13.6.1 Lowering & Laying: Functional Specifications of the Ideal Machine Objectives Initial objectives

The initial objectives of the Lowering & Laying working group as defined in February 2007 were:

Key Objective

• Develop processes and equipment that match pipeline string design and conditions to ensure minimum installation stresses, minimum handling and zero pipe and coating damage when integrating with other innovations developed by other working groups of the Novel Construction Initiative for improved construction production rates

Primary Objectives

  • To stimulate innovation in the area of pipe lower-and-lay processes in order to deliver appropriate technologies and working practices
  • In particular the key goal was to develop lower and lay processes and equipment which would integrate with the other Novel Construction processes and which would be engineered to match the pipeline string design and environmental/terrain conditions to provide:
    • Minimum installation stresses
    • Minimum handling of the completed pipe string
    • Zero damage to pipe and external corrosion protection systems

These objectives covered both the “process” and the “product” aspects of the lowering-and-laying operation in pipeline construction. Revised objectives

After analyzing the lowering-and-laying operation, the group concluded that the process aspect of this

operation was directly connected with many other factors in pipeline construction, such as:

  • Constructability and general layout of the pipeline
  • Processes and machinery used in the alignment, welding and coating phases of pipeline construction

We could not therefore improve existing processes or develop new ones in the lowering-and-laying operation, with the certainty that these new processes would be totally consistent with all other operations on the pipeline construction project.

The working group then decided to focus on the product aspect of the lowering-and-laying operation, rather than on the process.

Within the product perspective, the group identified and developed a workplan to address two targeted projects:

  1. Develop functional specifications for the “ideal” sideboom.
  2. Develop functional specifications for the “ideal” attachment.

It was then decided to conduct a survey amongst IPLOCA members, who are the contractors actually using those machines. A questionnaire was developed and addressed as a survey to the contractors through the IPLOCA website, with the support of the IPLOCA Secretariat and their web-site coordinator.

The survey’s objective was to identify:

  • Current applications of sidebooms
  • Design weaknesses of current sidebooms
  • The features of the ideal sideboom to perform lowering operations
  • The features which contractors would like to see on the ideal attachment

The specific questions were:

  • which features are “most liked”and which are “most disliked”
  • which features the ideal sideboom and attachment “must have”, or would be “nice to have”

Responses were received from over 20% of the contractors. The respondents included some of the major on-shore pipeline contractors, which gave a high degree of credibility and reliability to the survey results.

The next phase of the project consisted in analysing the responses and comments, and in translating those into functional specifications for the ideal lowering-and-laying machine and attachment. This work was performed during summer 2008 and concluded at the working group’s meeting in Italy in July 2008.

One consideration which also came out of the survey is that often some contractors asked for features which already exist on machines available on the market, and yet are not used, such as:

  • Factory-installed & certified cabs, roll-over protective structures (ROPS), seat belts etc.
  • GPS positioning systems (Product Link)
  • Electronic jobsite management (Accugrade)
  • Operator simulation training tool

This prompted the question:

Why is so much effort spent in developing new products and state-of-the-art features to improve the industry practices in terms of productivity, health and safety and environmental impact when – in the real world – machines which are 40 year old, have Tier Zero emissions engines, non-original ROPS or noncertified modifications are still accepted on jobsites?

Section below propose certain recommendations to progressively correct this situation. The ideal machine

Once they had developed the functional specifications of the ideal side boom, the group realized that most of the features identified could be extended to all types of machinery used on pipeline jobsites.

This actually represented the second shift in the Lowering & Laying Group objectives and deliverables. From nalyzing the process and the product aspects of the lowering-and-laying operation in pipeline construction the scope was restricted to analyzing the product aspects of this operation. With the survey results, it was broadened again and extended to the functional specifications which we had developed to all products, i.e. all machines used on the pipeline construction jobsite, instead of limiting its application to just sidebooms.

The newly-developed functional specifications are presented in the next section.

