Nolan Thomas and Company, Inc.
Nolan Thomas and Company, Inc. Achieves Tighter Tolerances in a Niche Market with the LPS Robotic Grading System
To obtain accuracies within one-hundredth of a foot, Nolan Thomas uses a Topcon LPS grading system.
Drainage and irrigation are crucial factors determining the performance of athletic fields. Without precise slopes and grades, heavy rain will create large puddles leading to event cancellations and profit loss. Moreover in indoor arenas, uneven playing fields and running tracks can cause athletes to injure themselves.
The athletic field construction process should be precise and accurate to alleviate drainage and slope issues. Traditionally, field grading was handled by placing survey stakes around the site to notify contractors where to cut and fill. The survey stakes weren’t always accurate and were often knocked down during the construction process. When GPS Machine Control hit the marketplace, many issues associated with grading accuracy were alleviated. However GPS machine control systems cannot always access satellites indoors, in tunnels, or under heavy foliage.
Nolan Thomas and Company, Inc. is an athletic field and sports turf contracting company that specializes in athletic field construction and renovation projects. In this niche market, tight tolerances and precise grading make multi-million dollar games possible. Because athletic field projects take place both indoors and outdoors, Nolan Thomas and Company needs increased accuracy where satellites are not always available.
Nolan Thomas and Company utilizes a Bobcat Skid Loader equipped with a Topcon LPS robotic grading system. This system gives users the added precision they need to control fine grades especially around edges.
The system is comprised of a PS robotic total station and a small prism mounted on the front of the skid loader. The Skid Loader operator utilizes a Topcon GX-60 Control Box that displays the positioning information necessary to obtain up to 1⁄100 foot accuracy.
"In about 2010, we started exploring the use of GPS. That took our company to another level. We do so much more towards our own layout, control our grades especially around edges. A couple years ago we bought LPS which made our tolerances even tighter. Sometimes we go indoors and work, GPS wouldn’t work quite as well, so that’s when LPS has helped us. Now we’re leaning towards going all LPS.”
Maintain Tighter Tolerances:
As requirements for tighter tolerances increase, Nolan Thomas and Company is able to stay ahead due to their systems. “Our tolerances over the years and expectations on these projects have just gotten tighter and tighter. We’re seeing it where material has got to be within a hundredth. We know with our LPS grading system, we can get it there.”
Prior to automated equipment like the LPS system, Thomas says he was expected to achieve 1.5% grade. Nowadays, he’s able to achieve .5% or less which means slopes are getting more accurate with less effort and manpower. “The drainage that we dig is typically a half percent or less and our final grade on our fields are rarely over a half percent. In the old days it was a percent and a half which is 18 inch fall at a hundred feet, and now we’re 6 inches or less at a 100 feet which is a pretty flat plane,” Thomas explains.
Nolan Thomas and Company has a lot of indoor projects such as the Miami Marlins Baseball Field. Thomas was initially drawn to the LPS system in 2015. “We worked with Virginia Tech on their football field and we didn’t have LPS at that point but another company did. They graded the whole inside with the motor grader and LPS system,” recalls Thomas. Shortly after this, he purchased the system with the support of Chuck Harris and John Mooney from Benchmark Tool & Supply.
The LPS system is able to work indoors because of PowerTrac technology. The robotic total station tracks a prism with a laser that determines its distance and relative position.
In the construction industry, projects are often delayed because of varying factors like bad weather, material shortages, subcontractor schedules and more. In this fluctuating environment, contractors need consistent resources to help them stay on track.
Thomas is able to depend on his LPS system to give him the results he needs, “By having automated equipment, we know pretty much what to expect with the materials we’re using. We’re able to estimate within days on a large project of when we’ll finish. Having the comfort level of knowing what our equipment can do makes us more competitive on projects and more profitable.”
As time goes on, Nolan Thomas’ company is expanding. “We started in 1995 with a pick-up truck, tractor and box blade,” Thomas recalls, “We’ve grown steadily over the last 23 years to a point where we can keep up with the level of detail our customers expect.” This high level of detail is made possible with the implementation of Thomas’ innovative technology and incredible staff.
“We’ve worked with Benchmark Tool & Supply for twelve years. We’ve enjoyed working with the sales staff and the service department. The sales staff has been just great as far as catering to our needs. They learn our industry, match us up with the right equipment. And service, when we need a part or something goes down, they do their best to get us back up and going. They understand time is money so we really enjoy working with Chuck and everybody associated with Benchmark Tool.”
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