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A KEANE EYE: Size matters

However, I was hoping to find something that could be relevant to the times ahead.Perhaps the most relevant theme I found was matching the size of machine to the application. Over the years I have written a couple of articles on compact graders – the first when there were none available on the new grader market in Australia. Now there are three – the NorAm reincarnation of the old Fiat-Allis M65, the Champion and the Compact Grader (which fits below the other two in size).Having three suppliers does not mean that it is a huge market, but it is one that does exist, and it exists because the volume-produced graders are too big for car park, driveway and some subdivision work. If a less costly machine with lower operating costs will do the job, it makes sense to use it.I keep regular contact with Angelo Bergamin of the Compact Grader Company in Adelaide, to see how the market is developing. Recently he sent me a copy of an article that appeared in a US magazine, which followed a similar theme about the use of compact graders so at least I know that if I am going down the wrong track, I am not alone!More recently I looked at a compactor built by Bathurst Equipment, to fit below the smallest production Caterpillar unit, and above vibrating pad drum rollers. The Bathurst Equipment SC805 exists because there is a gap in the market for a machine of that size, which has the operating speed of a larger compactor but can get into places where the larger machine cannot comfortably operate. It also has lower operating costs as it can run a smaller engine.If truth be known, the number of compact graders and compact compactors being bought does not approach the potential size of the market but when times get tight, the lower capital and operating costs come in handy when it is hard to move rates upwards, and there is even pressure to reduce them. The scale of land developments that do go ahead is likely to decrease, and both types of machine have application on subdivisions.Perhaps thinking about what is bought for a fleet needs to change. If 70% of work undertaken can be done by a smaller machine, is it more economical to buy the smaller machine and hire in a larger machine as required than to size the purchase according to the biggest job that is likely to come up – particularly if the bigger machine is too big to comfortably do some of the smaller jobs?Another subject covered more than once in the last year is non-wheeled alternatives to moving bulk materials. The Rock Slinger is a high-speed conveyor able to accurately throw loose materials a considerable distance, and comes in truck-mounted and self-propelled forms. It does not suit all applications, but it is a rocket in the right application and keeping the material up to it is probably the biggest challenge. It can certainly place material in places where it is unsafe for wheeled machines to operate (such as on slopes) or where a wheeled machine can cause damage, such as on geofabric.Another story covered a business called Mobile Conveying Services, which is built entirely around the use of mobile conveyors. Not all applications are in construction, and it has probably been easier to place machines with those who have experience with fixed conveyors than with people used to wheel loaders and the like.Rather than basing a business around a single machine, owner Graham Cooney is building a fleet with different machines suiting different applications but, more importantly, he is addressing the ability of those machines to integrate with each other where the scale of project demands it. Using mobile conveyors to combine the speed, efficiency and low ground impact of fixed conveyors with the flexibility of mobile equipment offers a lot to the market, if it is willing to open its mind to accept non-conventional alternatives. A climate of seeking efficiencies in a tough market just might help change the thinking.

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