Tools of the trade

Chris Windle speaks to the companies offering tools and machinery for the fundamentals of a housebuilder’s work. Safety, strength and quick repairs are all essential

Whether you work in construction or not, the equipment that plays such a pivotal role in the industry is a big part of its charm. Diggers, drills and dumper trucks appeal to many people’s inner two-year-old, which is why the best way to entertain a toddler is to find a building site and watch from a safe distance. If developers opened temporary onsite cafes selling babycinos and crusts- off marmite sandwiches, they would make a killing.

But, aside from which digger looks the coolest, there is a lot to consider when choosing the best tool or machine for the job. Firstly developers need to decide whether to hire or buy equipment. Kevin Brannigan, marketing manager at Makita UK says: “It’s dependent on a number of factors. Ownership of tools can be expensive if they are seldom used so hiring allows you to accurately allow for, and cost, specific equipment into your budgets; there are no storage or maintenance overheads and hiring should ensure you always have the right tool for the job.”

In an industry that knows the value of completing tasks on time, “it’s important that the tools and equipment to hand are reliable, fit for purpose, robust and powerful enough to achieve the required output.

Tools hired in for special applications, such as electric scrapers, demolition hammers, rotary hammers, petrol disc cutters, nailers and staplers will make light work of the most arduous tasks where max energy and operator safety is key,” says Brannigan.

(Pictured) Disc cutters such as those from Makita will "make light work of the most arduous tasks," says Kevin Brannigan, Makita UK's marketing manager

And Makita, says Brannigan, is serious about safety. “We offer on-site training modules called Tool Talks which can be slanted towards specific types of machine and functions. These modules are also available on a branded USB so that site operators can watch a digital version and are available in many different languages to assist our European site workers.” The company also has a training facility at its Milton Keynes headquarters where it runs one and two day courses for experienced site workers right down to apprentices.

(Pictured) As the world’s number one telescopic handler brand, JCB says it has the widest machine range available to the construction industry

JCB designs all its equipment for the housebuilding industry with several factors in mind: reliability, safety, cost, comfort, emissions and security, says a spokesperson for the company. He adds: “As the world’s number one telescopic handler brand, we offer the widest machine range available to the construction industry, with lift capacities ranging from 1.6 to six tonnes and lift heights spanning four to 20 metres.

“The latest addition to the range is the brand new 540-180 HiViz model. The new Loadall offers a 5% improvement in lift height, 10% greater forward reach, 50% lower SAE serviceability rating, 50% service cost saving over 1,000 hours and 20% faster cycle times. Its launch brings the number of Loadall models in the JCB range to 30, with up to 82 variations tailored for specific industry demands.”

The company also offers a range of excavators from 0.8 to ten tonne machines, up to tracked excavators from 13 to 36 tonnes. “Recent introductions include four new models in the four and five-tonne weight class – available in conventional, reduced and zero tailswing configurations. Key features include: an 11% improvement in visibility, 9% boost to bucket tearout, 5% additional dump height, 2% more powerful bucket tearout force, improved cab instrumentation and an 18% increase in operator’s cab capacity on the 57C-1 model,” says the man from JCB.

He adds that the market in eight to ten tonne machines is growing with housing build rates since they are seen as an essential requirement on most sites. While its new JS131 excavator is proving popular with hire firms supplying to housebuilders. “It builds on the success of JCB’s popular JS130, but is powered by a rental-specific 55kW (74hp) version of JCB’s Ecomax diesel engine. This fuel-efficient power unit meets Tier 4 Final emissions standards without a diesel particulate filter (DPF) or any requirement for Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR) and a diesel exhaust fluid.”

(Pictured) Hilti provides a service that guarantees its equipment will be repaired, serviced and returned to a customer within three business days

JCB offers extensive customer support through its network of dealers and technicians. If equipment fails it is vital that housebuilders are able to have it back in working order quickly to avoid costly delays. With this in mind Hilti provides a service that guarantees its equipment will be repaired, serviced and returned to a customer within three business days.

