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Building the road ahead in 3D: the power of digital transformations in road construction 

By Tommi Kauppinen

In a time when business operations need to be optimized to meet the challenging conditions caused by supply chain upheavals, geopolitical conflicts, and environmental threats, more and more industries are turning to new digital solutions.      

It is clear that the practices of yesterday are not going to solve today’s problems. Innovation has always been a part of the construction industry, and digitalization represents another of these opportunities. 

The key now is to remove the obstacles to adoption for construction companies, such as digital literacy and ease of integration, to empower construction firms to embrace digital solutions and see the benefits from increased time efficiency, reduced resource waste, and perhaps most significantly, reduced carbon emissions thanks to a more streamlined workflow. 

Adopting technology in road construction and the place of 3D machine control 

In order for technology to be adopted by contractors, it must be effortless and impactful. This means it should be easy to introduce and scale and get the job done in less time, to a higher standard, and with the lowest risk to all parties. In the road construction industry, the implementation of 3D machine control systems is an innovation with the potential to meet these requirements. 

3D machine control systems in paving applications might also be referred to as “Stringless Paving”. Going “stringless” has the benefits of lower cost and time requirements, as well as improved safety of the road construction job site. On some projects where there is limited space, in tunnels or city centers, for example, 3D technology for paving is already a legal requirement. Unlike in the past when road paving teams had to wait for surveyors to scrutinize the project, now 3D project files can be prepared upfront in the office ready for on-site use thanks to digital machine control systems. The workflow from earthmoving to paving application is therefore seamless, the project time is reduced and the overall costs are lowered. 

To enjoy the full benefits of 3D machine control technology in road construction, the digital solutions should be integrated throughout each step of the project. This starts with preparing an even ground using 3D solutions, ensuring a correct slope and grade for CCR (cement concrete road) or CTB (cement treated base) pavements. This will save the more expensive hot mix asphalt or concrete in the later processes, economizing on resources and money. The best method to harness maximum benefit from 3D machine control solutions is therefore to apply it from the bottom up to see how the benefits and savings accrued from one stage can be applied to the next.

Overcoming the key obstacles and implementing digital solutions that work

Introducing new technology into a business can feel like a daunting process, especially when it requires change across a workflow. That’s not to say 3D machine control systems are something to be avoided or wary of. They simply need to be carefully considered to ensure the right technology partners are chosen to ensure that the best digital solutions are applied. 

Before any new tech can be put into action, construction companies must first consider several points: how the new technology might be integrated with existing systems, how it will be used and accepted by their employees, how it fits in with the long-term strategy and workflow of the company, and also how efficiently the technology can be deployed. Four key aspects impact the construction industry’s adoption of digital technology:

  1. Workforce acceptance 

New technology transforms processes, but it also greatly impacts people. While it will be easy for some people to adapt to and to adopt digital technologies, it is not always the case across the whole workforce. It’s crucial to choose a technology provider who will help train employees so that they accept and, importantly, enjoy using the new technology. With the right training and as more tech is used, the barriers to adoption among the workforce will naturally start to decrease, allowing easier adoption of new technologies in the future.

  1. Strategy is priority

Digitization is not often an immediate solution to a short-term problem. It is vital for construction companies to consider how prepared they are to change their workflow. Optimizing entire fleets with 3D machine control systems, for example, is a long-term strategy that affects the entire road construction workflow and requires serious strategic consideration.

  1. IT Integration

The complexity and variety of data formats and interfaces can pose challenges when planning to start or expand technology investment. On top of this, there can be added confusion with the different data formats road contractors use stringline models and others opt for terrain models. Choosing a technology partner who can integrate their IT into either model is therefore essential when changing to 3D technology.

  1. Deployment efforts

Once the appropriate tech solution is identified and the IT can be properly integrated into the company’s processes, the next step is deployment. During road construction projects, and construction projects more broadly, the aim is always to complete the job well, and to complete it the first time. Therefore, how intuitive the technology is to deploy and manage is essential. Making sure it is easy helps foster workplace acceptance, facilitates compatibility with existing and future investments, lowers complexity for all stakeholders, and ultimately means it is faster to deploy.  

How successful 3D machine control technology will be for a business is more than just a matter of making the right single purchase. It is a strategic, multi-level decision that involves choosing a technology partner that can support the product, the people and the overall digital transformation. Once a team becomes acclimatized to 3D technology and the management understands that its use requires change to the entire workflow to harness all the benefits, 3D machine control technology acceptance is no longer an issue. Instead, it slots easily into a company’s long-term plans and strategy for enhanced work processes. 

From inefficiency to sustainability  

Sustainability is more than just a buzzword of the 21st century, for every industry it is an actionable priority. Overcapacity, inefficient processes and methodologies are hampering the construction industry and contributing to the 39 percent of global C02 emissions generated by the industry. However, there is a silver lining. Technology-enabled workflows not only reduce waste by optimizing the quantity of material used during a project, but they also help to ensure that machines and other equipment do the work right the first time. This means more time, fuel, and machine hours are saved, capacity is enhanced and efficiency is guaranteed.  

Beyond this, there is also great potential for road construction to be an example of the circular economy if machine control technology is widely and properly implemented. This technology helps to control the amount milled, and reduce the amount of new hot mix asphalt or concrete material made, the production of which requires a significant amount of energy and natural resources. Saved resources can then be used in future paving projects and the new pavement volume can be reduced with the help of 3D technology. This material saving potential using 3D technology can help the construction industry reduce its carbon dioxide footprint.

The process of digitization may feel like a daunting one. There are certainly obstacles construction companies must first surmount before it invests in new technology such as 3D machine control systems. However, construction technology manufacturers know that effortlessness and impactfulness are paramount for contractors, and develop their technologies so as to deliver on these requirements. Technology partners will help along the way to ensure that any new tech can be properly integrated into the work systems and any training required for personnel will take place. The benefits of investing in machine control systems for the road construction industry go beyond improving quality and saving time, to minimizing waste and improving the overall sustainability of the industry.  

Tommi Kauppinen has more than 25 years of experience in the Machine Control business. Mr Kauppinen holds a degree in automation engineering as well as a few patents relating to positioning and awareness related solutions.  He has been involved with several start-up companies as a founder and held senior strategic roles within large publicly traded global companies. 

He currently holds the position of Vice President Heavy Construction, Machine Control Field Solutions.


Hexagon is a global leader in digital reality solutions, combining sensor, software and autonomous technologies. We are putting data to work to boost efficiency, productivity, quality and safety across industrial, manufacturing, infrastructure, public sector, and mobility applications.   
Our technologies are shaping production and people related ecosystems to become increasingly connected and autonomous – ensuring a scalable, sustainable future.  
Hexagon’s Geosystems division provides a comprehensive portfolio of digital solutions that capture, measure, and visualize the physical world and enable data-driven transformation across industry ecosystems. 

Hexagon (Nasdaq Stockholm: HEXA B) has approximately 24,000 employees in 50 countries and net sales of approximately 5.2bn EUR. Learn more at hexagon.com and follow us @HexagonAB.

Tommi Kauppinen is Vice President of Heavy Construction, Machine Control Field Solutions, Leica Geosystems, part of Hexagon. Hexagon (Nasdaq Stockholm: HEXA B) has approximately 24,000 employees in 50 countries and net sales of approximately 5.2bn EUR. Learn more at hexagon.com and follow us @HexagonAB.