Machine control enables precise gravel removal and supports the circular economy

Case study

Author: Tobias Scharpenberg

Circular economy is not just a buzzword but a necessary reality in order to make the construction industry more sustainable and environmentally friendly. Find out what this means for the extraction and processing of gravel and what role modern automation technologies such as machine control play in this.

Kibag fosters key raw materials for the construction industry

Almost invisible and yet an integral part of our everyday lives: gravel and sand are among the most commonly used raw materials in the world. It is estimated that more than 90 % of the quantities extracted are used in the construction sector. As the basis for key construction materials such as concrete and asphalt, they are essential in heavy construction. In addition, they are also used in the form of chippings and gravel in highway and road construction, as well as in gardening and landscaping.

KIBAG operates gravel pits and plants at numerous locations in Switzerland to supply the regional markets. The rock deposits are extracted, processed and delivered locally with short transport distances.

Precise gravel extraction due to 3D machine control

As one of the leading Swiss companies in the building materials and construction sector, Kibag relies on state-of-the-art technologies to ensure occupational safety, environmental management and quality. The work processes at the Schafisheim site illustrate what this means in practical terms.

The gravel works in the canton of Aargau rely on 3D machine control from Leica Geosystems for the precise extraction of the precious material. Previously, excavators equipped with GPS were used. However, these had to be ordered and invoiced internally. To reduce the site’s costs and make the work more sustainable, the company invested in a new wheel loader and a machine control system.


"All machines at Kibag are equipped with the Leica Geosystems machine control system", says Lukas Bürgi, Operations Manager at the Schafisheim site. "We have always had good experiences. The excavator operators who work for us also have nothing to complain about. It always works."

Reliability and accuracy are of great importance when working in the gravel pit. The main task of the wheel loader is to load the material safely. In doing so, the excavation depth can reach well over 50 metres. This is why the slope angle plays a vital role.

The gravel is removed according to a predefined model. The machine control system assists the machine operator in the secure execution. This allows as much material as possible to be removed without jeopardising stability. The stability is a decisive factor, as the removal process creates ramps that have to withstand the weight and vibration of the trucks, as well as the weather conditions, to ensure safe transportation.

Work safety in the gravel pit

The fewer ground personnel in the gravel pit, the faster, safer and more profitable the material can be extracted and transported. The solution from Leica Geosystems supports the machine operator in the independent execution using 3D reference models and the latest GNSS technology. The design data and real-time information on the exact position of the wheel loader bucket enable the work to be carried out quickly and precisely according to the reference design.

Using the cloud-based collaboration platform Leica ConX, information from the driver’s cab can be shared with colleagues and support in the office in real-time. This enables quick remote troubleshooting, clean documentation of progress and effortless updates of the reference models.

The panel in the driver’s cab displays the real-time cut and fill indications, ensuring easy and productive operation. Markus Rüeger, the machine operator of the new wheel loader in Schafisheim, confirms this and adds: "All information is displayed clearly on the screen. The system is self-explanatory."


The relation between construction technologies and the circular economy

The circular economy plays a crucial role in reducing the environmental footprint and the sustainable use of resources. By implementing circular economy practices, gravel pits can become more environmentally friendly and resource-efficient.

With short travelling distances, regional value creation and renaturalised extraction areas, Kibag contributes to the circular economy. After extraction is completed, the gravel pits are converted into near-natural environments. Using 3D machine control, the areas are recultivated with suitable soil for agricultural use.

With solutions for the entire life cycle of materials, Leica Geosystems contributes to more sustainable methods in all construction phases. The Leica MC1 3D machine control solution is available for all heavy machinery. The solution is designed to minimise environmental impact and maximise resource efficiency. In addition, the advanced positioning and surveying technologies contribute to long-lasting, high-quality infrastructure. Subsequently, they support the unmixed dismantling of the infrastructure and thus enable clean material recycling. The material initially extracted from the gravel pit is therefore not lost but can be reused. This reduces the necessary extraction quantity and protects natural resources and the environment.

For Lukas Bürgi, the advantages of the technology are obvious, and he concludes: "The investment has paid off, and the support is always guaranteed. I can certainly recommend Leica Geosystems."

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