It is safe to say there will always be conflict among the members of an organization when it comes to trying something new. This conflict often comes to light when new technology is introduced, such as remote-controlled equipment. It is easy to imagine the difference in opinion of early adopters, who love anything digital, and the group holding out for months until they are finally forced to try it, because the latter faction is often afraid the technology might replace them. The reality is that using wireless, remote-controlled equipment can help contribute to a safer work environment, less fatigue on the body and measurable increases in production. Therefore, it should appeal to a diverse workforce.
Equipment & Technology
Before discussing the benefits of using remotes, take a minute to explore the technology. In the concrete construction industry, wall saws and wire saws were some of the first machines to use radio remote controls for operation. Now, demolition robots, surface preparation grinders and core drills can all be operated remotely. Some manufacturers have taken the technology from radio frequencies and/or cords and have evolved the products to use cordless, Bluetooth technology. This enables more responsive communication from remote to machine. It also enables the operator to stand farther away while still in full control of the operation.
It is important to mention that on some Bluetooth remotes, the Bluetooth feature can be turned off for projects in areas that are sensitive to radio transmissions, such as hospitals and nuclear power plants. Wireless remote control systems can be run directly using a CAN-cable to complete communication between the remote control and the machine.
The use of a wireless remote control eliminates the need for the operator to be in direct contact with a running machine. This means the operator can position themselves in a safer manner, farther away from moving parts, harmful dust, noise and vibration or falling debris that may occur. Operating by wireless remote control also allows the operator to move more freely, enabling him/her to gain the best viewpoint of the work being performed. This is common in the demolition robot world. The operator can send the robot into a dangerous environment, such as a furnace or hanging from a crane. The machine is taking all the risk, while the operator is located in a safer location.
Ease of Use
An obvious benefit of using a remote is that it causes less fatigue than traditional, manual, machine operation. Moving your fingers or pushing a button to run the equipment is much easier. If you have ever used a joystick to play a video game, you can run a remote. Vibration and noise are also eliminated or decreased by using remote-controlled equipment.
While performing delicate operations, like removing brick from a building facade with a demolition robot, it takes practice to become an expert; initial training on a remote is straightforward. Standardized controls and digital display screens are commonly used to guide operators and service technicians through the necessary operating functions, attachment changes, service intervals and troubleshooting.
Some remotes used on surface preparation machines enable the operator to multitask and prepare for the project’s next step or adjust the dust collector, hoses and other items while grinding. Core drills can be outfitted with an automatic drilling system, where the operator can select the speed and depth and let the drill take care of the rest. They can also allow the operator to control more than one drill rig at a time.
Remote technology may appeal to a younger audience who is aware of the physical toll that comes from manual labor. Because using a remote control does not fatigue an operator’s body in the same way that running a manual surface prep grinder or jackhammer does, operators are able to avoid injury and stay in the workforce for a longer period of time. Reducing the physical requirement of brute strength also expands the labor pool available to contractors who are looking to find and retain skilled operators. This can reduce downtime for operators and decrease the risk of injury on the job.
While working longer with less fatigue definitely increases production, using a remote also contributes to a more consistent result. For example, consider a remote-controlled surface preparation machine. With a manual machine, the operator is pushing the machine along in a straight line, but what happens when the operator speeds up a bit or slows down? The floor in those spots will look different compared to the rest of the work area. If a remote-controlled machine is used on the floor, the operator can set the speed and grinding pressure to ensure a uniform appearance.
In another example, some remote-controlled wall saws and core drills can automatically sense when they hit steel reinforcement and slow down the feed speed while increasing power to the cutting tool. A skilled operator may be able to do this by feel in manual mode, but as the day wears on and fatigue sets in, no manual operator can maintain the consistency and speed that an automatic or remote system delivers all day.
All in all, wireless remote controls help improve the entire work process. They keep operators safer and increase efficiency and bottom lines.