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Sirius about Kobelco

Sirius invest in fleet of wrapped grey Kobelco’s, we caught up with Stuart Kirk on site to find out more.

As one of the UK’s leading multi-discipline contractors, The Sirius Group are constantly monitoring their huge fleet of equipment in a bid to reduce maintenance costs, fuel consumption and increase residual values whilst still maintaining productivity, usability, and operator acceptance.

Industry stalwart Stuart Kirk has the task of managing the company’s fleet of modern equipment purchased to undertake a wide range of tasks from remediation to civils work. “We are constantly looking at what the market has to offer.” Stuart explains “As a group, we undertake a lot of work on our own contracts as well as supplying some kit out for hire and contract work should it be available. We need good, reliable machinery to undertake our work and keep our site teams on programme and we are not afraid to look outside the box if we feel the suitability is there.” This was borne out four years ago when Stuart and his senior management team took the decision to purchase a pair of K-Tec/Volvo A30G scraper combinations. The traditionalists within the plant industry scoffed at the purchase but Sirius were confident and subsequently proved right, that the combinations worked and more importantly were very efficient. Sirius have now increased the K-Tec scraper fleet to three.

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As part of their annual investment in new machinery, the most recent purchases for the group have come in a slightly the more conventional shape of six new Kobelco excavators. The company already run a large mixed fleet of excavators from premium brands, but a combination of events has led them to the door of Kobelco dealer Molson Equipment. “We don’t carry fitters on our payroll.” Stuart comments “We buy new, with a warranty and expect the dealers to stand on and fully support their products. At the end of the day, they are the experts in their products. As we are headquartered in Leeds with strategically placed offices across the country, we needed a supplier in our region to have the confidence in purchasing from them.” The deal was struck just as Molson opened their new depot in Darlington which will be their largest premises outside of their HQ in Avonmouth. “This is what we wanted to hear from Molson and it gave us the added confidence in taking machines from them.” Stuart commented.

The dealer’s location wasn’t the only deciding factor in the purchase as Stuart points out; “As a group we are constantly striving to reduce our fuel consumption and regularly monitor driver’s operating statistics rewarding them for keeping the machine clean, damage free and for good fuel consumption. From talking to other Kobelco operators, we had the feedback that they were very fuel-efficient machines with excellent build quality and reliability. The demonstration machine we had from Molson confirmed this and led us into discussions about adding a number of them into the fleet.”

With a deal struck for six machines ranging from a 24 tonne SK230SRLC-5E to a 38 tonne demolition spec SK350LC-10E, Stuart and his team set about ensuring the machines were delivered with the correct specification and attachments. “We wanted to do something a little different with these machines.” Stuart said “We have a prominent logo on our existing machines, but our design guru Richard ‘Greg’ Gregory suggested a full custom colour rebrand for the excavators. We looked at the cost and decided that it was an opportunity we couldn’t turn down. We spoke to the guys at Molson and they were happy to accommodate us.”

With the order placed along with an order to Miller for the couplers and MST for a range of buckets, Stuart and Greg did their best to keep the rebrand under wraps.

As the photographs show, the new colour scheme is far removed from Kobelco’s usual blue colour scheme and whilst noticeably different for the plant market, it is likely to get the Sirius name noticed wherever it goes.

Whilst the colour scheme is one thing, what are the machines like when it comes to working on site? We went along to see a couple of the machines at work undertaking remediation works for the company in Liverpool and Doncaster.

In the heart of Anfield lay the Docker’s Club, once a bustling centre for amateur football on Merseyside, the grounds had fallen into disrepair and was eventually sold off for much needed new housing in the area. Sirius were tasked with stripping the land and remediating the first two metres of ground after demolishing the old clubhouse and ripping up the former carpark. While a Komatsu/K-Tec combination stripped off the old turf and stockpiled it, the material arising from the demolition works was being handled by one of the new SK300LC-11E excavators.

The SK300 was working alongside a hired in SK210-10 processing materials. Site Manager Adrian Cargill commented: “We have a young lad who has just passed his excavator test on the SK210 and we are giving him the experience in both loading the screen and stockpiling the resulting materials. So far, he’s doing very well.” The SK300 was piloted by experienced operator Andy Noakes who had only been with the company a matter of months and was surprised but pleased when he was told he was getting a new Kobelco; “Apparently Sirius keep one man to a machine and when it’s your time for a renewal, you get it, so long as you can put it work properly.” Sitting between the screener and stockpile the SK300 was moving the material coming off the conveyor to a stockpile before moving onto the stockpile to haymake the material along. “It’s a great bit of kit.” Andy commented “It’s very smooth and very powerful and has to be one of the best machines I’ve been on.”

The second site over in Doncaster had another SK300 along with the larger SK350 excavator. The SK350LC-10E has been specified to undertake more of the company’s remediation works with dipper cylinder protection, additional hydraulic circuits, upper structure side impact protection and lower screen guarding. With the 36 tonne machine undertaking muck away loading, the 32t SK300 was employed on excavating and drain laying works. The SK300 was happy digging through the virgin ground and moving the large drag box through the excavation. The long reach of the standard excavator also enabled it to backfill behind the drag box before moving on to the next length of pipe.

Both the 30 and 35 tonne class machines are powered by a 6-cylinder direct injection diesel engine from Japanese manufacturer Hino. Stuart is keen to point out that the potential fuel economy from the Hino played a major part in their purchasing decision; “Fuel use is big issue for us and will be even bigger with the rise in fuel duty next April so any saving we can make lowers our costs. If we can save a few litres per day on one machine, multiply that by just the six Kobelcos and we are already looking at long term savings over their life on the fleet.”

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The Kobelco brand has been held in high regard for their build quality and longevity and this is another factor close to Stuart’s heart. “We run Volvo and Caterpillar excavators and the Kobelco build quality is on a par with these perceived market leaders. The drivers like them and so far, they are performing just as we expected. We can’t ask for more.

As we have touched on, the purchase price doesn’t dictate Sirius’ purchasing decisions as they look at the overall running and operating costs as well as the potential residual values. These purchasing decisions also filter through to the buckets and hitches. “Miller make what we believe to be the best hitch available.” Stuart comments “We’ve recently taken their standard and new GTX hitches and find them to be well made and very reliable. As for buckets, our latest MST buckets are excellent. Their build quality outshines everyone else and if they are looked after, will last at least twice as long as their competitors. What is surprising is that their build quality isn’t reflected in their price.”

It is still early days for the new green and grey arrivals, but early indications are that they won’t be the last Kobelcos to join the fleet.

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