This paper presents the initial planning phase results of excavator automation in the SmartBooms research project funded by Business Finland. Automation control is a key factor for the earth construction industry. Automation of excavators enables increased productivity and accurate adjustment of the digging work process, especially in depth control, which results in cost reductions. For design and research of excavator automation, a development platform has been planned using an E85 Bobcat 8.5 t excavator equipped with modified hydraulics and controls. Simulation and software development was selected using Matlab Simulink Realtime Desktop with SimlabIO CAN bus communications and custom code, while additional software development is performed mainly with integration of the robotics simulation software V-rep and Matlab.