As for the ideal attachment functional specifications, the group has developed the concept of a tool which can be installed either on a sideboom or on an excavator, and which can hold the pipe sections in any desired position, including rotation of the pipe section around its axis. This is under development by one of the manufacturers participating in the group. “Ideal Machine” Functional Specifications. Transportability

Transportation of the machine is the prime end-user selection consideration, due to the transient nature of pipeline construction and to the frequent need to move machinery around.

Machine transportability can be further broken down into:

Ease of Disassembly and Re-Assembly
Machine dimensions

Ease of Disassembly and Re-Assembly

The ideal machine will have NO disassembly and reassembly operation.

Should this target not be met, then the goal for the machine design should permit easy disassembly and

loading within one hour and without special tools or lifting devices.

Machine Dimensions

It is highly desirable that the basic shipping dimensions of the machine be achieved or improved upon.

The overall machine size, weight criteria and transportation restrictions must be carefully considered.

  • Height
    The machine, loaded on a low bed trailer, should not exceed non-permit limitations in height with minimal disassembly, as follows:


    LocationMinimum Height Requirement (m)
    North America4.12
    South America4.40
  • Width

    The machine, loaded on a low bed trailer, should not exceed non-permit limitations in width with minimal disassembly, as follows:

    LocationMaximum Width Requirement (m)
    North America3.05

    Category 1 – below 3.00

    Category 2 – below 4.00

    Category 3 – above 4.00

    South America3.00
  • Weight

    The machine, loaded on a low bed trailer, should not exceed non-permit limitations in weight with minimal disassembly, as follows:

    LocationMaximum Weight Requirement (kg)
    North America54,500
    South America45,000 Safety

The implementation of safety measures is a prime end-user selection consideration. How a machine performs in this area is of utmost importance.

Roll Over Protection System (ROPS)

A roll-over protection system (ROPS) should be implemented as standard on all machines capable of carrying a load. The ROPS device shall support the whole load (weight) of the machine in working configuration, in a rollover event, including to some extent the dynamic load associated to such event.

Safety belts should be compulsory.

Load Monitoring

A load-monitoring device should be implemented as standard on all machines capable of carrying a load.

In addition, the machine shall be equipped with a printed table with safe limits of operation in all situations as well as a table of the recommended steel cables to be used.

Slope indicator

A slope indicator device should be implemented as standard on all machines capable of carrying a load. This should be useable both when the machine is under load and when it is not under load. The slope indicator should be lateral and longitudinal.


Functional visibility in all directions from the operator station is a requirement in critical areas as follows:

  1. Forward and side view of the left-hand track and ditch area
  2. Forward view over the front of each track
  3. Rearward for towing device and a towed load
  4. Drawworks
  5. Upwards to the tip of the boom

Reduction of visibility with an enclosed cab should be minimal over a non-enclosed ROPS. A separate alarm signal is desirable for areas in “dead angles”. Accessories and Comfort

The implementation of operator comfort features should be taken into great consideration when designing a machine.

The following are some of the features which should be considered.

Enclosed Operator Cab

This will allow installation of air conditioning and/or heating. Extreme ambient temperatures should be considered, with attachments that would allow the machine to operate in ambient temperatures varying between +42 to –45ºC. The cab should be pressurized to prevent dust from penetrating the operator environment.


Machine controls should require minimum operator effort and should consist of effort-assisted levers or joysticks which will allow operation with the maximum possible precision. Controls shall have also an "anti-jolting" system and a blocking system to prevent sudden drops of the boom/load.

Noise Level

The reduction in noise exposure during machine operation should match or fall under the applicable requirements as required by law in the location. Environmental Features

The machine should be designed to meet the most advanced environmental requirements in areas such as:

Low Engine Emissions

Engine emissions should meet or fall under Tier IV requirements.

Fuel Efficiency

The machine should have a proven fuel efficiency (gallons of fuel consumed per quantity of work produced).

Bio Fuels

The engine should be able to run with biodegradable fuels.

Bio Oils

The machine should be able to run with biodegradable oils.

In addition, the machine should be equipped with leaking protection devices to prevent contamination of soil in the event of normal maintenance (oil changes) or of oil leakage.

