Go ahead. Admit it. Ever since you were a kid, you have loved playing in the dirt. And one of the things that still excites you is moving dirt. If you have been living that childhood dream for a while, you have the know-how to visualize an earthworks project from start to finish. But, communicating your vision to all project stakeholders? That doesn’t always work out. Thankfully, 3D is around to help. But 3D falls short in two critical points.

Due to the one-off nature and uncertain site and soil conditions of earthworks projects, accurate planning, scheduling, and cost estimating are significant challenges on every job. Challenges unaccounted for in 3D because it lacks the elements of scheduling and cost estimating. Research in 2011 demonstrated the potential of 48 to 74 percent cost improvements from an optimal earthworks operation plan.

Traditionally, mass haul is planned separately without linking to the schedule—even though phasing and sequencing are heavily dependent on the mass haul plan. Mass haul planning also tends to take place at a high level rather than a comprehensive level, which would include detailed considerations related to scheduling.

In most earthworks operations, planning, scheduling, and resource allocation remain largely subjective decisions. All these factors combine to reinforce project uncertainties, causing disruptions, delays, and cost overruns. What is needed is a systematic, repeatable approach to planning and scheduling.

Digital Earthworks in Construction with 4D to the Rescue

The ability of digital construction solutions to add detailed data that is updated as jobs progress makes for a powerful management and decision-making tool. 4D, or 4-dimensional information modeling, adds time, schedule, and resource information to the 3D digital model, giving stakeholders a comprehensive image of the project from design to completion. The detailed, real-time data is applied to the project to mitigate risks, detect clashes, and readjust operations based on updated information.

Because 4D makes most current information available to everyone, it avoids the communication problems associated with siloed information models. Using a single source of information adds transparency and accountability across projects.

Adding 4D to digital earthworks visualizations greatly improves earthmoving operations by integrating workflows for planning, simulation, mass haul schedules, and quantities. And because 4D enables both high-level master planning along with “digital rehearsals” of a project’s soil, detailed phases and sequences can be developed to deal with various soil types. 4D helps earthworks planning by enabling considerations of equipment needs, scheduling, and costs regardless of whether you are moving common fill soil, blasting rock, or bringing in structural fill.

The use of continuous surveying and location-based quantities enables optimization to find the shortest haul distances and lessen environmental impact. With location-based scheduling combined with 4D capabilities, decision making is supported through a better understanding of the project, enabling exploration of alternative solutions for construction and design, reducing risks, and planning mass and resource usage.

4D also simplifies your site personnel’s understanding: through the addition of timelines, team leaders can better recognize the action steps needed and how the work needs to flow. Quantity, resource, and location-based data improve planning and simulation, helping estimators visualize and communicate the plan to site personnel.

Like most construction phases, earthworks plans can change almost daily, creating both risks and opportunities. As new data becomes available, your plans develop based on more detailed survey data. Automated digital construction solutions greatly simplify continual plan updating as the data progresses to a higher detail level.

Digital construction solutions with 4D capability deliver more time and data for making smart decisions. The smart decisions that result in project wins.

Optimal earthworks planning can improve profitability. Discover how by contacting us today.