Software Leveling The Playing Field

Planning, mapping and recording the bore; keeping everyone informed as in-field adjustments are made; providing as-builts and finally invoicing: the paperwork behind horizontal directional drilling can quickly bury you as deeply as the lines you’re installing.

“When you go into a contractor’s office, paperwork is everywhere,” says Jon Kuyers with Vermeer. “There’s a lot of waste in the current situation.”

Vermeer created its new InSite Productivity Tools suite to attack this challenge. Combining two pieces currently available – InSite Fleet and InSite Bore Aid – with four new tools being released early next year, the complete set is designed to help contractors concentrate on drilling, not paperwork.

The possibilities have caught the attention of Erik Carlson, president, Pinnacle Construction & Directional Boring, North Charleston, South Carolina: “We’ve got 35 employees and this software suite will allow us to provide the same service, the same documentation as a contractor of 1,500 employees,” he says. “It levels the playing field.”

InSite Fleet/FleetEdge

It starts with InSite Fleet telematics, now available on certain Vermeer drills. Fleet gives basic telematics information, including machine location and geofencing, machine idle times, maintenance alerts and fuel consumption.

With the addition of InSite FleetEdge in January, users will get actionable machine information such as productivity tracking, maintenance prioritization, fuel savings estimation and project time management. FleetEdge consolidates a log of relevant machine data such as forces, pressures and flows and identifies fuel savings opportunities.

“This measures the productivity of the machine, telling you how much the machine is working, tramming, changing tooling and idling,” Rob Arndt with Vermeer says. “You can see if an operator is using the machine to its optimum capacity.”

FleetEdge also assists operator training; the software can judge how well an operator is doing compared to recommended loadings, thrust, rotation and pullback on a drill. Instructions on the machine prompt the operator to, for instance, speed up their tramming or increase their rpms. As the operator gets familiar with seeing these indicators, they learn how to better optimize machine operations, Arndt says.

FleetEdge also comes into play when contractors need to keep up with maintenance schedules of multiple drills in their fleet, routing field personnel to machines with immediate servicing needs.

InSite Projects

Crews may miss critical steps in the jobsite process, impacting job timelines, increasing costs and delaying payments. InSite Projects proposes to counter this by creating a repository for all job information and making it available for sharing electronically to interested parties. Projects can be used on whatever device you have: computer, tablet or smart phone. At the end of the job, a report can be downloaded, helping expedite invoicing.

“It’s about having the right information on the job, and bringing the right information back from the job to the office,” says Reinhard Beschel with Vermeer. This includes 811 locate information, parking permits, supply lists, safety checks and juggling different work orders, Beschel says. It also fuses surface, subsurface and topographical views into one view.

InSite Mapping

Get a group of contractors together and complaints about engineering plans are likely to come up. The plans can be confusing, don’t reflect reality or fail to take into account critical job components. In addition, it’s difficult to consolidate jobsite data, such as locates, white lines and landmarks.

“Contractors care about where they need to put the product, their connection points, and how they can communicate that information to the next person on the team,” says Nathan Copeland with Vermeer. “Most of the time, the crews meet in the morning and then they scatter the rest of the day. Our InSite Mapping and Projects programs gives them the context; it serves as their white board for the bore.”

InSite Mapping uses a GPS-driven receiver (such as Trimble’s R1 GNSS) to white line, or mark, the proposed bore ahead of time, sending the data to InSite Projects for planning. During the bore, the crew can record obstacles, such as a tree that’s in the bore path. This file can then, for example, be sent off to the project owner to get instructions on a redirect. After the bore is complete, you can use the receiver to walk the bore path and record it as an as-built.

“You can use your choice of a receiver, as long as it pairs with our system,” Copeland says. The tablet or smart phone you’re using in the field becomes the interface for recording the information directly into Projects. “Not only can I share the bore information with the next person, my supervisor knows what’s going on and where I’m at,” Copeland says, especially handy if a crew is completing several jobs in a day.

There’s also the vision of being able to automatically add electronic 811 locates as they become available, according to Copeland. “We’re trying to get contractors away from the burden of gathering and sharing information, and get them into what they want to be doing: drilling,” he says.

InSite BoreAid

Currently available, this planning and design software guides users through the bore planning process, using soil conditions, the type of product being installed, physical obstacles, etc., to identify possible drilling issues. Used in the pre-bore phase, it generates rod-by-rod plans for the anticipated bore path using industry standards for pipe bending and installation loads, feeding information into bid documents and operational plans.

“This gives you a bore that’s in line with HDD best practices, since industry standards for installing steel and plastic pipe are built into the program,” says Kipp Ulferts with Vermeer. “It’s really pipe centric,” he says. “Our emphasis is on creating a good bore plan for the type of pipe installed.” Since the software has competitive drill rigs loaded into the system, contractors also can use it with non-Vermeer rigs.

After a bore is completed, users can use BoreAid to help compare the bore plan with as-builts, with all records going into Projects.

InSite BoreAssist

BoreAssist is used during drilling, and is designed to get rid of handwritten rod-by-rod logs on a clipboard, which can make it difficult to know how well you’re sticking to the bore path.

Developed with DCI, the on-rig app shows the bore plan on DCI’s Aurora display in the operator control station; the bore plan is loaded into the display and the operator follows the rod-by-rod plan. The bore head’s ever changing position is tracked directly from the DCI F5 locator used by a crew member walking the bore path. The operator can note field condition deviations from the bore plan, and record in-field bore plan modifications.

In addition, if a simple bore plan modification is required in the field, it can be created on the display, saved and sent to the office. “Right now, this can be transferred via a thumb drive, but the goal is to send it wirelessly,” says Lee Schroeder with Vermeer. The Aurora display, described by DCI as an “industrial iPad,” will also serve as the platform for adding future applications.

Final notes

InSite tools can be purchased together or individually. On Aug. 17, Vermeer will debut a landing page devoted to the new tools, which will debut at the ICUEE show this fall, along with the company’s new line of S3 drills, including the D24x40 S3 and D40x55 S3.