Manufacturing process

The machine should be manufactured in the most environmentally respectful manner. Use of remanufactured components would be a plus. Also, manufacturing processes and facilities should have a proven track record of environmental friendliness (low CO and GHG emissions, process for water recuperation and recycling etc.).

Machine Recyclability

The machine should be recyclable as much as possible. Recommendations to improve the existing quality of equipment used on existing pipeline projects

The “Ideal Machine” functional specifications were then submitted to manufacturers of all type of machines used on on-shore pipeline projects (e.g. welding tractors, padding machines, dozers, excavators, loaders, dump-trucks etc.) The manufacturers were asked to indicate which features of their current models already comply today with those ideal specifications, which features do not comply and which plans are in place for making the machine comply with the required ideal specifications.

The results of this survey are that construction and pipeline machinery of major manufacturers already meets most of the ideal functional specifications.

However, it has to be noted that this result applies to machines which are new, ex-factory today, and not to old equipment which may still be used on pipeline jobsites. Manufacturers also highlight the fact that, although their appearance may be similar, current machinery is very different from old machinery, and that it is virtually impossible to upgrade old machines to the specifications of new ones.

To bring this work to a positive and concrete conclusion, the working group proposes that clients consider including contractual means in order to require and certify that a certain percentage of the machines used by contractors on the future jobsites actually comply with the ideal functional specifications (or with a minimum requirements to be established by themselves, based on the ideal functional specifications).

As an example clients may want to require 10% (or any percentage to be determined by them at their discretion, as long as it drives increases in safety, productivity and environmental features) of the machines in the first year (2010), with a plan to increase by such percentage in each subsequent year.

We trust by having the client drive such best practices, will result in improved efficiency, productivity, safety and environmental respect on the projects and jobsites.

13.6.2 Use of Computer-based Technologies GPS in Machine Control and Operation
1. GPS

Global positioning system (GPS) satellites provide precise location information for elevation and alignment control with potentially centimeter-level accuracy.

The GPS system considered here uses GPS satellites to determine precise blade / bucket positioning.

The system features fully-automated blade adjustments for elevation control, and vertical and horizontal guidance light bars for manual control.

Such a system complements the Equipment Tracking System described in section 13.3.

1.1 Operation

Machine control systems use advanced GPS technology to deliver precise blade positioning information to the cab. The information necessary for the system to accurately determine blade / bucket positioning with centimeter-level accuracy is determined using machine-mounted components, an off-board GPS base station, and real time kinematic (RTK) positioning. The system computes the GPS positioning information on the machine relative to the base station, compares the position of the blade relative to the design plan, and delivers that information to the operator via an in-cab display. Information provided includes blade elevation; how much cut/fill is necessary to achieve the required grade; a visual indication of the blade’s position on the design surface; and a graphical view of the design plan with the machine location.

Machine control systems put all the information the operator needs to complete the job in the cab, resulting in a greater level of control. Vertical and horizontal guidance tools visually guide the operator to the desired grade. Automated features allow the hydraulic system to automatically control blade adjustments to move the blade to grade. The operator simply uses the light bars to steer the machine for consistent, accurate grades and slopes resulting in higher productivity with less fatigue.

1.2 Single GPS system

When combined with cross/slope, the single GPS system provides automated blade adjustments to one side of the blade for cross slope and elevation control.

1.3 Dual GPS system

When two GPS receivers are used, the system provides automatic elevation control to both sides of the blade or bucket.

1.4 GPS receiver

A GPS receiver is mounted on top of a mast above the cutting edge or on counterweight. GPS satellite signals received by the GPS receiver help define the horizontal and vertical position of the blade or bucket. This allows the system to precisely measure the machine’s blade/ bucket tip location in real-time with centimeter-level accuracy.

1.5 Mast

A rugged steel mast is used for mounting the GPS receiver above the blade cutting edge or counterweight for optimum GPS satellite reception.

1.6 Radio

The communications radio is mounted on the machine cab to ensure maximum signal reception. The radio receives real-time compact measurement record (CMR) data from the GPS base station radio for calculating high-accuracy GPS positions. Radio broadcast frequencies work in all weather conditions, penetrating clouds, rain and snow. This allows the machine control system to accurately control blade operation in fog, dust and at night.

