The Digital Future for Road Construction
Roller Operators want Smart Machines
The “Quality Road Construction Baden-Württemberg 4.0” project needs machines that can communicate with one another digitally – and it also needs people who can operate these technologies. A machine operator reports on his experiences with a high-tech Ammann compactor that was deployed during the project.
Volker Schneck is a compactor operator with Strabag AG – a job he’s held for 34 years. When he learned his profession, road rollers were still using simpler technical assistance systems for compaction. Oscillation, automatic compaction control and machine control – even in the early 1980s, such concepts were merely visions of the future.
But today, Schneck operates high-tech compactors such as the Ammann ARP 95 Pivot-Steer Roller, equipped with the cutting-edge Ammann Compaction Expert (ACE) system. Schneck’s compactor utilised ACEpro: proprietary technology that comprises an automated measurement, control and documentation system. And with support from GPS mapping, data on previously compacted areas can also be received.
In the cabin, the machine operator can directly consult a display showing the material’s load-bearing capacity, the number of passes and values for frequency and amplitude. What’s more, ACEpro doesn’t merely measure and analyse: it also adjusts the amplitude and frequency automatically.
Years ago, Schneck learned how to manage without these systems. But he wouldn’t want to go back to those days because, as he points out with enthusiasm: “I really enjoy handling the technology. It calls for intuitive flair – you must be able to read the displays correctly, combine the different items of information together and then make the right decisions.”
It was very easy for him to make the change to the ARP95 with ACEpro, with no need for a special introduction course. “The machine, dashboard and displays make operation highly intuitive and everything is arranged very clearly.”
Schneck is a member of the Strabag crew that is completing the last section of the “Quality Road Construction Baden-Württemberg 4.0” pilot project. The asphalt base course is being installed today, to be followed by the binder course tomorrow and the asphalt wearing course the day after that. As the “last link in the chain,” Schneck operates the foremost of the four Ammann rollers that follow the paver to ensure the necessary compaction – perfecting the paving work carried out ahead of them under controlled conditions.
Controlling the 9.5-tonne machine is virtually effortless for him – first forwards, then in reverse, and sometimes in crab mode. As Schneck sits in his cabin, he monitors his surroundings: the areas to be compacted in front of him and behind him, as well as the other three Ammann rollers that are moving over the same areas.
He also observes the ACEpro intelligent compaction system that tells him whether the specified performance target has been achieved. He also must watch the Topcon machine control that indicates what temperature the asphalt has reached and whether he needs to drive faster or more slowly – and in which direction – to ensure that his movements are coordinated with all the other machines on the site.
“Correct coordination is a critical factor on this site,” says Willi Reutter, Application Manager Heavy Equipment at Ammann. The various processes are synchronised via Topcon’s cloud system. All the processes are intermeshed – from loading at the nearby asphalt mixing plant, delivery by truck and processing by the feeder and paver, to comprehensive compaction by the Ammann compactors.. The “Quality Road Construction Baden-Württemberg 4.0” project aims to guarantee installation and compaction of the asphalt at temperatures that are sufficiently high and as uniform as possible, with the ultimate goal of achieving roads of higher quality with longer lifetimes.
“The project has been running for three years and all the participants have learned a lot from one another during that time,” Reutter comments. “Processes have been optimised and coordination between technologies has been fine-tuned. This paves the way for ‘Construction 4.0’ and the rollout can now be launched on upcoming construction sites.”
Schneck and his colleagues are well prepared for “Quality Road Construction Baden-Württemberg 4.0.” Because ACEpro measures continuously, the machine operator is always very precisely aware of when and where the required degree of compaction has been achieved. “The work goes much faster than before and it’s also safer and more reliable. That’s because the displays are so absolutely clear that you can rely on them completely. Over-compaction is something that simply can’t happen anymore,” Schneck points out.
“The machine’s compaction values are superb,” Schneck reports, “and we also finish the job much faster than before thanks to this technology.” Longer lifetimes are an additional benefit, as confirmed by the results of the earlier SmartSite project that was financed by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy. The “Quality Road Construction Baden-Württemberg 4.0” project was awarded by the Baden-Württemberg Ministry of Transport as a follow-up contract to SmartSite.
Schneck is proud to have played a part in this pilot project, and he’s looking forward to the smart future that the technology will bring.