Why investing in autonomous plant makes complete sense

August 24, 2021
Explore the advantages of autonomous plant equipment for rail construction and stay up-to-date with the latest railway technology trends.

There’s been a plethora, an abundance, a swathe of start-ups in the past two years in construction, with many being firmly focused on autonomy. We all know that part of growing up is to develop independence; teachers and parents foster that in children, yet construction has been generally slow in mimicking positive human steps.

Until now.

Autonomous construction has so many advantages to offer, like:

•  Greater efficiency

•  Reduced emissions

•  Higher comfort for workers

•  Improved safety

Let’s look at one example to show this: Rammtechnik’s Operation Remote Control for piling rigs.

This is a first in the field of telescopic leaders, with all functions monitored and operated externally via a touchscreen device, like an iPad. The beauty of this is that it only needs one person to operate, which is perfect for boring and working at heights. Sheet pile walls are installed more quickly and accurately with this remote technology. At heights, the auxiliary winch is now remotely and hydraulically adjustable too.

Bernhard Lindermair, RTG’s managing director, said, “The newly-developed operation remote control can be used for all applications. With the remote control, you bring the rig into position and you get all the functions for the operation on the remote-control unit.

“The machine comes with an iPad, which you remove from the cabin and put it on the remote control. So, you can see all the functions and make your reports, which is something absolutely unique for piling rigs – a big step forward in safety and, important nowadays, you can use the machine in a single-man operation.”

There’s clearly some concern within the construction industry that expensive mechanical plant will become redundant, but companies are looking at systems to add automation via new hardware and software.

Volvo, as you might expect, are leading the way.

They have an impressive track record in road vehicles - if you’re of a certain age, you may recall their crash test dummy adverts and the fact that their cars ran with sidelights showing before Daytime Running Lights were even a thing.

Volvo is looking at autonomous technology in both on-road and off-road vehicles, and, at Raildiary, the off-road aspect holds most appeal to us.

They’ve started in quarries, which makes perfect sense we think. There’s an absence of other plant and people in quarries, they have clearly defined entrances and exits and legal compliance is not an issue, given that their use will not affect the public.

Volvo Construction Equipment and Volvo Autonomous Solutions are working hand in (safety) glove to develop coded software autonomous drive platforms that can be talked to, in the same way we ask our cars or smart speakers for directions or to play a certain song.

There is always concern when new technology is adopted. Many see it as a binary choice between robots and people. But, the simple fact remains that humans need to create and oversee autonomy. A simple example: self scan at any supermarket and there will be human supervision close to hand.

“Technology might make some jobs redundant, but at the same time, it is usually creating new ones and will free team members to be more creative and perform demanding tasks” summed up perfectly by Aviad Almagor, a senior director at Trimble.

Overall, investing in autonomous plant technology has the potential to transform the rail industry, improving safety, efficiency, and cost-effectiveness. As the technology continues to develop and evolve, it will be important for rail companies and contractors to stay abreast of the latest advances and collaborate effectively to ensure that the benefits of autonomous plant technology are realized.

Why investing in autonomous plant makes complete sense

Will Doyle


I am an experienced RICS chartered Quantity Surveyor​ with first-hand experience of how the consistent capture and analysis of data can transform global project delivery.

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