Exciting new machine on the block

December 14, 2013

The VOLVO EC55B is the ideal carrier for seedling planting and pitting operations ...

Sign of the times ... Volvo compact excavator with Multipit head attachment pitting a compartment in preparation for re-planting.

The Western Cape-based Multipit, manufacturer of state-of-the-art pitting and planting equipment for forestry plantations, has just ordered four Volvo EC55B Pro compact excavators from Babcock, adding to the seven units the company has already purchased since December 2012.

Following exhaustive research into suitable carriers for its pitting attachment, Multipit found the perfect match with the Volvo EC55B compact excavator from Babcock.

"This is an extremely fuel-efficient, stable, reliable and comfortable machine, with excellent energy conversion from fuel to pit, making it an environ- mentally friendly addition to our fleet," says Multipit's Helgaard Steenkamp.

"The EC55B's work rate is exceptional, particularly since we need to satisfy two clients at the same time — the timber grower and the forestry contractor. The grower's requirement is the quality and consistency of the pits, while the contractor wants economical production. We've effectively met these requirements by fitting a professional pitting head to this perfectly matched carrier.

"The establishment of plantations is the root of forestry investment and now with the EC55B, this is being achieved better than ever before, with pits totally suitable for semi-mechanical planting. All this gives us a significant competitive advantage," said Helgaard.

Multipit's attachment to the EC55B is interchangeable with the machine's standard bucket by simply removing two pins and unplugging the hydraulics and electronics. The carrier is fitted with a head that incorporates a standard PLC unit programmed with protected software. These electronics, which provide for three 24-hour shifts, control both quality and production by only registering a pit once its required dimensions have been achieved. Quantity is recorded as completed pits for the shift.

The electronics include a GPS system for recording the location of each pit. On completion of a compartment, this information can be used to create a 3D map that can be used for harvesting and other general planning.

Daily information is automatically sent to selected email addresses and, on a pre-set monthly date, a production log for the past month is also emailed to these recipients.

"The physical operation of the EC55Bs is quite simple and our operators find it easy to achieve the correct spacing," commented Helgaard. "In most cases, inter-stump pitting is carried out so spacing is no challenge at all.
"Compartment planning is important and the manager or forester must be able to identify travel direction and the starting position in each given compartment. Planning must therefore be done to avoid inefficiencies. The EC55B is able to undertake four pits from any stationary position, so travel time is restricted and more production time afforded. The operator simply slews to each position, pushes the 3000Nm rotation head into the soil, while triggering it from an ergonomically located joystick."

Competitive advantages
Babcock's Henk Niemand adds that for Multipit, the competitive advantages of the EC55B include its 380mm ground clearance and the reach of four pits, instead of the conventional three from a stationary position.

"This translates into 25% less travel and therefore increased productivity," Henk says. "Multipit holds international patent rights on the head that has proven to be extremely rigid and strong, creating perfect pits with tines suitable for any soil type. These tines use standard interchangeable agriculture tips or tungsten tips with a proven life expectancy of 350 hours per set.

"The EC55B is a fuel-efficient and very reliable machine and, with the unique Multipit head, it's proving to be a winner for both our companies. Our excellent relationship with Multipit was recently extended to our mutual clients in the form of special rates for maintenance conducted by Babcock's extensive dealer network," said Henk.

Productivity, efficiency and cost-effectiveness
The Volvo EC55B Pro compact excavator has been designed with productivity, efficiency and cost- effectiveness in mind. Operator comfort and safety are also key design factors. The EC55B Pro has a large, roomy cab and a wide and uncluttered flat floor. The seat is fully adjustable to suit individual operator preferences and the joystick controls are mounted close to the armrests for convenience, with power-assistance for smooth, precise movements. Ergonomic forward and reverse travel pedals allow operators to reposition the machine while controlling the equipment with the joysticks. In addition, the instrument panel can be angled for at-a-glance monitoring.

The windscreen features a gas strut, making it easy to open and prop in place, while tinted windows and standard air conditioning with five vents comfortably cool the cab. Noise-reducing seals and insulation dramatically reduce noise levels in and out of the cab.

The EC55B Pro features a proven 16-valve, 37kW Volvo engine for power, performance and low fuel consumption. A Total Power Control Hydraulic System provides total independence of movement for smooth, productive work cycles.

The EC55B Pro features a larger size lift cylinder and increased hydraulic system pressure for greater lifting capacity and increased productivity. The high quality hydraulic system stands up to severe, long cycle testing with reliability for the daily assault work. At the same time, increased hydraulic pressure in the auxiliary line adds greater attachment performance, faster cycle times and better operating economy.

Maintenance is simplified through a wide rear cover that opens up to allow total access to all critical checkpoints, and for oil changes.

The centre of the undercarriage is X-shaped for better load distribution and sturdier operation in extreme conditions, and its extended length delivers stability, performance and comfort.

The blade cylinder and the connections are well protected and the anti-vibration tracks provide smooth travel even at higher speeds. The counter-weight is rounded and wraps around the sides to protect the engine cover, which is set back from the counterweight for additional protection.

The wide door and retractable console offer safe, easy access to the operator station. The machine won't start unless the console and safety lever are in position, and the controls lock out whenever either is raised, to help prevent accidental movement. As an additional safety measure, the instrument panel has a monitoring system that shuts off the engine in the event of a major problem.

Babcock has a significant dealer footprint, with branches throughout South Africa and in Zambia. Independent dealerships can be found in Botswana, Mozambique, Namibia, Swaziland and South Africa. The company is a key supplier to leading players in the energy, mining, quarrying, forestry, material handling, road building, transport and construction industries in southern Africa. Babcock is also a principal service provider to southern African governments and parastatal entities.

The Volvo excavator has excellent lighting for working at night.
The excavator's reach means it can make four pits from a stationary position, thus restricting travel time.
Minimal disturbance of the topsoil during pitting operations.

Published in October 2013

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