Customer Profile: Founded in 1975, Osgoode, Ontario, Canada-based ASL Contractors is an earthworks and landscape contractor that specializes in site development, golf courses and landscapes, agriculture and, more recently, geothermal and remediation, restoration and conservation.
Business Challenge: Inability to collect and report on the profitability of work on a day-to-day basis.
- Trimble Construction Cloud
- Trimble Business Center
- Trimble Earthworks Grade Control Platform
- Trimble WorksManager software
- Trimble WorksOS software
- Trimble Siteworks Positioning System
- Trimble R780
- Increased productivity through automated tasks, connected workflows
- Increased visibility into field operations
- Automated data flows and reporting
- Improved safety; real-time feedback on equipment/jobsite hazards
It happened like a lot of great ideas happen — over two beers in a crowded Las Vegas bar.
ASL Contractors’ President Sandro Ricci was chatting with Ed Shappell, Director of Trimble Digital Services, and said, “I want my supervisors to get a push notification to their phones. Not an email, a push. You can't do anything but look at it. At ten o'clock today, are we going to make money today based on information that's already being collected?”
Shappell answered, “Actually, I think Trimble can help with that.”
Founded in 1975, Osgoode, Ontario, a key component to the Canada-based ASL’s longevity is its history of innovation. They are the first company in Ottawa to use topographic drone surveys, the first company in Eastern Ontario to use a hybrid electric bulldozer, and one of the first adopters of LiDAR drone surveying technology to better quantify work performed.
ASL also maintains the largest fleet of tilt-rotators for construction in North America and the largest fleet of GNSS machine control excavators in Ottawa. As Ricci says, “Our goal is to be the most technologically advanced construction company in Ottawa.”
To achieve that goal, ASL has set out on a quest that goes well beyond advanced point solutions and technology enabled equipment. This latest initiative in envelope-pushing is all about connectivity.
“We’re trying to get the right information at the right time, including real-time as-built conditions,” Ricci confirms. “We want to be a data-driven company with centralized information, where our people have the right information when they need it, which allows us to provide value to our customers. And that workflow needs to work across a mixed fleet and disparate solutions. That requires a digital transformation on a much broader scale.”
A Partnership and a Plan
For ASL, connectivity is all about operational improvements and delivering more predictable outcomes to clients by connecting the office activities—design, estimating and cost data—with field operations to deliver essentially a jobsite digital twin. They believe that connection will allow them to ensure that their market commitments are met and projects are on track.
James Wilson, GPS and drone specialist at ASL, adds, “Our goal is to have one resource for all site data—about labor, equipment and materials—on a project that is continually updated. We've been back and forth with other organizations trying to find this real-time, as-built connected data workflow. Trimble stood out as the one that has the most and best products—as well as the willingness to work with us to optimize a solution.”
Early on in the emerging partnership, ASL and Trimble came together in a workshop to compare ASL’s vision of a more connected, digitally driven process versus what’s available in the market. From that effort emerged a three-part plan.
The first piece was to better understand operator productivity. For this, ASL relies on data analytics from machine control systems as a way to track progress, thereby helping to identify areas where productivity can be improved. ASL currently has approximately 30 different machine-controlled heavy equipment pieces running in the city of Ottawa.
The second piece of the plan is leveraging a connected data environment (CnDE), which allows ASL to store and share data across its organization, helping to improve collaboration and communication, which leads to increased efficiency.
The third and latest piece of the plan was ASL’s deployment of Trimble’s Construction Cloud to create a single, integrated platform for managing its projects and driving real-time coordination and communication of site activities.
From Excavator to Email in Minutes
Co-created by Microsoft and Trimble, the Trimble Construction Cloud is built on Microsoft Azure. The Trimble Construction Cloud brings together project teams, data (across third-party applications), processes, and multiple stakeholders—such as general contractors, subcontractors, designers, engineers, and owners—across all phases of construction projects.
Cody Morgan, project manager at ASL, says, “By centralizing all of our data in one place using the Trimble Construction Cloud and Microsoft Power Apps, we have the framework to sort through all project data in one place, allowing us to come back with actionable conclusions.”
The cloud platform automatically compiles data from sources that include machine control systems, survey equipment and drones. “We can leverage the Trimble cloud platform to gather real-time activities and automatically compare with estimates,” Morgan continued. “Further, we are able to very quickly review whether or not the day’s work is meeting our expectations from our initial bid and our planned approach. From there, we can scale our expectations beyond the estimate.”
