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A day in the country - with John Rowbotham

The rural communities around Mid-Wales rely on the agricultural, forestry and leisure industries as their lifeblood. The rural location is a double-edged sword for many, with services being few and far between for many disciplines. Whilst this is beneficial for those undertaking work in the area, the time for individuals to get around to undertaking the work can be lengthy. Building long-term relationships with customers is the key to a healthy business and is how one such contractor has built a very enviable reputation in delivering a cost effective and quality product.

John Rowbotham has dug himself a reputation in the area for undertaking a wide variety of land management works over the last decade. Working a small radius from his base, John has a long list of repeat customers who constantly require his expertise. This excellent and varied customer base means that John very rarely has to go out to look for work he has a waiting list of customers wanting to use his services.

John’s strive to provide his customers with a quality and professional project has led him to refine the services he offers and incorporate a number of different skills to enable him to offer his clients a one-stop-shop approach when it comes to land management and maintenance. “Before I ventured out with the tiltrotator concept, all I undertook was basically bucket work.” John explained “The arrival of the tilt-rotator opened up so many options to me and has given me so many options to offer my clients.”

John has been a long-term user of Engcon tiltrotators and the latest all singing, all dancing version complete with EC-Oil is attached to the newest excavator, the all new Hitachi ZX85US excavator complete with an alternative two-piece boom from Kocurek.

The standard Hitachi 2-piece boom set up comprises of boom foot and mid-boom joined by a pair of hydraulic cylinders. This set-up is fine when the boom pivot point is almost 300mm in front of the rest of the upper structure and allows a potential ground level reach of almost 8m with the 2m dipper stick.

John wanted to do away with the kingpost and have a more traditional excavator set-up leaving the boom centralised above the slew ring. “It makes the excavator far better balanced” John admits. The design favoured by Kocurek and John sees the original boom cut just on the apex of its curve with a new, fabricated pivot point being fixed into position. From this point the intermediate boom is attached and, in similar fashion to some of the excavator designs from the 70’s and 80’s, the boom position is controlled by a single cylinder affixed to the rear of the boom foot. Whilst the now traditional style of a single or pair of cylinders pushing the intermediate boom from below offers a far greater hoist strength, the design favoured by Kocurek gives exactly the same working range with only a slight decrease in hoist capacity. The Hitachi was then furnished with its original 2.12m dipper and Engcon EC214 tiltrotator complete with EC-Oil system.

The largest part of the project, again for one of John’s regular clients, involved the installation of land drainage on a large field. Johns task was made harder by the fact that the field had been drained previously but the contractor had skimped on the quality of the installation and the field remained prone to flooding and was wet almost all year around rendering in almost unusable. Using a standard ditching bucket underneath his Engcon, John was able to form a series of channels across the width of the field. The extremely wet field showed off the Hitachi’s abilities with the 850mm wide tracks carrying the excavator’s weight easily with very little disturbance to the topsoil. John has had the track pads offset to allow the wider pad to be fitted without the requirement of undertaking expensive work to alter the slew turret of the excavator. Digging down to the required depth, John was encountering the previous contractor’s attempt at drainage with the plastic single-wall pipe appearing at regular intervals. Using the integral gripper mounted to the EC214, John was deftly removing the pipe and placing it to the side.

Finishing off the final drainage channel, John moved across to an adjacent field to undertake a final spot of tree clearance. Removing tree stumps can be a pain at the best of times but with John’s experience and the use of a range of attachments saw the large stump removed from the ground, soils knocked off the root ball and split into manageable pieces ready for burning within an hour. Using his Scandinavian style bucket and with very little tracking around the stump required, John was able to remove the lump from the ground very quickly. Using a combination of bucket and integrated gripper to dig and shake the soil from the root, the timber was quickly exposed. Dropping the bucket off and attaching the Exac1 S2 conical splitter was undertaken in seconds. Thanks to the EC-Oil, the hydraulic connections for the splitter were attached without John having to leave the seat and this meant the changeover was seamless. With a weight of 161kg and a cone size of 245mm, the splitter makes easy work of carving the tree stump into bits. Thanks to being mounted on the tiltrotator, John is able to attack the stump from any angle without having to reposition either the stump or the excavator. Whereas trying to burn a full stump may take days to complete, the pieces left from less than an hour’s work from John will see the material burnt in a matter of hours.

The final task for John was to complete the pruning and removal of a number of unwanted and spindly trees situated along the fence line between fields. Again, a quick change of attachments saw the tree shear attached and into action. The addition of the shear has eliminated the need for men to work at height with chainsaws and now offers a much more productive and safer option to the man on the ground.

John was one of the earlier-adopters of the tiltrotator system and was quick to see the advantages of using the now standard EC-Oil option too. “When I first started contracting works, it was just me and the digger,” John explains. “I used to pass any work other than digging onto other contractors. This all changed when I first got the Engcon. It just opened up so many options for me and made me realise that I was able to undertake a lot more work than I previously could. Whilst this obviously gave me more work, it benefitted my clients as I could offer them almost a one-stopshop for their estate management projects.” The decision to add Engcon’s tiltrotator, followed by EC-Oil and a whole raft of attachments such as log splitters and tree shears, has given John’s business a new dimension.

“The arrivalof the tilt-rotator opened up so many options tome and has given me so many options to offer myclients.”

John Rowbotham

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