Following a recent engineering and safety study, Finning (UK) Ltd and Select Plant Hire Ltd have announced a joint strategic collaboration programme covering the company’s 258 strong Caterpillar fleet of excavators.
The new agreement is aimed at helping Select Plant Hire, part of the Laing O'Rourke Group, get the most out of its national Caterpillar hire fleet and is based on joint engineering and safety led initiatives. To date, these studies have comprised of more than 500 hours of development time, and over £200,000 capital investment.
Explaining how the initiative evolved, Finning Product and Marketing Manager, Tim Ballard said: “The Caterpillar equipment on the Select Plant Hire fleet works in a variety of locations and applications, with multiple operators taking control of the machinery. This means the business can have numerous circumstances in which plant productivity, safe working, efficiency and even operation may be challenged or tested.
“The varied conditions of construction plant hire often make it difficult to understand precisely how the equipment has been used. These issues make it difficult to tailor a fleet and provide a service solution, which maximises uptime. Recognising this, Select Plant Hire was keen to share information with its supplier, Finning, to see if improvements could be made to safety, uptime, performance and efficiency.”
Explaining how the programme developed, Dominic Daly, Select Plant Hire Technical Leader said: “We are continually challenging our supply chain to support our vision of engineering excellence within the industry. Our procurement strategy therefore is driven by a number of factors which underpin this philosophy. The safety of our people (and the public that they may interface with) is of paramount importance in our business, and we have found a direct correlation between the safety of the machines we procure and robust engineering principles during their design and manufacture.
“With our excavator fleet, in particular, we wanted to see if an engineering and safety led approach could have a positive impact on downtime. The aim was to deliver enhancements that could be put in place for all new models, or used to create a ‘Select Plant Hire spec’ model.
“In practical terms, this collaborative relationship allowed us to challenge and question the criteria for design in certain aspects of machine application, to establish the suitability for the applications we required and change aspects, where practical, to best meet our requirements. With both of our engineering teams at Select Plant Hire and Finning, we took on the joint responsibility for carrying out this analysis and ensuring we met the brief for safety and operational efficiency.
“A great example of this was illustrated by how an excavator was used over an extended period of time in a breaker application, with 100% hammer use. Whilst this exposure to such forces over such a prolonged period is excessive in relation to the original design life for such operations, it is common place in the industry.
“However, if we then consider this in conjunction with the commonplace operation of “raising the tracks” to improve downward force, the additional forces at work could potentially cause other problems such as damaging the boom, or possibly causing operator injury. To address this, it is worth asking ‘how can we build in safety by protecting the equipment, our customers and individuals from such actions and activity?’.
“Taking an engineering solutions approach, we looked at the forces that would be acting on the boom under this and other scenarios (such as collision), and worked with engineers from Finning and Caterpillar to model and build up stress loading on the boom from first principles. Through further analysis, we were able to see where strengthening welds, for example, could protect the machine in such applications and also increase its durability”.
Adding to Dominic’s comments Finning’s Tim Ballard said: “If the UK is to have a sustainable plant sector we all have to play our roles right from the dealer or OEM, through organisations like Select Plant Hire, to the end user. By addressing issues together and particularly in the current environment, we have developed a sustainable blueprint for the industry, showing how through collaboration, Finning and Select Plant Hire can only strengthen relationships, at what is a crucial time for the sector.”
The announcement of the joint collaboration follows the launch of Finning’s Lastability.com campaign in January that focuses on Finning’s Lastability promise - to save the industry £10M in 2010.
As part of the joint collaboration agreement Select Plant Hire will also become part of Finning Caterpillar’s ‘field follow’ test group. This will involve pre-testing and reporting on the performance of new models to be introduced to the marketplace, with an aim to make and suggest changes to new equipment pre- production, which will benefit all Finning Caterpillar customers.