Through Trimble's cloud workflow, ASL is able to see and report project progress with a higher frequency and a much quicker turnaround. Morgan adds, “We can even customize those reports as needed daily, weekly, by job completed date or a designated time frame.”
The benefits of the more seamless and automated data sharing from the field is readily clear for conformance monitoring and progress tracking.
Morgan points to the lag between field and office. “Like most contractors, we have dealt with delays between work completed in the field and the dissemination of the report to the appropriate people for review and verification—sometimes days or even weeks. The cloud platform allows us to manage that data transfer in near real-time. Within a few minutes, we can go from collecting the data in the field to disseminating that information to the people that need to know.”
Implementing Data in Day-to-Day Planning
ASL is putting its connected workflow to work on a residential development called Mahogany, a new home community by Minto in Manotick, Ontario. The firm performs all residential excavation, earthmoving, drainage and backfilling on the new home lots.
Sean Graham, site supervisor for ASL, reports, “We started this job back in January of 2023, we're doing approximately 20 house lots a week. It's a very big site and we have multiple pieces of equipment on this site continuously doing different tasks.”
ASL has one Trimble Earthworks-equipped Cat® 323 excavator that has been used for a range of tasks from excavation to fine grading and drainage.
“We're getting very useful information from this machine and from the Trimble system for ourselves and for our clients,” Graham says.
The ASL team automatically receives jobsite reports from the Trimble WorksOS and the Microsoft Power Apps as well as as-built spreadsheets with visuals that can be adjusted as needed depending on current conditions. The daily report indicates how much material that machine has moved, cut and filled. Getting those reports from the field on a daily basis is a big step in ASL’s overall digital transformation, according to Graham. He confirms, “We have never been able to get any reports from our previous GPS system. Now our estimators, surveyors and project managers get real-time next-day reports.”
When that data comes back to the office, ASL’s survey department analyzes the data for quality control. Graham explains, “This task used to require that we send a surveyor to the site. With the cloud connected workflow, we are able to quickly verify that the work as-built conditions are on grade. We know how much the machines are moving in a day. We know how our budgets are being affected and can adjust accordingly.”
Wilson adds, “We believe this workflow will dramatically reduce the chance of costly rework. With WorksOS, we can implement more and more data into our day-to-day planning, which then makes us more competitive, while helping us meet margins.”
“It’s a very dynamic and powerful workflow,” reports Morgan. “Better yet, we are using hardware from multiple vendors on the same site and the automated reporting features are working seamlessly, processing data in the backend. We had to make one adjustment though - we had to switch to Trimble machine control on some of our fleet because we found we could not get the detail we needed to create these reports using our other non-Trimble solutions.”
The ASL team is also using Power BI to merge and view the data between WorksOS and their internal project management system.
But there’s more digital connections to be had. Graham explains, “Our workflow is largely field based right now. There’s more work to do to improve the communication between the office and field. I think as we move through projects with this new workflow, we're going to find new ways to make use of that data on current projects and in ways that support future bids.”
Looking Ahead to Push Notifications, Exception-Based Reporting, and Beyond
ASL is now looking to leverage the Trimble Construction Cloud to potentially enable what it calls exception-based reporting. With this method, the key personnel on a job would automatically receive a daily report that only outlines issues.
Wilson explains, “We have automated reports that update the quantity of dirt moved, verify as-built grades, or other tasks at the end of each day, but we also would like automated smart reports that emphasize exceptions. With this type of workflow, our project teams will be able to focus their energy on resolving issues versus spending time looking for those issues. It’s a smart setup.”
Morgan expands further, “We feel as though the sky's the limit for the opportunities that we can develop as a team to better scale our office workflows. We've completed some proof of concept projects as a team, and we are certain that we can scale that to the number and the growth that we need to in the future.”
It’s also a more efficient use of time for supervisors. On many projects, ASL still relies on these individuals to physically go to a site to check big picture progress on a project. That’s begun to change.
With Trimble Construction Cloud, Ricci says he can have one person look at 30 sites a day instead of one person looking at three sites a day. “With the Trimble Construction Cloud, my supervisors can instantly project if that project is making money on any given day – as opposed to a week later. That's where we see leveraging cloud technology with our existing infrastructure. We want to be able to use this data to either validate or adjust our estimating practices.”
By implementing these changes, ASL Contractors is well-positioned to achieve its goals of innovating and optimizing its business through digital transformation. To learn more about ASL Contractors and their work, visit www.aslcontractors.com.