The Case 621 EXR machine has been introduced by Johnson Tiles of Tunstall to work at the sharp end of its production process. The machine is being used to stockpile incoming raw material, such as clay and limestone delivered in bulk, and to feed the material into the tile-making procedure. It is also used to pull a trailer that collects reject tiles which are then also fed back into the production process.
For the past ten years, since the plant was inaugurated, the company had used a telehandler for all these roles. However, the end of the previous ownership contract provided a catalyst for change and the eventual development of an alternative and, so far, much more reliable approach.
“It was normal to look at what we did and why we did it that way, and to ask the question ‘is there a better option?’,” explained Jason Bridges, engineering buyer for Johnson Tiles.
That better option proved to be a CASE 621 EXR machine fitted with extended arms, a heavy-duty high-tip bucket, a hydraulic tow-hitch with CCTV and monitor and heavy duty mining tyres. “We took a bit of a risk, a calculated risk, in changing the way we work,” said Bridges. “But the new loader does the job and it does it well. It was absolutely the right decision.”
The current supplier of the new Case machine, Arnold Plant, based in Stockport, sealed the deal to provide the new machine after being the only company bold enough to offer an alternative to the telehandler arrangement.
“They were the only ones to suggest a loading shovel. No one else was prepared to suggest a change,” said Bridges.
Even after having had the imagination to propose a more effective tool, the acid test was being able to prove it could work in practice. A visit to a similar working environment to see a loading shovel in action and a direct, on-site comparison between the two machines did the job.
“The biggest thing for us was the promise of reliability. In a side-by-side comparison with the telehandler we could see the difference in the strain being placed on the two vehicles. On the telehandler we were forever breaking half-shafts. With the shovel you could load the bucket on tickover,” Bridges pointed out. This was all the more important with the company’s plans to increase production by a further 30% imminent.
Nevertheless, even such a reliable machine had to be supported with effective backup as part of the three year/10,000 hour lease arrangement.
“The loader works at the front end of the operation,” Bridges explained. As a result, the strategic importance of the shovel can not be underestimated. “If it breaks down we might have no more than two days grace to get it running again. Whatever machine was recommended, the supplier must be able to support it, that was essential,” he continued.
Fortunately, Arnold Plant’s combined experience of having already maintained Johnson Tiles’ existing machines and of having supplied loading shovels into a variety of equally pressurised production roles stood them in good stead. “We understood the machine and the potential pressures of the job it had to do, and we had the experience to be able to back it up,” explained Stuart Hunter, business development director at Arnold Plant.
The company also had the ability to modify the machine to meet the specific requirements of the job. “We knew what was required and we had good support from Case dealer Warwick Ward to make it meet the necessary specifications.”
On the left is Jason Bridges, engineering buyer for Johnson Tiles, on the right is Stuart Hunter, business development director for Arnold Plant
So far, the machine has been a resounding success. “When we had the telehandlers we’d have a breakdown at least once a week. So far with the CASE 621EXR there have been a few niggles but no major issues at all. It’s simply more fit for purpose,” Bridges concluded.