White Angle

The Dirt

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We’ve all heard about self-driving cars, home assistants that listen for our commands, and robots that vacuum our floors and mow our lawns. So it only makes sense that this sci-fi power would make its way to the world of heavy equipment.

Visit a forward-thinking construction site today and you’ll find automation in action. Operator-assisted technologies that control specific machine functions. Sensors that monitor equipment usage. And remote control systems that help operators work more safely. 

“Machine control is making it possible for heavy machinery to see the landscape, calculate the steps needed to achieve a job, and show the operator what needs to be done,” explains Jared Robinson, Technology Specialist. “We’re just beginning to scratch the surface of what this technology can do. I’m excited about what this means for the future of our industry and our customers.”

To help customers adopt and adapt to these cutting-edge technologies, Jared works closely with Southeastern’s sales team to identify potential customers. He then coordinates the product demos, performs installations, and provides after-sales service and support across  the company’s 18 locations.

As he notes, our company values of being helpful and capable are a key part of the process — which makes him as much of as educator as a technology specialist. “I start by listening to what the customer needs and figuring out what it will take to help them meet their goals,” Jared explains. “For example, they may say they want a 2D system, but what they want to achieve might require a 3D system.”

When the right control hardware and software is installed, the technology will help operators determine the best ways to adjust their tools (such as a blade) to achieve a solution (such as a specific grade). It also uses GPS or geo-positioning software to examine the machine’s location and terrain in a targeted area. 

That GPS data is then displayed on a tablet-like screen inside the cab, showing 2D and 3D models of the jobsite. With an array of prices and functionality, machine control systems are good for all levels of customers, and they can be easily scaled as the customer grows.

There’s three market leaders in the machine control space: Leica, Topcon, and Trimble. Southeastern sells Leica products, but we can retrofit previously existing systems with the right hardware.

“It’s all about speed, accuracy, and efficiency. Machine control helps prevent reworks, so operators can get a job done right the first time. This means that the customer saves time, saves money, and saves hours on their machines. A total winner all around.”

So, what sets us apart from the competition? According to Jared, it comes down to service and support. “We’ll go over the features and differences between the systems. But the key difference is that we provide direct service and support through our dealership so the customer doesn’t have to go through a third party. They have a single source of contact for their GPS, laser, and machine control
questions and service. All they have to do is call me directly.”

And call they do. “Yesterday was kind of a slow day. I only had about ten calls,” he laughs. He fields questions on everything from customers who want to know how to adjust the accuracy of their systems to others who need to set up user profiles for new attachments. “There’s always a learning curve with any technology. I’m here to guide them through questions that come up.”

Sales indicate customers like what they see in Southeastern’s new machine technology offering. In Q1 2021, Jared and the Southeastern team sold the most SiteControl/LEICA brand precision construction products in the Northeast Region. And last month they made their
largest single sale to date: an $81,000 GPS-based system. But the biggest success to him so far in terms of time and effort was an excavator company in Perrysburg, Ohio, that bought 2 systems. That customer, in turn, told two other people about his great experience with Southeastern, and they also bought systems. 

“Everyone in sales wants to land the whale — that really big sale,” says Jared. “But Southeastern values family and creating a partnership with our customers. 

For Jared, the best part of his job is visiting the jobsite, sitting in the cab with a customer, and showing them what the technology can do. “They might ask me if it can tell them how far they’re reaching when they’ve zeroed out their benchmark. After I show them that, we get a really great back and forth going while they come up with all kinds of questions. A lot of times their response is, ‘Wow…really? I had no idea it could do that!’

It’s not just about the person who buys 10 units. It’s about the person who appreciates the partnership and spreads the word around. That’s the most rewarding.”