Beyond the safety and well being of individuals involved, the two most critical components in evaluating the success of your project is cost and time. Like most toolboxes, our vans are equipped with a variety of tools to choose from, but it’s our technicians’ ability to switch to the right tools at the right time that allows them to get the job done more efficiently and more cost effectively for our customers.
Utilizing the two most widely used tools in our industry, EM (electromagnetic) equipment and GPR equipment, can be likened to Aesop’s familiar tortoise and the hare. When scanning a site for utilities, utilizing GPR for the entire site would benefit customers by providing a significant amount of data, as it has the capability to discover non-metallic utilities that were not known to previously exist in the area. However, the major drawback to GPR is that it would come at a significant price since it could take days to scan, collect and process the data.
Conversely, while covering the same area would be much faster and cheaper with EM scans, it would yield an insufficient amount of data, particularly if any non-metallic utilities existed, in turn causing dangerous excavation conditions, not to mention redesign headaches.
Therefore, when scanning an area for utilities, the greatest tool we can provide our technicians is a uniform process to follow that combines both traditional and modern locating technologies. In the end, how the technician is trained to utilize either technology far outweighs the importance of the technology itself.
GPR is most effective when used as a complement to EM scanning technology and should not be used as the primary tool where visual surface features and utility access points exist. EM technology is almost always “best” in those circumstances. While being at the forefront of technology will always be a critical component to our business, it’s the processes that we create and continually refine over time that differentiate us in the industry and allow us to maximize our utility discoveries while keeping costs down for our customers.