Discover Digital South West leaves a lasting impression

Paul Argent writes for Earthmovers Magazine.


As one of the UK’s leading hire companies, Plantforce have pushed their drive towards digitisation within the earthmoving industry more than any other company. Now they are sharing their knowledge of all things machine control by hosting an event designed to break barriers and deepen understanding of the technology.


Investment in bringing state of the art machine control systems to the machines has only been part of the journey with training for both novice and experienced operators playing a major role in the company’s future developments.


The UK earthmoving and construction industry’s drive towards ‘digitisation’ has led Plantforce to look at the way they can support customers on a multitude of levels. Long gone are the days when a machine was simply dropped off at a site and expected to work. Nowadays there is a requirement on many projects for that machine to be equipped with machine control to allow it to operate to a predetermined plan and ultimately aid in the delivery of a perfect project.


Machine control is just one aspect of digitisation with many companies and projects requiring height and slew restrictors and personnel detectors fitted to their equipment.

“Our training solutions cover everything electronic that can be added to a basic machine.” Commented Matt Milkins, Digital Lead at Plantforce Rentals.


Matt and his team took the opportunity to bring in several machines equipped with Trimble machine control systems for this event. “We work with every leading brand of machine control providers in the UK.” Matt explained. “Having the flexibility to provide a wide range of solutions allows us to meet a wider range of customer’s requirements.” The company also had one of their high-tech simulators present at the event. “We have a range of simulators to allow us to bring total novices into the industry and give them as realistic an experience as possible on a machine.” Matt commented. “The simulators also allow us to upskill both our own workforce and others in using the latest technology in a safe and controlled manner.”


The Plantforce Discover Digital event enabled both experienced and novice operators try out a range of machines equipped with Trimble’s machine control packages. Many were familiar with the systems placed in the excavator and dozer, now a common site across the UK industry. What many were surprised at was the inclusion of a system within a self-propelled compactor. “Moving material or digging to a design is a well-known ability for the machine control systems to work with but we are now seeing more and more compaction applications come about as contractors are becoming more aware of their costs.” Matt commented. “Whereas a roller was once a machine to drive up and down a job until the ground ‘looked okay’, modern contractors are now looking at reducing passes, accurate compaction rates and accuracy in the areas compacted. Opting for a GPS system on the machine can do this and effectively ensure the job is done correctly and cost effectively.”


The team present at Discover Digital took the Plantforce P and transformed it digitally to allow it to be excavated on the field. Using their excavator, dozer, and compactor along with a dump truck to move the material, the huge letter was carved out of the ground. The information generated by the equipment undertaking the job was relayed in real time to screens within the hospitality unit. “This is another area we have been using the digitisation of the equipment to benefit the end user.” Matt explained. “Having the equipment generate such a vast amount of information is one thing, gathering and disseminating this data is another area Plantforce is leading the industry.” Being able to see the machine’s idle time, tracking time, fuel consumption amongst other data allows Plantforce and the customer to build up a detailed history of what a machine is actually doing.


Discover Digital allowed a host of visitors to experience the leaps forward in both machine control technology Plantforce is pushing, but also the way in which adding this technology into a project can ultimately drive overall costs down and ensure a project is completed with accuracy and efficiency.

Diversity is the key to success

On International Women’s Day, we take the opportunity to reflect on how whilst working in what is still a male-dominated industry, we are fortunate to have many fantastically talented and dedicated women in our team, not least with 50% of our Executive Management Team (EMT) being female.

As a business, we look at motivation and attitude rather than gender and background. This approach does not mean that we do not focus on addressing the imbalance in Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) in the construction industry. However, it is important to acknowledge that as an industry we have taken giant leaps forward on this issue, but there is still more ground to cover.

Sam Mercer, Chief Operating Officer at Plantforce said: “Evidence shows companies with a gender-diverse management team have proven to be more successful than ones without. This is something I can see to be true given my personal experience of working in a female-led business, as this diversity gives us a well-rounded range of views when taking strategic decisions. Personally, I consider myself to be lucky, as I have never known the construction sector any other way”.

Claire Trott, Managing Director at Plantforce said: “International Women’s Day (IWD) gives the opportunity to cast a spotlight on how we can address inequality by ensuring the same opportunities are available to women in our industry as men.

I am pleased to see our team working on this every day, not just IWD. This is being done firstly in our culture, visible in how we operate, recruit, and treat our team. But also, by working collaboratively with others in the industry to have a positive impact outside of our direct reach. This can be seen in our active participation in specific working groups to tackle this issue on major projects such as High Speed 2 (HS2) and Hinkley Point C (HPC), as well as holding an active presence on committees for industry trade associations like the CPA and aid groups like the Plant & Hire Aid Alliance”.