JOB SATISFACTIONPublished 29/12, 2016 at 16:32
One minute there is a 5m high wall of reinforced concrete dominating the site, the next minute it has gone. After a moment or two of resistance, the structure starts melting away, like a slab of butter on a hot day.
“Proper kit, that is,” said Skillings Crushing Company managing director David Skillings. “The machine’s never been beaten by anything it’s tackled.”
The Volvo EC700C excavator and supported by a Volvo EC300E, are owned by SCC and are dismantling four clean water storage tanks near Doncaster, in the northeast of England. The foundations are also being drilled out as the site is prepared for housing.
The excavators, armed with quick-fit, hydraulic rotating pulverisers, look like two Tyrannosaurus Rex dinosaurs dissecting a carcass. While the 70t machine brings down the walls, the 30t machine crushes the concrete into smaller pieces and picks out and removes the mangled steel reinforcing bars. Later, the concrete will pass through one of the company’s crushers to be ground down into aggregate for reuse on site. Around 5,000m3 of concrete will be processed. Each year, the company, which specialises in demolition and remediation projects throughout the UK, deals with around 400,000m3 of material.
Skillings started the Burnley-based company with his wife Jan almost 20 years ago and now has 17 employees and a fleet of 20 machines.
“I was lucky,” said Skillings. “When I started out alone, the idea of building new homes on brownfield sites was just taking off. I was well connected to a contracting remediation company, so there was plenty of work from the start. My first Volvo arrived in 2005. It was a 45t excavator, an ex-demonstration model and at the right price. I had been buying cheaper, new machines until then, but prices had gone up so I thought why not buy the better equipment. I knew all about Volvos since I had always used their dump trucks and Åckerman excavators. When I eventually replaced that first Volvo, I sold it to a quarry and they’ve still got it.”
Things really changed for Skillings when he bought his first Volvo EC700 to tackle a big job in London. “It had done about 3,000h, and we also bought a hammer to tackle thick reinforced concrete slabs and foundations. It was a breakthrough,” said Skillings. “The job went really well and the machine never missed a beat. We then knew we had the firepower to sort anything out.”
He also recalls receiving some good advice. “I persuaded him to take out his first full service warranty. This type of work is very, very hard on machines, so breakdowns come with the territory. And if one machine breaks, it has a knock-on effect on the whole operation,” said Volvo northwest sales manager Bill Holcroft. “Previously, he had had problems with back-up for his non-Volvo machines, because his local dealers kept changing hands. With his warranty, though, he was dealing with the Volvo service network right across the country. We do everything for him now. He said it was the best advice he ever got.”
Indeed, things rarely get tougher than demolition work. Skillings now has seven, specially reinforced Volvo excavators of various sizes. Over the years, they have worked on a variety of projects, ranging from office blocks, factories and paper mills to power stations, nuclear bunkers and bombproof hangars at airbases.
Skillings tends to deflect credit for his company’s continued success. “I am blessed with good men,” said Skillings. “They all want to do well for the company; it’s all about doing a good, safe job. It’s about quality and job satisfaction. I listen to the guys. They have to be happy with the equipment. We have a very low staff turnover.”
Site manager Peter Lees has worked alongside Skillings for almost 30 years. “You can’t not like a Volvo,” said Lees. “They are so reliable and so user-friendly. This is proper work, so they will have problems, but the key is to fix them quickly. And Volvo fix them quickly.”
Operator Matt Wright is a relative newcomer with Skillings and highlights the super-smooth hydraulics and the responsive controls and the cab comfort. “I’m generally working on concrete but the cab dampers and the air-seat mean there are no aches and pains at the end of the day and if you don’t get tired you don’t make mistakes,” said Wright.
“I love them, they’re fantastic,” said the EC700C operator Ian Watkinson. ”They sit really well, whatever the terrain. They make you feel safe and a great tool to have in your arsenal. Turn on the key and the machines starts. If David replaces the Volvos with other machines, well, I’m gone.”