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Data automation for repetitive potholing tasks creates efficiencies

How rethinking potholing for Fulton Hogan saves time and money, prevents disruption and makes their team safer

Fulton Hogan specialise, among other things, in building and maintaining roads and transport infrastructure. Abley manages and maintains their GIS technology and supports their Engineering Solutions team with both geospatial system support and digital engineering services.

Bevan Sandison, General Manager of Engineering Solutions at Fulton Hogan explains:

I view Abley as an extension of our Engineering Solutions team. Abley are a great team and we’re very thankful to have their technical support. They complement our team with their wider skill sets. It’s a really good fit.”

The arduous, repetitive task of potholing

At one of our meetings with Fulton Hogan, we started talking about the Victoria Street roadworks which their team were about to start. Our offices are on Victoria Street, and we discussed opportunities for Fulton Hogan to improve their project delivery.

During this conversation, Fulton Hogan talked about how time-consuming potholing was. Potholing is part of the preparation for road works. A team drill a series of exploratory holes to find and map utility pipes and cables for the roading crew. It’s important to get it right, both for the safety of the crew working on the roads, and to avoid disruption to essential services like power, water, and internet.

Fulton Hogan’s potholing process was labour intensive, manual and repetitive. Every time Fulton Hogan did exploratory drilling to locate underground services, their team would head back to the office, and it would take two to three hours for them to write up the results.

Using data smarter to solve problems

One of the things Abley excels at is using data smarter to solve problems. So as soon as Fulton Hogan explained their process to us, we knew there was a way to automate the manual spreadsheet work that their team were doing and save them time and money.


“The Abley team are great at solving problems. We’ve had issues that we didn’t even recognise as problems, because we’ve got our way of doing things, and we just carry on doing them the way we always have. By engaging with a company like Abley, who are thought leaders in their field, even just having a discussion around how we do a day-to-day activity, can be all it takes to trigger an idea that can add value to our business. I would definitely recommend other companies reach out to Abley.”

Bevan SandisonGeneral Manager of Engineering Solutions, Fulton Hogan

Now, with their new system, Fulton Hogan’s roading team enter data on the spot, and the whole report process is digitally automated end-to-end. They save at least two hours on every single potholing project. Bevan says:

Abley were able to identify a much faster solution using technology. It hasn’t required any new kit. We’re using the survey equipment we’ve always used. The app Abley built for us captures the data instantly and transmits it into a digital workflow.”

It’s a small time saving on one pothole. But when you multiply that saving by hundreds of potholes on a large project, labour time and costs mount up very quickly. So, our regional team were extremely happy with the outcome of Abley’s work.”

The trial was so successful that Fulton Hogan decided to adopt the new potholing method as their standard process for locating and mapping underground services in Canterbury. They’re now trialling the process on a third project, to confirm that it delivers the cost savings they expect. If this trial is successful, discussions will be held with Fulton Hogan about taking the approach nationwide.

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Saving money, increasing accuracy and reducing risk

Not only has the new potholing app saved Fulton Hogan significant time and budget, it also has other benefits. Bevan notes:

It has definitely improved accuracy. So, there’s less potential for manual errors to occur. And as a result, we’ve improved safety for our people out on site. They have greater confidence on where underground cables and pipes are located.

Not only does that remove a significant hazard that our people face when we’re digging out in a roadway. But it also reduces the potential of service strike which can disrupt businesses and households around the roadworks.

We’re mindful that roadworks can be disruptive to residents and businesses, and we’re always trying to do what we can to minimize the impact we have. So, if we can limit the risk of service strikes, that’s a win, win for both our safety, and for households and businesses nearby.”

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We look forward to talking with you.