Using machine control and GPS to grow a business

Using machine control and GPS to grow a business

P3 Earthworks is a specialist earthworks company using machine control that we interviewed in 2016, shortly after the business was formed. We recently caught up with owner Chad Empson to hear about how this Tauranga-based business has grown and how Topcon technology has helped improve operations for them.

Over the past couple of years, Synergy Positioning has been working closely with P3 Earthworks to implement machine control solutions as needed to increase productivity.

It all started when Chad moved back to New Zealand after living in Australia for five years. He approached Synergy to find out how he could fit GPS technology to the machinery he was using, in particular, the Kubota SVL90-2 mini skid steer.

This was something new for the New Zealand market, so Synergy worked with Chad to set the machine up with a bespoke Topcon laser guidance system.

Since then, P3 Earthworks has grown significantly – largely because of their willingness to invest in technology and look for innovations that no one else is using.

"Fitting out that skid steer with Topcon technology was definitely the right decision. From day one I knew that the technology I was using would help me stand out from competitors. As a result, the business has grown, and we’ve pretty much outgrown that initial Kubota machine," Chad explains. "We’ve gone on to purchase several excavators to take on larger jobs and now have a fleet of six excavators ranging from 5 to 35 tonne, along with two truck and trailers."


  • P3 Earthworks excavator equipped with machine control systems at work
  • P3 Earthworks excavator equipped with machine control systems at work

All of the company’s excavators are equipped with GPS fitted by Synergy after purchase, including a number of Topcon X53i excavator systems across the fleet. Chad explains:

"Because our excavators don’t have integrated GPS, we take them to Synergy and they install it for us, with no problems whatsoever. If anything ever needs to be replaced or upgraded, we don’t need to call the manufacturer – we just call Synergy and they help us."

"From day one when they took up the challenge to create something unique and bespoke for us, Synergy has had a can-do approach and have supported us through our business growth. Their support has been absolutely outstanding."

As the P3 Earthworks fleet has increased, the team has also grown to include, along with Chad, a foreman, nine operators, plus office support staff. Because of this growth since our interview two years ago, the company’s scope of work has changed.

"We’re now able to do work for councils, roading companies and large construction companies because of the equipment and technology we have. The technology and support from Topcon and Synergy – in particular, the machine control and GPS on our excavators – has been key contributors to our growth. All of this shows our capability and gets us noticed by the bigger organisations when we bid for work, and definitely puts us up there as a serious contender."

As Chad explains, the bigger clients that they can now target understand the value of the investment in technology. P3 Earthworks can provide reassurance that the work will be done accurately, and they can give better predictions around timelines and workloads. They know exactly long a job is going to take, and how much time is being saved by using machine control and GPS – making their task of job quoting much easier.

"It’s now a common occurrence for us that the technology we’re using turns an 8-hour job into a 2-hour job. When we cut a level area, we know exactly where we’re supposed to go, and we go straight there. There’s no more guessing and there’s so much more precision."

When we spoke to him last, Chad was already thinking about his next piece of custom-designed equipment. P3 Earthworks is now working on some major projects across the upper North Island, and Chad has his sights set on adding more equipment and technology to their fleet.

In particular, he mentions adding another GPS excavator, along with a GPS bulldozer with a fully automatic blade – creating a very fast and tidy way of moving dirt. They’re also looking at setting up a bespoke John Deere tractor and scoop with GPS.

"We’re fully aware of the benefits of having Topcon on our equipment, so we want to incorporate it into more of what we do. We’re bringing the old ways of doing things up to speed with modern technology. We want to be known as an up-and-coming business that is willing to make a bold statement with new technology."

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