Technology feature: iDig

A Northern Ireland contractor has been using the iDig technology on his Volvo excavator for one year now with superb results

New technology is being developed at a fast pace almost everywhere we turn these days, even in the excavator world where digging accuracy and site safety have been drastically improved.

With dimensions pre-set, the operator can use the controls to carry out the job required by just watching the screen

Remember the scene where people stood on sites with yardsticks​​ measuring the required distances or gradients keeping the excavator operator right come hail, rain, or shine?
Those days have long gone on most sites where new technology such as the iDig system is taking over with excellent results.

Tynan-based JE Scott & Sons NI Ltd sells and hires both agricultural and construction equipment as well as running a contracting business in both sectors as well.

Started more than 60 years ago by the late Ernie Scott, the company is now run by his son Barry who looks after the construction side while his son Chris runs the agricultural business.

Operating excavators for more than 30 years Barry has built up a great deal of experience behind the controls, but he agrees there is always room to learn something new from the latest technology.

Barry has used the iDig system for the past year on his 2019 Volvo EC140 EL excavator after spending a great deal of time researching the product.

Intelligent excavating

Site safety improves as the iDig system eliminates the need for a person taking measurements beside the excavator

The iDig system was developed as an intelligent excavating assistant that allows the operator to use his machine to more specific grading dimensions on a site, for example, digging depths and widths.

The system is quite easy to set up on the excavator and is even easier to run once the operator gets used to it. Three cord-free solar-powered sensors are placed on the main moving arms of the excavator using magnets, which in turn, feed information to the operator via a transparent LED indicator and a visual display unit, both in the cab.

With the dimensions pre-set, the operator can use the controls to carry out the job required by just watching his or her screen and keeping the movements within the parameters, which has an accuracy of plus or minus one centimetre.

Main benefits

It took Barry four weeks to get the hang of using the iDig system

"It took me some time to research the system and watch a few online videos before committing to purchase and install the iDig system," says Barry.

"Once I made the purchase and had the system fitted, it took me a period of around four weeks to get the hang of using the iDig system and I would really find it hard to work without it now," he says.

One of the main benefits of iDig for Barry is the improvement in site safety, as the system eliminates the need for a man standing close to the excavation site taking measurements, but it has other advantages for him as well.

"Using this iDig system means there’s no need for the extra man standing with the measuring pole outside the excavator guiding the operator," says Barry.

"Not only is that a huge improvement in site safety but it also saves on having to pay that extra worker a salary, which is also good for the business and reduces the payback period.

Easy to fit

Three sensors on the main jib feed information to the operator via a visual display unit

"The system is really easy to fit to the excavator as the sensors are fitted using magnets. The sensors feed the information to the cab via radio waves with no cords. They are solar-powered so there’s no downtime needed to recharge them.

"With the simple installation method, the tool can be used on multiple excavators. It saves operators time, labour, and money on sites and is very simple to use," he adds.

At work on drainage project

Barry Scott has used the iDig system for the past year on his 2019 Volvo EC140 EL

Barry is currently working on a farm installing a main drainage pipe across a field that requires a lot of earthmoving but, more importantly, needs a fall to ensure the water flows away.

"We are digging down four to five metres, some of it hard rock, to lay the 450mm twin wall drainage pipe," Barry says. "I need to be accurate to make sure the drain has a fall so the water can drain away properly.

"The iDig system really works well on this job, as I can dig real accurately even at that depth. First, I set up my laser system to get the levels and then simply calibrate the iDig, which then picks up on the laser. It’s not really essential to run the laser but it works well in unison with the iDig on this job.

"Each time I extend the digging arm into the ground, the iDig LED lets me know when I am in the correct level to dig. Also, the display screen tells me the exact height I am working at too.

"I can also measure distances on the ground with the technology and this is a huge benefit when following precise plans for such work as digging foundations on a building site.

"The iDig system has been a significant investment but for me has been a really worthwhile one. I would find it difficult to do without it now," he adds.

iDig is available in New Zealand from Position Partners.

For more information, call 0800 867 000 or visit 

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