A whole new town is emerging in Cambridgeshire and some of Lynch Plant Hire’s most sophisticated machinery is helping it take shape. Construction Plant News Editor, Lee Jones reports on the substantial John Sisk, Northstowe development.
It has been described as a super highway of science, and technology which, in the years ahead, could see as many as a million new homes. It is, therefore, fitting that one particular site along the Oxford to Cambridge Arc is playing host to some of the industry’s most advanced construction plant. John Sisk has been tasked with the groundworks for Phase Two of the Homes England-owned Northstowe development – which will ultimately deliver up to up 25,000 new properties – and Lynch Plant Hire is providing the tools to finish this much needed job.
Phase Two alone has a project value of £50 million and will alone supply over three and half thousand units, with John Sisk, providing the drainage and infrastructure, including a school, bridges, a water park and a 5km network of roads. Northstowe is an object lesson in just what can be achieved when a contractor and hirer collaborate and, as a result, highly skilled operators, Stage V powertrains, and the latest OEM innovations are all much in evidence.
“We have 23 operators on this site,” explains Lynch Operator Foreman, Nathan Humphrey, who is permanently based on the project, “as well as 12 self-drive units.” Recent times has seen this national plant hirer make some eye watering investments in new kit – over £60 million in the last two years alone, for instance – an outlay which this Cambridgeshire site can ably demonstrate. “Whilst undertaking the necessary demolition, remediation and groundworks, John Sisk has been leading the way in safety and emissions, and there’s some cutting-edge kit in operation as a consequence,” continues Nathan. “That includes CAT 308 CR, Stage V 8-tonne units, Komatsu’s PC210LCi-10 Intelligent 20 tonne excavators, a HB215 Hybrid Komatsu in the same weight class, and 12 tonne 912F Hydrema ADTs, as well as the latest Wacker Neuson DualView site dumper technology.”
Forward tipping dumpers have been courting controversy in construction with a variety of mitigations now employed by manufacturers, but Lynch’s Ben Holloway is full of praise for the Wacker Neuson solution. “We’ve really been taken aback by the level of demand for the DualView,” he enthuses, “and we’re acquiring them as quickly as they can be built at the moment. The seat can be safely repositioned in seconds, the visibility is significantly enhanced and, with a cab specifically designed for the unit – which includes heating and air con – the welfare for the operator is dramatically improved. We’re lead by our customer’s demands are there are sections of the market who are turning away from forward tipping dumpers completely. The DualView is one solution but we were also quick to see the potential of Hydrema machines for many of the same reasons, and now have an extensive fleet at our disposal.”
With an industry skills deficit impacting on the availability of drivers, Lynch has carved itself a position as a specialist in the provision of operated plant, with up to 70 per cent of its units now also supplied with an expert at the controls. “We’re actually setting up our own training school in the Birmingham area” adds Ben, “and also run an extensive apprentice programme. We’re already heavily involved in some of the UK’s largest infrastructure projects, with more in the pipeline, so we need to ensure that we have not just the machines our customers need but the people to utilise them to their greatest efficiency.”
Those drivers can now find a useful ally in the technology that Lynch is supplying them, with Komatsu’s Intelligent Machines providing what has been described as a step change in operation. The Japanese manufacturer’s guidance and control system prevents over-digging, reduces fuel consumption – and wear and tear – whilst equally improving safety by eliminating the need for surveyors to be working close to the machines.
Ben Holloway is also an advocate of the same manufacturer’s hybrid technology: “John Sisk is determined to tread with a lighter environmental footprint and we can supply the machines to allow them to achieve those ambitions. The Komatsu HB215 is designed to work at a very particular set of degrees, in terms of utilising the electric motor, and the work it is undertaking here – in loading Articulated Dump Trucks – is perfectly suited to those parameters. In fact, it can reduce the machine’s fuel usage by as much as 40 per cent and, given that the contractor here is also making use of a bio fuel, there’s a significant carbon reduction into the bargain. Not only that, but because the GPS is built in, there’s no need for external antennaes, which can be costly to replace if they are damaged.”
So how does it work? It effectively charges the motor whilst slewing, with an electric swing motor/generator capturing and regenerating energy as the upper structure slows down, converting it into electric energy. The captured energy is stored in the ultra-capacitor and used by the generator/motor to assist the engine when it needs to accelerate. Of course, it’s not just in hybrid technologies where hirers can promise reductions in fuel consumption because Lynch has also supplied a number of Bell 30E ADTs to Northstowe. It’s the relatively light steel frame, and what the makers describe as the lowest power to weight ratio in the sector, that makes this muck carrying workhorses not only considerably less thirsty on fuel but more nimble on particularly sticky terrain.
Lynch focuses its fleet renewal on units that will maintain high residual values, a fact which the Volvo, Hitachi, and Komatsu excavators supplied to John Sisk can testify. Whatever the make of machine, the contractor will be supplied with daily reports on utilisation, whilst the latest telematics enforces regime of preventative maintenance, directly reducing downtime. Lynch will also routinely specify higher spec machines in terms of safety with green beacons and either 270 or 360º cameras.
Our need for new homes is now well documented and, whilst more needs to be done, the industry has in recent years made significant strides in increasing the numbers. If government targets are to be achieved it will need the kind of advanced machinery that Lynch can supply its contractor customers, and the Northstowe development is a welcome showcase of the progress the plant industry has made.