-provided uptime solutions to customize the package to individual needs.