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Sun November 28 2021

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Reaching new heights

17 Nov JCB has unveiled a new rotating telehandler designed very much with ‘modern methods of construction’ in mind. David Taylor reports

Everybody knows we need to build more new homes and everybody knows that prefabrication, off-site manufacturing, modern methods of construction (MMC) – whatever you want to call it – is part of the answer.

Strangely, though, despite everybody having known this for many years, the universal adoption of MMC has yet to materialise. The UK’s volume house-builders, with their stranglehold on the domestic market, retain a sentimental attachment to good old brick ‘n’ block.

This article was first published in the November 2021 issue of The Construction Index Magazine. Please sign up online 

But things are changing, albeit slowly. And JCB – never one to ignore an emerging trend – has decided that MMC is finally taking off; it has launched a new Loadall telescopic handler specially designed to cater for the requirements of this new way of building.

“Modern methods of construction are in stronger focus now,” says Tim Burnhope, JCB’s chief innovation & growth officer. “They offer quicker, lower-cost building at a time when it’s most needed,” he adds, though he acknowledges that there is “some way to go” before MMC challenges traditional methods.

He notes that leading house-builder Barrett Homes has set itself a target to build 30% of its homes using off-site methods by 2025. And while the UK lags behind other European markets, the global market for MMC is predicted to grow rapidly, from around US$17bn in 2020 to US$28bn by 2025.

One of the primary characteristics of prefabrication is that components, by definition, tend to be large. Already, contractors depend heavily on telehandlers to lift complete timber roof trusses into place; nobody nails them together in-situ any more.

But taken to its logical conclusion, off-site manufacture means bringing complete roof structures, finished wall panels or, in the case of volumetric systems, entire rooms to site and lifting them into place.

JCB’s new Loadall is designed specifically for lifting large prefabricated components into place at maximum height on space-restricted sites. Designated the 555-260R, the new machine has a 26m-long boom, a 5.5-tonne lifting capacity and can lift a load of two tonnes to its maximum working height of 25.4m.

It is also JCB’s second rotating telehandler, joining the 21m-boom 555-210R which was launched in 2019.

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The slewing superstructure means the new Loadall is good for smaller sites, despite its relatively large size. It is also very versatile and comes with a wide range of optional attachments, from fly-jibs and boom-mounted hoists to pallet forks and aerial platforms.

A remote control option allows the 555-260R to be operated from the boom-end platform just like any boom-lift access machine – in fact JCB describes it as three machines in one: a forklift, a crane and an access platform.

According to Burnhope, however, the new Loadall is much quicker to set up onsite than any telescopic mobile crane.

Switching between different duties isn’t as complicated as it might appear, according to Richard Brookes, JCB’s engineering director for materials handling and access products. “The specially-developed JCB attachments utilise RFID tag auto-recognition technology whereby attachments are identified by the machine, which automatically selects the correct load chart for the application,” he says.

Power is provided by JCB’s own 112kW 448 Dieselmax engine mounted low down in the chassis for optimum stability and easy ground-level servicing – not that you need to get to it that often: the 555-260R has 500-hour service intervals.

JCB says the new Loadall is designed to meet the changing requirements of contractors and hirers as the increasing use of off-site prefabrication calls for heavier lift capacities and greater versatility.

With their rapid set-up, ease of use and their ability to carry out a wide range of lifting operations the new breed of rotating Loadalls represents a “genuine cost-effective versatile replacement” for smaller tower cranes and mobile cranes, says JCB.

The 555-260R has been tested extensively on sites around the UK and the first production machines are already being built, confirms Burnhope. And there are likely to be more models to come:

“Customers are always asking for more height and more capacity – so watch this space,” he

This article was first published in the November 2021 issue of The Construction Index Magazine. Please sign up online 

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