Mini Mechanisation

We’ve all used smaller machines to get things done, be it the sub 750kg chippers or a stump grinder. These two pieces of machinery save hours in time and labour. Although it seems like the vast majority of arboricultural contractors stop here. Maybe this is due to a lack of funds or the ideology of that’s all you need. Whatever the reason I hope to explain some pieces of machinery on the market today that you may or may not have seen.

For me personally the investment was an easy choice, not so easy financially but I based my decisions on how I could improve efficiency and reduce wear and tear on my staff and myself.

Firstly I took into consideration the damage arboricultural work does to your body. If your body cannot work it’s unlikely you can too. Also, you need to take into consideration how a working week depletes your energy levels and tires out your body and mind. So being self-employed this sat very high in ways to reduce this and how machines can actually increase safety and awareness on site.

I proceeded to list other factors that needed to be considered, such as man vs. machine time, reduction in work efficiency as the week progresses and running costs vs. man costs and of course the increased financial application across a few years.

After careful forethought, I decided that the best way to generate more available capital was to invest a lot of capital. I know this statement does not sound right and the next few sentences will sound like I am going back but it will make sense in the end.

We invested in a Greenmech 1928 chipper as most of our competitors run Timberwolf tw150 chipper. Even though this is an increase in reducing energy and workforce because if it’s a bigger chipper you’re going to drag bigger bits to it. It still saved us time by reducing the need to sned branches down but clearly this was hard graft. After a few months, it was clear that a machine to move the brash and timber would alleviate this. We finally settled on a Vermeer 650tx, a mini skid steer with a grapple bucket for moving timber or brash. I looked at the Boxers range and Avant’s but found this one the best fit for what I needed. Instantly our backs rejoiced as we knew that most sites we would be able to utilize this machine is 41 wide. Moving in an hour what two guys would manage in a whole day, placing brush right by the operator at their work level to reduce “stooping movements”. Again reducing wear and tear on the workforce, and not to mention increasing safety when loading timber onto the truck. Just think of the pieces of timber you lift by choice, I bet it’s over the recommended 20kg…. We took on a large site clearance on a narrow highway verge, larger machines couldn’t access the site and work safely the works involved felling mature trees and stacking timber in one area and chipping into another. Very quickly I learnt that this was taking far too long as the workforce was constantly waiting for timber to be cleared. Luckily a friend of mine was selling his fast tow forwarding trailer, you know the one that looks out of place behind a 4×4. Almost dismissed by myself because I felt the cranes 300kgs lift wasn’t that great, but for £2000 it was worth the gamble. And what a gamble! I was able to use it to load brash quickly, freeing the brash from the timber allowing the skid steer to focus on its main task and by slowing the rollers down on the 1928 feed it with the crane. This also allowed me to free a person up on-site to carry out other tasks.

Now don’t get me wrong my workforce are a lot happier although a machine breakdown can very quickly ruin the mood like a monkey puzzle removal in summer. It’s also very important to take a few weeks to ponder the investment over because it can mean a lot of debt for a few years. Also, it’s probably good to mention the running costs in fuel, repairs and insurance needs to be considered.

Lastly, I will just mention safety. Sometimes less is safer, no noise off machines means you can be heard. The reduced risk of having someone reverse near you or into something. For this reason on some (not all) sites, we use push to talk systems with clear and direct communications with everyone on the site. This pretty much eliminates the climber shouting for 5 minutes whilst the ground crew cuts and clears, people not paying attention and walking or driving into active work areas and alerts everyone when that pedestrian asks what are you doing with the wood?? One press and hold of a button and everyone is informed.

I feel that for me personally using micromechanics machines have improved my workforce longevity, increasing production and it has even lead to me winning a lot of restricted access works that the bigger companies cannot get their big machines to and would take smaller companies longer to complete.

Whether it be the right decision for you or one to investigate is up to you. What might look like a great, shiny and cool piece of equipment may be a white elephant for your business? But for your back’s sake id consider and investigate if you think it may help you and your workforce. Human bodies are complex and once broken can take a long time to repair.

Ian Flatters