Ashley Mann, product manager for Hilti Services, explains: “The issue of tool downtime and repairs is a major industry problem, the negative impact of having a tool out of action can have a detrimental effect on a project’s timescales and its financial viability. To address this issue we have invested heavily in our repair and transport infrastructure, to the point where we can confidently state three days or the repair is free.”

He adds: “During the repair process we proactively advise the customer on the status of the tool and if we miss the target we absorb the repair charge. This ultimately means our customers can run their businesses with clear financial forecasting and maximum tool availability, which means better planning and higher profits.”

Makita says it is "serious about safety". Pictured: The HM1810 Makita Breaker with AVT

Alongside maintaining existing tools, suppliers are continuously innovating to create equipment that improves the housebuilder process. Makita’s latest electric breaker, the HM 1812, “is the most powerful and safest in class and introduces a new vibration damping system that effectively separates the impact generation from the motor housing, once again cutting vibration ratings – 6.5 m/sec2 tested to EN60745 – and producing four hours and 42 minutes of usable worktime before reaching the exposure limit value. At the same time it has a great power to weight ratio and is capable of delivering 72.8 joules of impact energy,” says Brannigan.

Cordless tools
The use of cordless tools is also growing and Makita’s range boasts 110 products powered by its 18v lithium-ion battery. Alongside this its brushless motors are reducing maintenance – through the replacement of worn brushes – and cutting down the time operators are out of action. On the excavator side innovation is increasing safety. JCB’s hydraulic isolation, for example, ensures that machines cannot be operated by accident or until the operator is seated and ready for work. Its 2Go system prevents the use of the machine until a control sequence has been followed. In addition, load indication monitoring – previously exclusive to heavier machines – is now available on more compact excavators than ever before. In addition its 110W Hydradig wheeling tool carrier features JCB’s EcoMAX diesel engine that delivers 81kW of power and uses a urea-based diesel exhaust fluid additive to reduce harmful nitrogen oxides.

Housebuilders will no doubt be keen to put the latest technologies into practise. And they should start by using them to build that café.

Available and reliable
Machine and tool hire company Ardent Hire Solutions prides itself on the availability and reliability of its equipment, says head of marketing Anuj Patel. “We have over 5,000 assets at more than a dozen depots nationwide, and offer next day delivery on all orders placed by 1pm."

The reliability comes with maintaining a modern stock of assets. “The equipment in our industry is constantly being updated and refined, which is why Ardent has a rolling programme of replacements across our fleet. This means that our customers will always benefit from the very latest advances in efficiency, performance, safety and sustainability. Most of our fleet is under two years old, and a significant number of machines are much younger than that. In 2017 alone, we will be adding over 1,400 brand new machines to the fleet, including over 1,100 state-of-the-art telehandlers.”

Digital technology has also become an important part of Ardent's repertoire. “We incorporate the latest technology across our operations, including iPad based deliveries that update our systems instantly, so customers will always know which equipment is where. We can also fit state of the art telemetry trackers to equipment to enable customers to track usage and ensure that every machine is being used as efficiently and effectively as possible.”

Put a label on it
Staying safe on site is not just about using big machines correctly. The little things are important too, such as labelling electrics correctly, says Liesbet De Soomer, marketing manager at DYMO, a label maker supplier.

(Pictured) “For any electrical professional wiring a house, it is vital that they choose the right labelling machine to keep wiring safe, cost effective and manageable" – Liesbet De Soomer, marketing manager, DYMO

“For any electrical professional wiring a house, it is vital that they choose the right labelling machine to keep wiring safe, cost effective and manageable. Having the right labelling tool can make all the difference.

“Time-efficient products such as the DYMO XTL handheld labelling machine ensure all labels meet required health and safety standards at all times. By using the DYMO XTL, the built-in label applications and correct symbols, colours and label materials help electrical professionals save time when working on the infrastructure of a house by expediting the label-making process.”


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