Sicon Ltd, a leading infrastructure maintenance contractor operating in the greater Canterbury region, took delivery of two Komatsu GD655-5 graders in April 2016 its first Komatsu graders for frontline maintenance works.
Sicon has operated Komatsu equipment primarily excavators for a number of years, but this was its first move into Komatsu graders, a decision it made based on brand reputation, after sales service and backup, and value for money.And since taking delivery of the new graders, it has found Komatsu's KOMTRAX remote monitoring system offers a significant advantage in managing their operations and maintenance.
The two new graders, which replace machines of another brand, are now the frontline machines for Sicon's road maintenance contracts with Waimakariri and Hurunui District Councils.
According to Sicon CEO Dave Wilson, the company's two existing graders were due for replacement. In addition, while it's held maintenance contracts with Waimak for nearly 20 years, its contract with Hurunui had been in place less than a year.
"What with starting our contract with Hurunui, and our long term relationship with Waimak, we really wanted to put our best foot forward," said Dave.
"This was a very significant purchase for us, and it was critical to make sure the machines were reliable and they had good after-sales service, because often they would be operating a long way from service agents or technicians.
"These graders had to be able to do the basics well, and also run reliably for long periods of time," he said.
"Certainly Komatsu offered us the best value for money, but what was really important to us was their after-sales service and backup and they have a good reputation for that in this area.
"For us, it was very important that if any issues did arise they were quickly dealt with; so far that's worked out well for us, and we've been very happy with their responses to any issues we've had."
At the same time as taking delivery of the graders, Sicon purchased a PC228US-8 zero-swing excavator for general construction duties (and subsequently a third GD655-5 grader in November last year, after this article was written).
"For us, this was a much easier decision; the PC228 is a proven model that we knew would perform well, and we've had them in our operations for a number of years."
Dave said that, while Komatsu graders have not been widely sold in the South Island, it was the strength of the brand and Sicon's 20-year relationship with Komatsu that convinced the company to go with them.
"Komatsu graders are not necessarily as tried and tested in this region as other brands, and initially we were also concerned they were a little bit light to meet our needs.
"But since we commissioned them in April, we've found them to be performing extremely well," he said.
"We've been very happy with the power-to-weight ratios and torque both will be doing over 2000 hours a year, so they are fully utilised machines that need to be able to perform and be reliable.
"Our operators like them one of them was initially not so keen on the Komatsu but now they have both put in some hours on them, they are very happy with the graders and how they are performing."
All the roads being maintained by Sicon's graders are gravel, primarily on fairly flat terrain among mainly farmland, and frequently used by heavy trucks for the forestry and dairy industries.
Dave said a key element of the grader purchase decision was that the machines have steering wheels.
"We do a lot of grading on low-volume roads, and the graders are frequently working at fairly high speeds.
"As safety is the number one issue for us, we felt the ability to manoeuvre the grader with a steering wheel would be critical in the event of an issue with an oncoming vehicle."
Another important selling point in the GD655s' favour was their excellent visibility from the cab, to both the blade and front wheels, and also out the rear.
"That was something important to the guys operating them."
Dave and his operations team have been very impressed with how much value the KOMTRAX remote monitoring system has added to the machines and their day-to-day operational and maintenance management.
"KOMTRAX has been really good; our guys really like the ability to look at how things are going with them out in the field, and it's certainly helped with operational efficiency on the ground," he said.
"Our operations manager is also very happy to have this centrally managed by Komatsu as well, knowing they are watching out for any issues.
"Already, KOMTRAX monitoring has shown its potential for saving on downtime," Dave said.
"For example, we found that one machine was idling a lot longer than other machines, something that was happening just out of habit but it had a potential impact on warranty down the track as it was needlessly building engine hours, so we were able to manage that better.
"It also helps us keep track of grading kilometres per hour, which in the past was always a manual task but now it's very easy to see what speeds we are grading roads at, which allows us to give our clients a very accurate indication of our productivity.
"The other good thing about KOMTRAX is that it allows us to pre-plan our servicing and maintenance programming so much better; it's far more convenient and efficient for us," said Dave.
Established in 1994, Sicon Ltd carries out work throughout Canterbury holding major maintenance contracts with a number of district councils, and works with private clients in the region completing civil construction works.
At the heart of the company is its Mission Statement: "To build and preserve the foundations for communities to thrive". It has a high focus on staff engagement and ensuring clients need are met and exceeded. It understands the impact of the work they do in the community and how important good infrastructure is to people's everyday lives.
Its core business operations include:Road and bridge maintenance and constructionWater and wastewater maintenance and constructionParks and reserves maintenance and landscaping (including arboriculture work)Gravel extractionLandfill management and maintenanceSub-division developmentEarthworks and civil construction.
Further information: www.sicon.co.nz
About the KOMATSU GD655A-5 grader
The GD655A-5 grader is part of Komatsu's Dash 5 Vantage range, with key features includingthe best cab visibility of any grader on the market, increased engine power, and an upgraded version of its unique dual-mode transmission system.
Operating weight of the GD655-5 is 18.5 tonnes, with variable power ratings of up to 163 kW.
A hexangular ROPS cab incorporates a patented front Y-shape pillar and rear side pillar to give better visibility in all grader applications.
A cast circular saddle linkage provides an unobstructed view of the blade and front tyres, while a tapered engine hood provides good visibility to the rear of the machine, particularly the rear ripper.
It is powered by Komatsu's Tier 3-compliant SAA6D107E-1 the same engine which is used in a number of other Komatsu machines, including WA250PZ-6 to WA380-6 loaders, PC200-8 to PC270-8 excavators and the D51EX-21 dozer.
As with previous generations of Komatsu graders, the Dash 5 Vantage series incorporates a dual transmission system, designed to give operators the choice of direct drive (manual) transmission, as used on conventional graders, or torque converter transmission for improved control at low speeds and in final finishing.
A powershift transmission has been designed and built specifically for Komatsu graders, providing on-the-go, full power shifting as well as inching capability and automatic shifting in higher ranges.
When power for tough grading or low-speed fine control is required, the operator can select the Torque Converter auto (T/C Auto) mode for significantly more tractive effort and control, as well as a new anti-stall function.
Further information: www.komatsu.co.nz