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Geddes Group MD on Cat 320EL Grade Control

Tuesday, November 03 rd, 2015

Frank Geddes talks about the Cat 320EL

As one of the first businesses in the UK to purchase the new Cat 320E excavator, with factory fitted Grade Control, specialist Scottish contractor, Geddes Group has been testing the waters with the new system, using it to tackle a range of jobs, including irrigation works.

Here Frank Geddes, Managing Director of the Geddes Group talks about the business, its decision to purchase the machine and how it has been utilising the Grade Control system:

“The recession hit the plant sector hard in Scotland, particularly around the central and eastern regions where we operate. But because of our diverse range of operations and staff, we were able to come out the other side to take advantage of the upturn.

“But just like many of our competitors, we recognise how tough the market has become and how we need to continue to change and challenge the way we do things. To make the margins we need to be a profitable business, we have to focus on improving efficiency, reducing labour costs and being more productive.

“Most of our fleet is Caterpillar and we have operated 20 tonne excavators for a long time. So when it came to looking at our fleet renewal, the 320E was a natural choice.

“In the past we have looked at GPS control systems for other plant, like dozers, but never really been able to justify the extra investment for retrofitted systems on our excavator fleet.”

Operator, Jim Ogilvey comments: ““Having operated Cat machines for 18 years with the Geddes Group, I have seen how equipment has advanced and become more efficient. With the Grade Control system now available as an option on the 320E, it is a total change for me, as I am now able to do the job with much less staking out and checking.

“This makes it much safer onsite and I have an in-cab display that tells me all of the information I need to know.

“For example for cut and fill, I have a 2D image showing me exactly where the bucket tip is. It does take a bit of getting used to, but it’s not over complicated and with the new controls on the 320E, the machine itself is simpler to operate anyway. Having the capabilities to simply turn the system on or off in the cab also means I can choose when I want to use it.”

3D Upgrade

Upgrading to the 3D grade control system is simple and offers greater functionality, as Finning excavator product specialist, Richard Carless explains: “Practically, going 3D requires minimal changes to the machine, as the components needed are plug and play, so they can be retrofitted onsite in a few hours.

“Once installed, the additional benefits of 3D really relate to how an operator can tackle tricky and precise jobs, like complex cut and contouring work, without the need for staking and checking.

“For example, through the in-cab display, the operator will see a digital design plan, complete with 3D bucket tip positioning and elevation guidance. This information shows the operator exactly where to work and how much to cut or fill. It also records the information as proof a job has been completed.

“Interestingly for businesses like Geddes Group, who often work in remote sites with limited signals, the 3D system also comes with a satellite control option or a site specific system, designed to support areas with limited reception.”

“What appealed to us about the 2D factory fitted option was that it came integrated into the machine, so we had no retrofitting or expensive equipment to remove. We also have the choice of using it or simply leaving it off.

“It also meant we could invest time in getting to know its capabilities, testing it out on various grading type applications. For example, we often have to grade large areas for receiving concrete and we also do a lot of irrigation and dam work, requiring excavation precision.

“What you have to remember about this technology is you have to feed the information into the machine, so it also requires site management training in addition to operator familiarisation. But again, having the system already there we have found the process quite simple to get to grips with. There are definitely efficiency benefits in using the system.

“You have a much better idea of job site completion, require fewer people to supervise the site work, thus having a safer site and ultimately you can be far more productive. “I can definitely see us using the system more and more and can now easily see the advantages of grade control technology, so much so that I don’t think it will take us long before we upgrade to the 3D option.”