09 January 2019
QUEENSLAND'S FIRST AUTOMATIC KOMATSU EXCAVATOR GETS DOWN TO WORK
The first Queensland-purchased Komatsu excavator that can intelligently perform traditional manual operator duties has been hired out on a long-term roadworks project by Noosaville-based civil earthmoving and construction company, Weier Group.
Owner Gareth Weier said his business specialises in wet plant hire, supplying premium earthmoving and roadworks services to tier one customers throughout South East Queensland such as Seymour Whyte, Fulton Hogan, CPB Contractors, Lendlease and large civil contractors such as Shadforths. After working for eight years as a loader operator in an underground gold mine, Mr Weier continued his passion for machinery by starting his earthmoving business with a single skid steer. He has since built it up using predominantly Komatsu excavators including one hybrid 335LC-1, a PC300LC-8, two PC138US-8, one PC45MR-3 and one PC88MR-8.
Mr Weier said he has always taken a progressive approach to new machine technologies and the Komatsu iMC (intelligent Machine Control) PC210LCi-10 excavator purchase was an extension of that. "I like to be on the cutting edge of technology in terms of our equipment in order to demonstrate the progressive nature of our business," said Mr Weier. "That's always been our approach: something new comes out from Komatsu and we check it out to see if it can benefit our business.
"I wanted to see what the intelligent excavator could do. I had a go on it and I found it was really good. I was especially impressed by its operational efficiencies and reduced operator fatigue. We ended up being the first business in Queensland to buy one."
Mr Weier was particularly impressed by the Komatsu iMC excavator's automatic control features, which offer real-time bucket edge positioning in relation to the machine and job surface.
"With a normal machine the operator can see the line he has to dig to, but has to keep stopping to use his bucket to check digging depths and ensure they're on grade. With the iMC excavator you take the bucket down to the line, pull one lever and it automatically traces the ground so the operator doesn't have to think and do as much as they would, conventionally, to avoid cutting past the line.
"Once the model has been loaded into the iMC machine, the surface level is set and the operator cannot cut past the line they have to dig. Because it can't be over-cut, you avoid having to in-fill with more material than is necessary, which is extremely important when you're trying to save the client money."
Komatsu says the iMC excavator's exclusive automatic control function technology can result in more than a 60 percent improvement in work efficiency when compared with conventional construction processes, an advantage noticed by Mr Weier.
"It is obviously more accurate and I saw that it would be quicker in practice," he said. Is this something he has already been able to leverage with his customers? "It's early days so we don't jump up and down about what it can do for a customer, but it does allow them to see the performance and benefits of the new machine in action on the job. I think they will count the outcomes and that builds a case further down the line. Customers will be looking for iMC machines over standard machines, sooner than later."
Mr Weier is also mindful of the benefits of iMC excavator's exclusive automatic control function technology for his operators. "They don't have to concentrate on cutting to a line as much when they know that the machine can take control and come down to the line. It requires less mental exertion over a day than they would usually expend. It's also a quicker overall result because there are less required actions than in a manual exercise, so they're less fatigued all-round."
In response to a perception that the iMC excavator's automation might erode the value of an operator's manual skills, Mr Weier said "Of course you still need someone who is fairly experience and knows what they are doing, but, no, the operators love it - even the experienced ones and especially the screen, which is a lot bigger and better than the bolt-on GPS systems."
Aware that Komatsu's iMC technology is in-built into the excavator, Mr Weier said he wouldn't consider 'bolt-on' alternatives. "The integrated Komatsu technology is not much more expensive. It's basically around the same cost but you're dealing with Komatsu rather than a third party, which is our preference. We have a machine from another manufacturer that is nightmare to deal with, in comparison. Getting anything done by them is like pulling teeth. Komatsu however is always so easy to deal with. They are very reliable machines but if anything needs attention Komatsu is right on fixing it. That's absolutely imperative in this industry because down-time equals losing money. We need machines that won't let us or our customers down.
From here on, Mr Weier sees additional Komatsu iMC machines being added to his fleet: "Yes this is our first step into that suite of the different offerings in Komatsu's SMARTCONSTRUCTION offerings Solutions. I'm focused on continuing to grow the business. I know Komatsu has an iMC dozer so will be keeping an eye on that. Hopefully a job will come up that suits it."
For more information contact:
Komatsu Australia National Marketing Manager
Phone 1300 566 287
Komatsu excavator owner Gareth Weier on the job in south-east Queensland
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