Going underground with Ben Richards

Ben Richards, a Plant Systems Analyst with CPB Contractors, has worked in tunnels and tech for 13 years.

Tunnels are challenging construction environments and Ben has seen technology transform the way major tunnelling projects are delivered.

“I specialise in communications networks for tunnels. It is a lot different from being in an office where I used to be.”

“I spend all day on-site and in the tunnels checking the equipment, fixing things and figuring out ways to improve the networks. I talk to the tunnelling teams, see how they are using the systems, and what we can do to improve. I really enjoy my job.”

“Innovation is improving the way we work.”

“We now have full mobility, so if there is an issue underground, an engineer can take a photo and upload it to a secure shared chat group. Then above ground, a team of engineers can immediately take a look and decide on the best solution. The capability to resolve something immediately has lots of benefits. The engineers love it and now we can’t imagine working without it.”

“When things are complicated communication becomes more important than ever.”

“We’ve enabled underground teams to talk to each other and they can talk to a manager who might be above ground in an off-site meeting. Despatch yards can talk directly to the tunnelling teams and confirm what parts or supplies they want and when. All this communication bridges gaps and makes our work more efficient.”

“One of the most important communications networks used by CPB Contractors is a system for plant tracking.”

“We use technology to track equipment, which we often call plant, so that we always know where it is within the tunnels. We can find plant easily whether it’s 500 meters or five kilometres away which improves our team’s efficiency.”

“CPB Contractors has the right culture for these innovations.”

“Our people are always trying to do things that little bit smarter and there is healthy competition. I see engineers re-organising the way they work, I see the mechanical specialists doing something else, and that makes me think ‘Well, our electrical team better pull a rabbit out of the hat as well.’ It is healthy competition and makes for a positive atmosphere.”

“It does give you a sense of accomplishment to deliver an improvement. Even if it is a small thing, if you make a few of these one per cent improvements, they start to add up. I speak to my peers and keep my ears open to new ideas to help us improve.”

“I suppose tunnelling is a strange sort of job.”

“Not many people do it, but I’ve been lucky with the number of high-profile tunnelling projects that CPB Contractors has done, and is doing, across the country.”

“It is good on a weekend when you go to a BBQ, and people ask what do you do? And you tell them which tunnels you’ve worked on, and they say, ‘I love that tunnel, it saves me so much time.”

“Having some pride and a sense of ownership about a project you’ve worked on is a good feeling. I like to show the family the yard with the diggers, road-headers and cranes as we go past sometimes. It looks like a giant Meccano set and the kids love it.”

“My kids know which tunnels I’ve worked on.”

“When we go through one we’ve completed, my little bloke says ‘Daddy, how did you build this part?’”

Ben Richards
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