One of the ways in which construction industry professionals are coping with the lack of skilled manpower these days is by tailoring the work to the available workforce. It used to be that an apprenticeship, months of practice, and a trusting foreman would combine to allow a worker to take the helm of a massive machine like a bulldozer. Today, these machines are begging to be driven – some sitting idle because recent generations haven’t taken to the construction industry as previous generations have. Other construction jobs aren’t getting off the ground as the skilled workforce who met uncertain times in 2008 have left the industry completely and have moved on to other employment opportunities. This has left builders with a serious problem – there just aren’t enough skilled workers to meet present day building demands.
New Machines Are Designed To Permit Less Skilled Workers To Safely Take The Controls
New technological advancements in heavy machinery are designed to allow those without years of experience operating heavy machinery like bulldozers to safely maneuver these steel beasts around the jobsite. The average commercial bulldozer weighs approximately twenty tons, and can cause serious damage at the hands of an unskilled operator. No matter how much technology is integrated into these machines, drivers must still understand the principles behind steering and stopping the machine, and manipulating the front dozer blade. Once the basics are learned, modern day GPS and laser guidance systems are able to overcome the shortcomings of a “green” operator.
Bulldozers are designed to remove or add loose fill material in order to construct new roadways, runways, and terrain features. Those that are at the helm of these gigantic machines are frequently called upon to grade surfaces down to less than a half of an inch of variance over a long span. In the past, a spotter would be used along with the keen eye and intuitive touch of a skilled operator’s controls. Now, sophisticated GPS systems and autopilot units have largely replaced the need for an operator’s seasoned touch. By simply programming the desired grade and level for a unique surface, a bulldozer operator can keep the machine “between the lines” and will be rewarded with the desired outcome.
What Do These Units Cost – And, Are They Worth It?
Several manufacturers are beginning to offer GPS guidance systems as factory-installed options. The only other choice in the past was to tack on a GPS or autopilot system as an aftermarket accessory, and deal with the loose wires and errant antennas that are a necessary part of these systems. Aftermarket units can run into the several thousand-dollar range, and factory-integrated units are sure to increase the base price of new heavy equipment by a similar amount.
By installing one of these units, or by purchasing a machine that is equipped with one, significant time can be saved during bulldozing operations. This minimizes wear and tear on the machine and keeps labor expenses low. The upfront cost associated with these units is also offset by the fact that a construction company can employ a less skilled (often lower paid) employee. Technology that a decade ago seemed impossible is now a reality – which is a good thing considering the current state of the construction labor market.