Trimble Earthworks equipped Bobcat T870 with grader attachment

More and more contractors are now seeing the production benefits and taking the step into equipping machinery with UTS systems. Whether this be guidance systems or going the whole hog and taking full machine control options, the market is quickly moving away from being just for large contracts with smaller companies seeing the benefits available from running such systems.

Monmouth based D and C Ground Tec are one such company who have invested heavily in a state-of-the-art system from UK based Trimble specialists, Sitech. The company undertake a variety of work from their South Wales base and regularly work across the whole of the UK providing their services to a select list of Blue-Chip clients.

The D and C in Ground Tec are brothers, David and Chris Morgan and along with their small but experienced team started operations around six years ago. Whilst having the groundworks capabilities within the fleet, the company tries to steer away from more ‘general’ operations instead concentrating on delivering ground engineering projects such as soil stabilisation, road construction and maintenance works.

The fleet of machinery operated by the company consists of a variety of Hitachi crawler excavators from 8 to 25 tonnes, small dozers and large horsepower tractors carrying soil stabilisation equipment, all of which are meticulously maintained and presented. The latest arrival on the varied fleet is a Bobcat T870 tracked skid steer loader equipped with Bobcat’s grader attachment. While this is quite a rare piece of equipment on the UK market, Worldwide users of skid steer loaders are quite used to seeing these bits of kit in action. What sets this particular unit apart from any on these shores is the fact it is linked to a Trimble machine control system which allows for fully automatic control of the grader when trimming up.

The standard grader attachment consists of a 2.7m wide blade mounted on a fully oscillating slew ring and mounted on a cranked frame. The front of the frame carries a set of wheels whilst the rear is attached to the T870 with Bobcat’s Bob-Tach quick coupler. The grader itself has been fitted with a pair of robust and well protected sensors from the Trimble kit. One on the blade frame to measure the height of the blade whilst a second is tucked away on the rear of the blade to measure its pitch. The receiver is mounted securely to the front of the grader frame well out of the way of any potential damage. Finally, the outer edges of the blade have been equipped with mounting plates to carry the extendible receiver masts. Whilst GPS dozers and excavators are all hard-wired systems, this particular set-up links the attachment to the in-cab monitor via a secure Bluetooth connection. 

Inside the cab of the Bobcat, Sitech have supplied and fitted a new 10 inch, TD510 touch screen which sits neatly on the right-hand side of the cab, just in David’s eye-line. Real-time information is fed from the SPS930 total station set up at the far side of the site straight to the mast mounted receiver and then via the Bluetooth connection onto the screen where David can select a fully automatic profile allowing the machine to work to extremely tight tolerances. “When we were setting it up, we tried it on the fine top surface material, and we were getting within 2mm of the level at a pretty high-speed pass.” David said. This accuracy is the main driver behind the substantial investment with Sitech according to Chris. He said, “If we are able to level any material quicker and with more accuracy, it ultimately saves us time and money.” He points out, “There is a significant investment in this kit both in the grader set-up, the total station and rover, but it all adds up to making us more cost-effective. We can now accurately do our surveying work before building up a model of the finished area and feeding it to the grader.”

Carl Parsons, Sitech UK’s Regional Sales Manager said, “This is a huge step forward for Chris and David’s business and it puts them at the forefront of machine control technology for their grader. D and C now have a complete system, allowing them the flexibility to survey, create and develop a site to millimetre precision, all in-house.”

We caught up with David and Chris on the outskirts of Usk where the company were in the throes of rebuilding a 60m x 40m ménage at a local college. Along with the grader equipped T870, the company also had a second T870 equipped with Spektra box blade, a Hitachi Zaxis 225SRLC and Hitachi Zaxis 85SRLC with Steelwrist working on the project. The first job for the team was to remove the timber fencing from around the ménage to give them better access for the vehicles required to remove and deliver fresh materials. Once this was done, the team set about removing the layer of grit and rubber crumb top surface tothe ménage. 

A combination of tracked skid steer and large Hitachi made light work of piling the material up before it was loaded away for reuse on another project. 

With the final top dressing piled up, the new UTS grader came into its own for laying down a fresh layer of 6f2 material. Tipped in piles from the incoming tippers, the material was quickly and roughly knocked out by Chris in the big Hitachi before David took over in the grader. In just a single pass, David had managed to collect and spread a substantial amount of stone. With the bulk of the material spread, a second pass trimmed everything up almost perfectly. “It’s not the ideal material to be getting a perfect finish on unfortunately.” Chris explained, “But we know that it is within tolerance for us to compact it.” When asked why the company use a skid steer loader to undertake the work, Chris explains that it is the versatility of the machine that benefits the type of projects they regularly undertake; “We can fit this combination into ménages for maintenance works and its size is ideal for getting into sheds and other tight spaces we regularly encounter. We do have a small dozer, but we find that this is the ideal tool for this work.” 

The T870 is the top model in Bobcat’s tracked loader range. Weighing in at a shade under 6 tonnes, the loader is powered by a Bobcat 4-cylinder diesel driving through a hydrostatic transmission. Infinitely variable piston pumps provide low down power fed through the two drive motors mounted high in the Torsion Suspension system ensuring David has plenty of pushing power available and allowing the grader to move a large amount of material on each pass. The high-power output (101hp) and high torque output of 380Nm is ideal for undertaking track rebuilding works the company regularly undertakes. Chris said,

“We have been impressed with the Bobcats as they just keep on pushing” and the rubber tracks seem to keep a constant grip with minimal slipping.” Another benefit of the rubber tracks comes when they are applying a finished material as there is little or no marks left after the tracks pass over compared to the steel tracks conventional dozers
ride on.

The productivity benefits have also come for the company in the addition of a pair of Steelwrist equipped excavators, a Takeuchi TB295W duck and the Hitachi Zaxis 85. “We took a punt on putting the Steelwrist on the Takeuchi!” Chris explains, “But we soon realised the versatility of that machine and have never looked back. We won’t go out and buy a machine without a Steelwrist now. The service and back-up we get from Pat and his team is second to none, something we find invaluable in our business.”

On paper, the Bobcat and grader is capable of completing the ménage in under a day but as reality is far from ideal, the lads say they will be done and dusted in just two weeks. This is already a reduction in time and as they get used to the practicalities of the system, even more time should be saved as they go on.

In conclusion, Chris says they are extremely pleased with their latest purchase and thankful for the help and assistance from Carl and Sitech in getting the whole system up and running so smoothly.