When Firth Certified Concrete looked to start replacing its fleet of frontline wheel loaders at batching plants across the country, it couldn’t go past Caterpillar to ensure reliability and improve performance going forward.

Firth Certified Concrete has introduced fifteen new Cat® Wheel Loaders as frontline additions to a selection of its 80-plus sites across New Zealand. These machines are hard at work at Firth concrete batching plants from Matakana to Invercargill performing duties such as stockpiling, loading trucks and feeding the plants.

The Head of Masonry, Dricon and Asset Management at Firth, Francis Leslie, says that there is at least one wheel loader at each of its sites and each one is integral to production, so machine reliability in their fleet is crucial.

“The wheel loaders are key to the manufacturing process of concrete, masonry blocks and Dricon products; if they breakdown, so does the production line at the batching plant,” Mr Leslie says.

“[Firth] has had ongoing reliability issues for many years with its wheel loader fleet so management decided to take a step back and re-assess where they would come from,” he says.

“That’s when the decision was made to go with Gough’s for the new wheel loader acquisition. The Cat brand offered not only increased reliability with its product, but better fuel efficiency and safety features too.

The Cat 930K featured on the cover is one of the models forming the group of new machines acquired through purchasing and lease agreements with Gough Cat and Custom Fleet which also includes 924K and 950M units.

The fifteen new machines were staggered into the fleet over seven months earlier this year, the first arriving back in February.

“[Firth] is initiating a strategic replacement programme of its frontline machines and the new Cat wheel loaders are the start of that,” Leslie says.

Fuel efficiency was a key reason in their selection, but also operator comfort, safety and the new fast-loading Performance Series buckets were also high on the list.

“The new style buckets on these wheel loaders improve the productivity of our batching plants; because they hold the material better, and more of it. As a result, the cycle time for a loader to fill a hopper is reduced by one or two trips.”

“The faster loading in turn reduces fuel consumption and optimises performance, all of which is good for our bottom line.”

Cat Performance Series Buckets deliver up to ten percent higher fill factors and better material retention for significant productivity and fuel efficiency improvements. The buckets feature a longer floor to take a bigger bite of the pile, an open throat to heap higher and curved side bars to help with material retention. This optimised shape is echoed across the general purpose, light material and high dump bucket product families.

In small Cat wheel loaders, owners experience hybrid-like fuel efficiency with an intelligent hydrostatic power train and industry-leading fuel savings of up to 25 percent on previous series models in standard power mode.

Caterpillar’s new intelligent power management system has been further enhanced to monitor operator input and power availability to keep the machine working at peak efficiency and provide the operator with greater customisation to suit their application. A choice of power modes allows operators to choose between maximum fuel efficiency or boosted power along with hydraulic speed. For the tougher and more demanding applications, performance mode will boost the power and hydraulic speed.

A Working Relationship

Historically, the relationship between Firth and Gough’s is extensive.

“Firth’s long term relationship with other brands under the Gough’s umbrella provided a proven track record for their overall level of customer support.”

Previous deals between the two include concrete batching plants and numerous concrete mixer trucks acquired through Gough Engineering, now Gough Industrial Solutions. It is no surprise then that business has extended to the Cat brand, but it was never an assumption that was made by either party.

“We did our due diligence when researching the best options for these new loaders, and it came down to Gough’s and one other supplier,” Leslie says.

“The clincher may well have been that Gough’s stood out as a supplier who were proactive in presenting us with a solution to our reliability issues.”

The quotation, order and delivery of the wheel loaders was facilitated by Gough’s Major Accounts Manager, Poovan Naidoo, and his approach to providing Firth with the best solution started by completing a full site assessment.

“To best deliver what [Firth] needed, we first considered what wheel loader options were available from Caterpillar in the time frame, did a full assessment of the worksite and what machines would be best suited to the application, then presented our recommendations,” Mr Naidoo says.

“When each of the machines were delivered, we ensured that the operators and key personnel were familiarised with it and its features, and how to maximise the technology for the application.”

Mr Leslie says that Firth recognises the importance of its suppliers having a robust service and support offering.

“You want to deal with [someone] who will be there for you when things go wrong. And Gough’s can do that in spades,” he says.

With seventeen branch and service depot locations across New Zealand, Gough Cat has the most extensive service network in the industry to allow ease of access to workshop facilities and field service personnel for all customers. Plus, the new Customer Support Centre in Christchurch alleviates some of the burden of phone calls from the branch network and ensures enquiries are answered and resolved more quickly than has been possible before.