The contractor using New Zealand’s first Komatsu iMC (intelligent Machine Control) excavator is finding its fully integrated system is delivering significant productivity, safety and cost-saving benefits – even when compared with existing “bolt-on” GPS- based excavator indicate systems.
Komatsu’s newly released PC210LCi-10 iMC excavator(pictured) was purchased by Dunedin- based Clarke Machine Hire – One of the country’s largest Komatsu owners with around 300 Komatsu machines in its fleet – in early April, and sent out to work on long-term hire with client BG Contracting.
BG Contracting is a civil contractor based in Canterbury, and has been in operation for about 30 years. It . The company’s total machine fleet based on its current work levels is around 34 machines.
According to Mike McNeil, BG Contracting’s Operations Manager, the new PC210LCi-10 – which he described as “absolutely great” – has been at work every day since it was delivered to the company.
“Paul Clarke gave us the heads up that this new excavator technology was in the country and was going to be on display at THE Expo at Mystery Creek Hamilton in March, so we flew up there to have a look.
“We were very impressed with what we saw, and told Paul we would definitely use it,” said McNeil.
“In the 12 weeks since we’ve had the iMC PC210LCi-10 on site, we’ve found it’s a really big step forward compared with conventional GPS-based excavator indicate systems.”
McNeil said the Komatsu iMC excavator was more productive, improved site safety, and meant substantial potential savings in materials costs.
“Because you can set up the machine so it won’t over-dig; as soon as it gets to the required level, it won’t dig any further.
“That means you are not wasting time and effort digging out material you don’t have to – and you don’t need to fill overdug sections with valuable aggregates or other fill material.
“Because we can set the depths we want to cut, you can never over-dig, which is great from a QA and business point of view,” said McNeil.
Improved site safety is another advantage BG Contracting has found with the iMC machine.
One difference the BG Contracting team has noticed compared with other 20 tonne machines is the increased stability due to its longer undercarriage and heavier counterweight.
“When you’re working at full reach with machine control, the bucket can tend to wobble a bit, so Komatsu have put on a longer undercarriage and bigger counterweight, which gives great stability. That’s something you really need with this machine, because it absolutely can’t move or you lose accuracy.”
BG Contracting took the opportunity to compare the iMC excavator with a similar-sized excavator fitted with a standard “bolt-on” GPS- based excavator indicate system.
The test involved two service trenches, both 2 m wide by 1.2 m deep, one on each side of a new section of road.
“On one side of the road, we had a 20 tonne machine fitted with a “bolt-on” indicate system, and the iMC excavator on the other side,” said McNeil.
“They both started at the same time, and we told them to go for it.
“The standard machine achieved 238 lineal metres in an eight-hour day, and the Komatsu iMC got to 352 m – so 124 m or 48% further.
“I think the difference was the iMC operator not having to constantly stop digging and use his bucket to check his depths to ensure he wasn’t over-digging.
“As well, the iMC trench was absolutely dead straight and level, while the other one had little ridges all the way along.”
McNeil and the BG Contracting team actually carried out a similar test when they first introduced a machine guidance excavator some years ago.
“Before we got our first GPS system on a 20 tonner, we were averaging 120 lineal metres a day using conventional manual techniques, and we doubled that with the GPS machine. Now with the iMC excavator, we are tripling that.
“We have our own survey team who are responsible for getting all our survey designs into the machine, but all technical issues are handled by Komatsu,” he said.
“And getting a system off the actual factory production line which is fully compatible with the machine is a no-brainer.
“The cost of the iMC machine is similar to that of a standard machine plus a bolt-on aftermarket GPS system – and in fact there are savings in setting it up and calibrating it.
“IMC is definitely the way of the future, we can see that,” said McNeil.