1.7 In-cab 3D display

The in-cab graphical 3D display/control box with keypad allows the operator to interface with the system using push buttons and a colour monitor. As the machine works the operator can view information in real-time, including machine location, blade / bucket position and elevation relative to the design plan. The system uses design files that are stored on a compact flash data card and inserted into a slot below the keypad.

1.8 Light bars

Three light bars are mounted in the machine cab and provide vertical and horizontal guidance to the operator.

  • Two “vertical guidance” light bars visually indicate where the blade/bucket tips are relative to the grade.
  • The “horizontal guidance” light bar indicates blade/bucket location relative to the selected horizontal alignment.
1.9 Controls

The controls are located on the levers in the cab. They are used to activate the automatic/manual operating modes and increment/decrement switches.

1.9.1 Automatic/manual button

Allows the operator to toggle between automatic and manual mode. In automatic mode, the system automatically controls blade adjustments. In manual mode, the operator manually controls the blade/bucket, while using cut/fill information on the display and light bars to guide blade movements.

1.9.2 Increment/decrement switch

Allows the operator to set elevation offsets at a preset distance from the design plan to optimize cutting depth in various soil conditions or accommodate sub base fill requirements.

2. Features and Benefits

Machine control systems are easy to use and deliver a wide range of benefits. In order to evaluate the potential benefits of the systems mounted on the machines, comparison tests were carried out on two short road works running in parallel on the same terrain. One roadwork was carried out using the traditional method, the other used exactly the same equipment but with the machine control systems installed. Larger scale tests should be carried out to obtain a meaningful quantification of the results but the initial results show the definite benefits listed below.

2.1 Increased productivity and efficiency
  • Increased productivity
  • Accurate operations lead to reduced guesswork and costly rework
  • Reduced survey costs
  • Reduced material useuse
  • Reduced operating costs
  • Extended work days
  • Increased operator efficiency
  • Improved accuracy
2.2 Assistance with labour shortages
  • Reduced labour requirements and costs
  • Allows customers to get the job done more quickly and efficiently
  • Reduced need for staking, string lines and grade checkers
  • Improved operator confidence, empowering them by delivering grading information to the cab
2.3 Worksite Safety
  • Grade stakers and checkers are removed from the worksite and away from the heavy equipment
  • Safety interlock features can ensure blade security when the system is inactive
  • Improved road safety by maintaining consistent crowns
2.4 Improved employee satisfaction and retention
  • Elevation control brought to the cab by in-cab display
  • Operators empowered with real-time results
  • Real-time feedback on progress increases job satisfaction, eliminates guesswork and reduces operator stress
  • Improved operator skills, taking performance to the next level
  • Investing in the latest technology leads to a sense of value and trust by the operator
3. Current industries using this technology
  • Road building and excavation have used machine control systems successfully in the past.
  • They have achieved the benefits in processes from ranging from bulk use of materials for site development to paving.
  • Compaction companies also use this to determine pass counts and compaction values.
4. Future benefits to the Pipeline Industry
  • Site line work to show ROW, environmental areas, center of ditch line.
  • Ability to record GPS locations with machine blade / bucket.
  • Machine guidance at all times for the operator. Data Transfer
What is a Data Transfer System?

Data transfer systems are data transmission and positioning systems for construction machines, based on state-of-the-art data transmission technology.

Most data transfer systems provided by construction equipment manufacturers can provide data sets at two levels.

• The basic level is in general less sophisticated, requires no integration with the machine electronics, and can be installed on many types of machine, irrespective of their brand.

• Advanced parameters are linked to data coming out of the electronic machine controller. Advanced parameters include fault codes, fuel consumption and idle time.

Data transfer systems are designed to provide information which can help contractors, optimize productivity and increase machine use.

The Association of Equipment Management Professionals (AEMP) protocol calls for data transfer systems to use a common XLM-based dataset, providing 4 parameters that are common to most OEMs

How does it work?

Construction machines are equipped with an integrated GPS receiver, modem and antenna. Using this technology, machine data is then transferred to a central database via GPRS/GSM mobile network or satellite. GPS is also used to detect the exact machine location.

