Taylor's Excavators Inc. has been a family run business since 1954. They specialize in commercial and residential sitework and underground utilities. This week, we got to talk to Brad Mills and learn more about how they use AGTEK to build their GPS models and track project progress with drone data.
We mostly do commercial and residential work – residential is the biggest chunk of our work right now with all the developments and apartment complexes. Most of what we are doing are projects with 100-200 lots and over 100,000 CY of dirt being moved. Washington is not a flat state so we usually need huge walls everywhere too – it’s not boring work at all.
I manage the GPS for all the guys at Taylor’s – everything from building the GPS model from the plans in AGTEK to helping integrate it in the field. I go out there with all of our Topcon stuff and localize the site to get it ready for the guys to use the GPS gear. When they are out using it, I’m there for support making sure it works on all the machines and the rover. Before I started Taylor’s was outsourcing models and it’s a lot easier now to have someone in house to actually talk to the foremen and the guys running the dozer.
I also do the drone flights for Taylor’s to look at how much dirt has been moved and how much we have to go.
It totally depends on the job. If we know we have a project we are going to get, I will do the takeoff on it so I can build the model at the same time.
As far as how I build the model, it completely depends on how the engineer did it. Are the CAD files he’s providing good enough? They all have CAD files because that’s how they are generating these plans – so it’s mostly how hard to I have to push to get them out. There is a bit of a process when retrieving CAD files from the engineer but that’s due to the complexity of Civil 3D. I’m sure as times goes on and requests similar to mine become more common, it will be easier.
Before working at Taylor’s, I worked at Boeing in their engineering group doing wire install so it was a big change coming to the construction side. Taylor’s was supposed to be an in-between job for me, but I ended up liking the civil environment so much that they made a spot for me.
As far as AGTEK goes, it was completely new. I came down to California for the training class and I caught on pretty quick. Juan [one of the AGTEK trainers] was a huge help after the class too.
The guys in support are also great. I mostly email them and they always get back to me quickly – either with the answer or a work around for what I’m trying to do. The personalized support is huge.
COVID-19 really only changed things at the very start for us. During that 6-8 week period where we had to figure out what was essential we had to shut everything down. Once we got up and running again, the owners still wanted to keep the same schedules so we had to go into double time to keep up. We’ve definitely had a busy summer.
I fly the drone every couple weeks in the busy months from March/April into November. I fly a bit less in the winter because it gets rainy here, but we usually fly from right after clearing the site until the dirt portion of job is done.
It’s hard to do that here because of all the tall trees. But on one of our sites they had cleared it 10 years prior and they didn’t end up doing the project so all the vegetation was still short. We flew our drone as a check on the initial survey to give us peace of mind on what they’d done.
It’s saved us tons of times – being able to see that we’ll need 10,000 CY of dirt imported to a site [for example] and being able to line that up from another project before we got rid of it – that stuff can add up so quick.
Mostly we like being able to see how much dirt we’ve already moved and how much we have left to do.
The only time we’ve had trouble with the drone is when we get on super steep sites and I had to break up my drone flights because the difference in elevation was nearly 300 ft. Once you get that big elevation change, the drone is flying too high and loses some of its accuracy. But, once you understand that it isn’t that big of a deal because I can import both flights and merge the data back in AGTEK.
I hope DJI does an update that will allow for elevation changes across the project though so I can set that I want the drone 60 meters above the ground across the entire site.
I’d say it was a bit archaic and detail oriented. It’s so new that they just threw the test stuff they have for someone that’s going to fly a Cessna up in the air and made that the same as the drone test. There is so much information that they need to weed out for the drone test, but it was interesting and now I know a little more about flying a plane.
- I use the hot keys all the time and would love for you to add a hot key for “Hide All But” so that I can look at say a contour and an edge of road line only.
- Make print view more versatile for resizing cut/fill maps.
Manage Export Colors has been monumental. The engineers label their lines things like C-TOPO-MINR-L and if I send all that information out to the guys in the field and it changes every time for every engineering company we work with it would be the biggest headache.
For the most part, this program is killer. You guys are doing a really good job.
What I want to do is get the foreman the SmartDirt mobile app so they can see the cuts and fills on their phones. The biggest thing for us is the 3D view, it’s just a complete game changer – if you have daylight lots everywhere and the foreman can get a 3D view of it instead of just the top down view from Topcon it would be awesome. That 3D picture is worth a thousand words. Right now, I send screenshot pictures to the foreman, but it would be much nicer if they could go wherever they wanted on site and rotate to 3D view to spot errors I might have made or make notes about things we need to change.