WJ’s David Bayley accompanied the WJ Pre-Marking Robot affectionately known as ‘Eric’ as it completed its first section of work on the A14, Cambridge to Huntingdon for WJ South.
Innovation is at the heart of the WJ Group, and an autonomous line marker says it all about the extent to which the company is going in terms of the development of innovative solutions.
By utilising a robot line marker WJ have seen numerous benefits, such as greater accuracy of Pre-Marking, a reduced margin for human error, improved productivity and a reduction in the hours spent by vulnerable highway operatives working outside the safety of vehicles on-site, which means people to plant interface is kept to a minimum.
Collaborating through one of their European partners WJ identified robotic technology which has been adapted for the road marking sector and has subsequently proved to be the fastest pre-marking robot in the world. It is ideal for the task, easily transportable to the site weighing only 18kg and fits in the boot of a car/van. It’s completely autonomous using GNSS for its navigation and can mark out centre lines, and car park bays, and via a USB can mark out another shape such as arrows, lettering, hatching, numbers and even logos.
The robot has been used on several other projects so far to great effect, vastly increasing productivity. On the M4 for Colas/Balfour Beatty the robot was tasked to mark out the back of the hard shoulder line along a 5km section on both sides of the carriageway. The robot completed the task ‘safely’ in five hours, a job that would normally take an engineer four shifts.
Balfour Beatty asked WJ for 8km of setting out for surface works on the M6 J4-J2. The robot marked out the job at one-metre centres in about three hours.
Site agent Maciej Kozlowski commented: “My engineers were absolutely astonished by the robot, setting that out would have taken both of them a week.”
However, the robot isn’t only fast, it’s also accurate. It marked out 3km of outside lane edge along the M1 for Costain & Galliford Try JV and when the engineers went to check the marking, they found using Geomax Zenith GPS/GNSS system that over the 3km the robot averaged a 5mm tolerance, which is well within the 25mm tolerance engineers normally work to.
Also, on the M60 Manchester Smart Motorway, the robot was used to mark out the slip road and the tigers tail detail. This is a task that is notoriously difficult to complete by hand, whereas the robot completed it with ease, more than halving the time it typically takes to carry out the activity. Upon his maiden voyage for WJ South, Eric the Robot completed the same amount of work that an engineer would complete in around a day and a half, in approximately 2 hours.
Within minutes of the robot completing the job, a fleet of WJ Specialist Lining & Stud Vehicles were arriving to work on site.
Also, on the M60 Manchester Smart Motorway, the robot was used to mark out the slip road and the tigers tail detail. This is a task that is notoriously difficult to complete by hand.
Read that again. A day and a half of work, into 2 hours. The efficiency of the highest order.
David Bayley of WJ Group, who accompanied ‘Eric’ spoke of the experience and told us:
“It really is quite something to witness the robot carrying out the task at hand. The efficiency of the whole operation is absolutely incredible and to see this innovation come to life and perform was brilliant.”
Andy Stubbs, Managing Director at WJ South spoke to us about this landmark day for WJ innovations:
“WJ are always looking at how we innovate to bring additional benefits to someone- whether that be our workforce, the road user or our client.
“The Robotic PreMarker innovation delivers for all three of those groups, with an increase in site safety for our workforce, the road user and our clients benefitting from a faster job being carried out due to Eric’s efficiency.
“When you really think about it, the amount of work that the robot can get through in a couple of hours is absolutely incredible. The amount of time this will save us out on the network is huge and enables us to boost the speed of our job, carrying out marking and/or stud installation much quicker.”