All that is needed to access information about a specific construction machine is an internet-connected computer and a personalized and secure user log-in.

What information does a data transfer system provide?

The generic data available from a basic system is as follows:

  • Location
  • Geofencing data (see below)
  • Timefencing data
  • Hours

More advanced systems can include the following data:

  • Engine start / stop
  • Fuel level
  • Operator / machine ID
  • Fuel consumption
  • Idle time
  • Fuel spent in idle mode
  • Digital switches
  • Maintenance scheduling
  • Events and diagnostics.

Below are some examples of functions above, and the screens that construction equipment manufacturers make available with their systems.

The screens below show the location of a fleet of machines. This also allows the tracking of machine movement over any specified time period.

Data transfer systems have the capability to establish “geofencing”, i.e. boundaries beyond which the machines are not supposed to be. Street maps and satellite views simplify setting up of site boundaries, providing valuable asset-tracking and security-monitoring tools. Additional features can include setting times for alerts, such as security alerts on nights or weekends only.

Position of the machine on the map can also be combined with other machine data (fuel level, alerts, idle vs working time), to provide a user-friendly dashboard, as in the examples below.

Daily hour reports keep track of how many hours per day machines have worked over a selected time period, for better planning of machine usage and fleet size. Alternatively, the system can instantly relate and compare the use of all assets on a job site. This will allow the rapid identification of assets working under capacity.


Another key function that can be performed by the data transfer system is service planning and fast parts ordering. The system can indicate impending service requirements (how many machine hours are left until that service, and approximately what date the service will be needed on, based on past machine usage), or “to do” checklists for common preventive maintenance and service procedures. In some cases, the data transfer system can even lead the user directly to ordering the parts needed for a specific maintenance operation.

Benefits and Advantages

In general, the benefits of data transfer systems can be summarized in two major areas:

1. Lower Owning and Operating Costs

  • Monitor and manage idle time and fuel usage
  • Avoid costly machine failures
  • Extend machine life through proactive maintenance and identification of harsh operation

Data transfer systems provide operation reports providing detailed fuel consumption information. It can be analyzed on its own or compared to other machines or between operators using workshift functionality, enabling the customer to take a proactive approach towards operator training or application in order to achieve best practice and drive down fuel costs. Likewise, simple features like daily hours take the hassle out of administration and invoicing. Information is provided directly in the web portal, means operators don’t waste time looking for a specific gauge on the machine just to get the hour meter reading for example.

2. Increased Productivity

  • Know where the fleet is
  • Identify over and under-used assets
  • Improve logistics for fuel, transportation and service dispatch
  • Maximize asset up-time
  • Thanks to the above, help to keep jobs on schedule

Data transfer systems capture detailed machine use data where critical performance information like work and idle time, work mode, distance travelled and fuel consumption are displayed. Analysis of the data enables the customer to look for areas of opportunity to enhance machine performance and productivity. The data can also help in making machine acquisition decisions, for example is another machine required or can increased workloads be managed with the existing fleet?

Data Transfer Systems capture machine-specific alarms and error codes. Depending on the severity, immediate action can be taken by the customer or OEM dealer to avoid costly repairs and unscheduled downtime. Smaller issues can be planned and taken care of at the next scheduled maintenance, reducing cost and increasing convenience.

It should never be necessary to stand a machine down during a shift for routine maintenance. Ensuring this however, and servicing machines efficiently requires planning. When will machines be due for service? How many mechanics are required? What parts and tools are needed? Is the workshop big enough? Data transfer systems typically incorporate service reminders, giving advance warning when a machine is due for service and enabling all service requirements to be fully planned well in advance, to reduce inconvenience and avoid downtime. And for machines in remote areas, the OEM dealer can use the mapping functions to fully plan the route for the field service van and be sure they find the machine quickly, reducing travel costs.

There are also some additional benefits, including:

  • Monitoring unauthorized areas through geo-fencing
  • Identifying opportunities for operator training
  • Maintaining peak operating conditions to reduce emissions
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