Digital Asset Delivery and Project Management

Data-Centric Approach to Trench Cutter Machine Operations

Challenge Statement Owner:

Background and Current Practice

To construct deep base projects and underground structures, a diaphragm wall or a continuous underground wall is used. This method employs Trench Cutter Machines on the ground to excavate a trench along the deep excavation project's peripheral axis while maintaining mud protection.

The Trench Cutter Machine is not easy to operate and relies heavily on the operatorsโ€™ skill and experience. The operator uses visual observation and monitors the machineโ€™s data to assess the soil condition to determine how best to operate the machine to carry out the excavation.ย 

The diaphragm wall construction method is widely used in Singapore. There are over 60 units of Trench Cutter machines in Singapore, accounting for 40-50% of all machines in the world. However, there is a shortage of experienced machine operators. Poor operations of the machine impact productivity and the quality of the excavation work, and even cause accidents that might delay the construction timeline.ย 

For monitoring purposes, the operators also collect data on the excavation operation and the machine from the control panel, and manually input the data into LT Samboโ€™s platform.

Opportunity Areas and Key Challenges

We are interested in solutions that can be retrofitted to the Trench Cutter Machine and can serve to collect and analyse data on excavation operations. The data collected can benefit the construction design process, machine configuration, cost estimation, operator training, and even support future automation of the machine.ย 

We are keen to collect the following data related to the machine and excavation operations.ย  The data will then be channelled to LT Samboโ€™s platform for recording and site monitoring purposes.

  • Time (Y/M/D H:M:S)
  • Depth (m)
  • Speed (cm/min)
  • RPM (rpm)
  • Direction (หš)
  • Pressure (bar)
  • Load (tonne)
  • Operator behaviour
  • Soil characteristicsย 

Through the processing and analysis of the data, we hope to achieve the following:

  • Determine the soil profile of the construction site โ€“ Having more accurate records of the soil type and conditions along the depth of the entire trench support more informed decisions regarding construction design, machine configuration, and cost estimation for future projects, especially those located in close proximity.
  • Build a knowledge database for training machine operators โ€“ Operators can refer to machine operation patterns of skilled operators and learn from them, in order to refine their own performance.
  • Lay the foundation for machine automations โ€“ The knowledge and data of machine operation patterns can be used to develop machine automations.ย ย 

The following are the key challenges that the solution need to address:

  • It is not feasible to tap into the machineโ€™s control systems, export the data from machines, or develop APIs in the near future.
  • The solution should ideally not tap into the machineโ€™s power systems.

Expected Outcomes

An excavation operation monitoring systems collects and analyses data to determine the soil profile and machine operation patterns. The solution ultimately helps to improve productivity and quality of excavation work by supporting decisions to optimise excavation operations, producing insights for the benefit of machine operators, and reducing manual processes.

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