Making the Grade How to Choose the Right Grade Control Technology for Your Equipment

John Deere dozer

In today’s demanding construction industry, contractors are looking for ways to maximize productivity on the job. After all, time is money, and to boost profitability it is critical to be efficient in every phase of a job. With this in mind, more contractors are considering grade control technology as a solution to help improve jobsite productivity.

On a jobsite, grade control can be a gamechanger for operators, whether they are new to the industry or a seasoned worker. As interest has continued to grow, manufacturers like John Deere have evolved and expanded their grade control solutions. This ensures that grade control technology is attainable for all contractors, regardless of their experience level.

Available as either 2D or 3D system depending on the machine form, grade management solutions are designed to simplify the grading process. With a 2D system, a local reference point such as a benchmark near the machine or the laser transmitter is used to display elevation of the work tool from the reference plane. With a 3D system, the Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) is used to show the location of the work tool in relation to a global reference. With each machine form, there are different levels of grade control solutions, from entry-level offerings such as slope control or cross slope control, to more advanced, premium factory-integrated solutions like the John Deere SmartGrade machines.

Grade control and grade guidance solutions ensure operators have the confidence and ability to productively and accurately complete jobs. This technology is available in various levels of complexity and across several machine forms, ensuring there is a solution for almost any operation. Whether you are looking to add grade control technology to your fleet for the first time, or you’re a seasoned pro looking to upgrade your existing solution, there is an option on the market that will provide you with what you need for your business.

Entry-level solutions are ideal for contractors that are either new to the technology, or those who want to establish a foundation for grade management. More and more, manufacturers are offering these entry-level solutions as a factory-installed option on machines, allowing customers to explore grade control technology without the high-cost of a premium investment.

For example, dozers can be equipped with factory-installed slope control, making grading easier by automatically maintaining the blade angle without the need for an external laser or GPS reference. In a different machine category, excavators can be equipped with various entry-level grade control solutions, including 2D or 3D options. Regardless of the solution or machine, these entry-level technologies increase productivity by allowing the operator to quickly perform tasks without having to manually control the machine or calculate the slope or grade. Whether the operator is new to the industry or a seasoned worker, these technologies still positively impact operator performance by reducing their workload.

For contractors who want to take their grade control to the next level, they can upgrade their equipment to a fully integrated system. These machines come factory-ready with the grade control technology installed. With a premium grade control solution, such as the John Deere SmartGrade system available on dozers, motor graders and, coming soon, excavators and compact track loaders, the technology simplifies operation by automatically adjusting the cutting edge to the jobsite design.John Deere dozers
Additionally, contractors need to decide between factory-installed solutions, and aftermarket options. Factory-integrated grade control systems have several unique benefits. First, the integrated system seamlessly fits into the machine and cab, protecting key components like wire harnesses and sensors from damage. These systems are fully integrated in the machine controls, making operation effortless. Finally, because the system is designed specifically for the machine, there are often added benefits such as automation features, further increasing productivity and reducing fatigue.

When considering grade management technology, it is important to evaluate the options offered by a manufacturer to determine the right solution for your business. Look for a manufacturer that has proven experience in the grade control space, as well as a full line of options. As your business grows and needs evolve, the variety of solutions – from entry-level to premium – will provide you with the options and flexibility you need.

When you consider a grade control machine, the dealer will be an invaluable resource during the process. Because of their expertise, the dealer can help narrow your solution, and will ask the right questions to ensure you select a machine that fits your needs. Once you are ready, the dealer can help set up a demo that will allow you to test the technology before you purchase it.
If you select an integrated solution, it is supported by the equipment dealer, creating a one-stop shop for machine maintenance vs. working with several individual parties. Dealers are certified and trained to support this technology. Another overlooked benefit is that the technology can be wrapped into the financing package when the machine is purchased, and the integrated system is often covered under the machine warranty, adding an extra layer of protection for the owner.

Moving into the future, grade control is going to be an integral part of any jobsite. Understanding this, manufacturers are committed to expanding their solutions to ensure contractors have a variety of grade control options, regardless of their experience level, specific needs or the size of their business. By adding these solutions to your operation, you’ll unlock the door to increased productivity and efficiency, ensuring you can tackle any challenge you face on the jobsite.

Sean Mairet is product marketing manager of John Deere Construction & Forestry. John Deere is a NUCA Gold National Partner.

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