Body text: Plantforce Rentals is a well-established leading plant hire company based in Weston super-Mare with now 4 strategically situated depots covering the Midlands and South Wales.
The company is currently getting to grips with the ever-changing world of the digital plant and machinery market with the company already blazing trails with innovative projects like the early adoption of hybrid Kobleco excavators with lithium-ion/diesel power and the highways specification wheeled excavators with trailers and Engcon tilt rotators GPS machine control and Prolec height and slew restriction.
These machines are now out on site offering customers massive savings at tier one projects like Hinkley Point C and HS2. there are plans to increase the specialist fleet to 20 plus machines over the coming months, adding to the already impressive stock numbers totalling over 1,200 machines all under a couple of years old and bursting with technology and safety features. And it does not stop there. As many plant hire companies and operators well know in this industry you need to keep up with the times and stay ahead of the competition and, more importantly, the customer’s ever-changing machine hire requirements. What was once just a machine on hire is now a complete hire package complete with a highly trained operators and technology ranging to everything from specialist attachments, 360 degree view cameras, telematics and height and slew restrictors to hi vis boxing rings as well as a host of safety features and other fancy items.
Construction is going through some very dramatic changes, affecting the whole industry including the major projects that are currently running and due to start like Hinkley Point C, HS2 and Thames Tideway. These projects are massive to say the least costing billions of pounds and helping the UK’s infrastructure grow. Technology is the key to realising these massive projects. With the move into the BIM (Building Information Modelling) world most major projects are becoming digitised from design to build.
One of the key ways this digitisation is affecting the workplace is through the adoption of GPS fitted machines as the norm. In most basic cases excavators are in indication mode and most dozers are in semi-automatic mode but some users are taking things a step further into full automation. This can provide a big cost reduction while speeding up the construction process. And the accuracy of these ‘digitised’ operators is now second to none. Another benefit is a much more efficient data transfer process, from design to model to site, just a single digital file is all it takes.
“Whether we like it or not the industry is going digital, to stay head of the game we need all need to do the same,” comments Plantforce’s Sam Mercer. Plantforce are at the forefront of this revolution and being a proactive plant hire company they have often had contractors requiring machines delivered to site fitted with specific GPS systems. This might sound simple but it can be a very demanding task involving hiring in additional equipment from other specialists and retro-fitting it to the machine. Then there’s the operator to take into account. Are they ready for the technology? What is their knowledge base? The whole process can be a headache to say the least.
To tackle this situation head on, Plantforce has a solution. “We are the first in the UK to offer a range of self drive or operated fleet machines fully fitted with the new semi-automated Trimble Earthworks systems,” says Sam. “The Trimble technology is fitted to Kobelco SK140 , SK210LC-10 excavators we can now boast a fleet of over 50 tech machines available for hire. Further tech-enabled machines will be arriving over the coming months.
“The Trimble partnership pushes us to the forefront of proactive plant hire,” adds Sam. “We are now able to offer customers a complete machine control package depending on their needs. Machine control advancements within the industry now require a different approach. First we have the machinery which comes with effectively two systems fitted. The first is the standard machine control indication only, a bit like a sat nav really. It tells the operators how deep and exactly where to dig. But with a touch of a toggle button the machine becomes semi automated with the boom and bucket being controlled by the Earthworks system. This technology is really for experienced operators who are working to very fine tolerances of grading. They can also now be even more efficient. We are not saying operators struggle with final trim but by its very nature it can be a very lengthy process of grading down in layers to within 10mm accuracy.
In automatic mode this process is twice as fast for the operator which means a good operator can cover twice the amount of ground in the same time making the machine and operator more efficient. Combine this with the fact that all our machines are less than two years old and are within the current legislation for fuel economy it is probably one of the most efficient packages a plant hire company can offer its customers.” Plantforce is also working on a simulation based training programme to train and profile all its full time operators to become efficient in all aspects of the new technology and multi brand machine control. “We see the future being a world with machine control and we need to be at the leading edge of this change in the industry,” concludes Sam.