Technology feature: iDig from Position Partners

iDig is a simple 2D excavator system that gives the operator a live position of the bucket to guide them to grade quickly and accurately.

iDig—sold and supported in New Zealand by Position Partners—is a simple 2D excavator system that gives the operator a live position of the bucket to guide them to grade quickly and accurately. It works with all makes, models, and sizes of machine from little one-tonne diggers up to nine excavators.

Wayne Nickolson, owner and operator of Combined Excavations, explains they have the iDig system fitted to their two 1.5-tonne and 13-tonne excavators.

"We utilise the 2D system to save us time on the ground as well as labour costs," Wayne says.

iDig helps operators to grade in a range of applications, including slopes and levels while providing real-time information on the position of the cutting edge. It removes the need to perform manual checking and measuring tasks multiple times per hour by giving the operator the information at his fingertips.


2D and 3D machine systems explained

2D and 3D excavator systems traditionally use a suite of sensors, cables, and sometimes valves and, in the case of 3D systems, GPS antenna, rovers, and/or base stations to track the movements, position, and location of the excavator.

iDig falls under the 2D Guidance category. This means that it will show the operator, on screen, where the bucket edge is in relation to a set benchmark.

iDig does not control or lock out hydraulic movement of the excavator; the operator still needs to operate the machine skillfully and safely.

Since a 2D system lacks GPS, it does not automatically know its local position or orientation, so this is up to the operator to set and check.

2D systems differ from 3D in one other important aspect: cost. Due to not having expensive GPS and survey gear as part of the overall kit, 2D systems are significantly cheaper than its 3D counterparts.

"There’s no second-guessing with iDig," Wayne adds.  "Once you know your datum heights and you set them into the system, you can start seeing where to dig. Then you can switch to single grade or dual grade depending on what you’re working on."

Wayne says he values the safety benefits of the system, too.

"iDig saves having that extra person running around the machine to check grade or near a live edge during a deep excavation."

iDig is a wireless system that utilises easy-to-remove, solar-powered sensors, making it more cost-effective than other 2D machine guidance systems on the market, its distributor Position Partners says.

Another key benefit is the ability to quickly transfer iDig between excavators by adding an additional base kit to each machine. These consist of additional mounting plates for the sensors, a bracket to hold the tablet, and a light bar, so the core components can be swapped from one machine to the next.

"We purchased a second base kit so that we can use the one system on both our machines," Wayne says. "It takes less than a minute to quickly unclip the sensors and the tablet and transfer them to the other excavator." 

Key benefits of iDig

  • Eliminate costly over-digging
  • Improve workflow for other subcontractors
  • Price jobs more competitively and win more work
  • Reduce labour costs as well as consumables such as paint and pegs
  • Reduce machine wear, fuel, and servicing costs

Local support

Position Partners has many years of industry expertise in the construction industry, with specialists across laser levelling, surveying, and machine control technology to provide customers with the support and training required to get the most out of the technology.

Wayne (right) with his son Ben
Wayne (right) with his son Ben

"Position Partners has been very supportive throughout the whole process of setting up iDig on our machines, calibrating it properly, answering any questions I had as I got to learn the system and so on," Wayne says. "The local rep often drops in to see me on-site just to check how everything’s going and see if there’s anything he can help with, I can’t fault their back up support," he adds.

Return on investment

iDig typically has a return on investment period of between three to six months. Wayne says the return on investment has been excellent.

"We’re a small two-man operation so the main savings have been in labour and time," he adds.

"I can have both of us operating machines, either the two diggers or a Bobcat we also have, without having to stop and start the second machine all the time for him to check levels or give me heights. Now I can work on sand ups, footings, retention tank bases, and so on without anyone else helping me, so it’s really sped up our processes for a small crew."

Wayne also loves some of the handy extra features iDig comes with.

"I use the built-in tape measure feature all the time. It works like any other tape measure; only you measure from point A to point B by moving the bucket. It’s just another little thing that saves a bit of time stopping and starting and jumping in and out of the machine.
"I’d never go back to digging without it."

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