First CAT 395 in the UK

The largest excavator in Caterpillar’s Next Gen range, the 395, has recently landed on UK shores with Barnsley based quarrying and landfill operator Catplant becoming the lucky recipient.

With an operating weight of 104 tonnes, the 395 is the latest in a long line of large Caterpillar excavators used at the quarry over the last quarter of a century. 

The history of Catplant goes back a lot further than their Hazel Lane quarry and landfill development. Formed by the late Syd Boulton in 1980, the company specialised in the supply of earthmoving equipment to what was the National Coal Board across the Yorkshire region when coal was king. The company was so busy with the NCB that at one point they had machines on every colliery across the region. With the privatisation of the Coal Board and the demise of the use of coal, Syd and son-in-law Ronnie Harrod (now Catplant’s MD) saw the opportunity to purchase the Hazel Lane quarry and develop it from its very humble beginnings to where it now stands, delivering up to 125,000 tonnes per year of yellow limestone products whilst also undertaking a substantial active non-hazardous landfill operation along with a waste to energy operation. The company also operates a recycling operation for inert material at the site.

Over the past decades of running the quarrying operation, the company has operated a wide range of Cat excavators as the prime development and material winning tools. From the 345, 375, 385, 390 and now the 395, Catplant’s long association with the brand goes back to the time when the UK carried two dealers for the manufacturer in Bowmaker and Leverton. Almost the entire fleet of equipment is sourced from Finning UK. “Finning sell everything we need for our business on both the quarry side and the landfill.” Ronnie comments “If there is an issue with anything, we have just a single call to make to get it sorted. The Caterpillar product has served us well over the years and continues to do so, and despite the odd issue, they remain the mainstay of our operations.”

The shift from smaller excavators to larger prime movers has also signalled a change in the way the company operates the quarry. With the smaller machines came a static crushing and screening plant to which the material was ferried using a fleet of Cat 988 wheeled loaders. As extraction work progressed and excavators gradually got bigger and bigger, Ronnie took the decision to remove the static production plant in favour of installing mobile crushing and screening equipment. This meant that the quarried material could be processed immediately and from wherever in the quarry the company decided. 

The introduction of mobile crushing and screening equipment also allowed the company to reduce the number of excavators required to win the material. At one point three 375ME excavators were used before being traded in against a single 390. This move proved very successful, and the company has stuck with this method of operation ever since. 

As the previous 390 excavator neared 5 years of age Ronnie placed an order for the new 395. With the Covid pandemic and worldwide delays in supplying equipment, the new excavator was delivered in August and was put straight to work digging out the traditional yellow limestone found in this area.

As the company doesn’t blast, the 395 has to be capable of digging the material straight from the face. “We aim to produce around 1500 tonnes per day.” Ronnie explains “We don’t run any of the machines flat out. We have a target and stick to it. The kit we have is well on top of the job.” The 395’s main purpose is winning material from the face. It then pushes the rock to a new Cat 320GC excavator which in turn loads the Terex Finlay crushing and screening train. “We don’t need a huge excavator loading the train.” Ronnie comments “The jaw on the J1170 is only 1100mm x 700mm and therefore that’s the maximum size of material we want to be putting through it. Anything larger is either used for dimensional stone or broken up at the end of the week before being processed.” Working across the bench, David Lanaghan at the controls of the 395 removes just a thin layer of material on every pass of the 5.6m3 bucket. “It’s a great machine and a huge step up from the old 390.” David comments “The cab is a much smarter place, and the machine seems to be more powerful too. It seems easier to dig out the material with this machine compared to the one I had before.” This method of extracting the stone ready for processing means the 320 gets a constant feed from the 395 and only has to handle material that can be fed into the crusher.

The Cat 395, as we have mentioned, is the largest of the American giant’s Next Gen range of excavators. Tipping the scales at nearly 100 tonnes, the excavator sits on a pair of 6.35m long tracks giving it a nice stable platform. The upper structure, now predominately yellow and adorned with the latest Cat trade dress houses the huge 18 litre C18 engine which pushes out 543 of Caterpillar’s finest horses. The large cooling pack and hydraulic pumps are situated in large, easily accessed compartments to either side of the engine. Such is the size of the upper structure, there is no need for an additional boxing ring to be fitted as wide walkways through the body provides easy and safe access to the components. 

Caterpillar has optimised the 395 to not only be a productive but efficient excavator. Whilst the outward design changes are obvious, under the skin has seen the company increase a whole host of points on the machine’s chassis to relieve stress points and increase both the longevity and productivity of the excavator. Cylinder rods are upgraded for enhanced strength and have additional wear rings to reduce oil leaks. The car body has increased baffle plate thickness for longer service life. Track links have been increased in thickness with larger bolt joints for better bolt retention and the track rollers have a larger shaft diameter to prevent bending and oil leaks and increase the 395’s loading capacity, which means more reliable production.

The tall climb into the cab is via a set of sturdy steps on the track frame aided by well-placed grab handles. Once sat in the premium heated and cooled seat, the operator is graced with a revised operating environment. Features include an upgraded touchscreen monitor allowing simple and intuitive access to a variety of machine health menus, attachment setting menus and also features shortcut keys for the more often used heating, air conditioning and radio features. A new smart mode feature on the excavator automatically adjusts engine and hydraulic power to optimise the machine’s fuel economy with the excavator using less power when the operator slews and increases again when the attachment is digging. The operator is also able to store their own preferred power modes within the touchscreen monitor. Whilst not in use on Catplant’s machine, the Next Gen Cat excavators are fitted as standard with 2D E-Fence technology allowing the operator to set slew, height and dig limits.

Watching the new arrival at work, it is easy to see why Ronnie has opted for such a large machine. Digging direct from the bench, the 395 makes the task of removing the material look very easy. There’s no stressing or straining of the machine, even with the odd stubborn lump of stone with David quickly and safely moving material to within the reach of the 320GC excavator and the material processing train. 

Whilst it is still early days for the new arrival, both Ronnie and David are very pleased with the excavator and its early productivity gains compared to the previous 390F model.

Whilst the star of the Catplant operation is the new 395 excavator, the rest of the Cat fleet plays a major role in the company’s success from loading crushers and screeners with 320GC excavators, a slew of wheeled loaders and a large D9T dozer for development work. The landfill side of the business is also solely Cat, and we will be looking at this part of the company at a later date.