“People actually stop and watch me use my tiltrotator at a construction site,” says Tom Gardocki, co-owner of Next Era Excavation in Manchester, NH. “It’s pretty unusual for an excavator operator to gather an audience, but that’s what happens. It’s a head-turner for sure.”
Gardocki is used to people watching him while he works, just not at his jobsites. Since 2010, Tom has been demonstrating his exceptional excavator dexterity on YouTube, Instagram and Facebook as The Dirt Ninja. Many readers will be familiar with his Beer Bottle Excavator Trick video, which has been viewed 1.7 million times and turned Tom into something of a celebrity. His recent engcon Tiltrotator Informative Walk Around video has been viewed over 36,000 times and serves as a great introduction to tiltrotator, Q-Safe quick coupler and EC-Oil automatic oil connection devices, which are new to North American excavator operators.
The tiltrotator is a hydraulic attachment mounted on an excavator. The excavator bucket can be rotated through 360 degrees and can tilt 45 degrees to each side. It has been described as similar to a human wrist in its movement. Although tiltrotators have been used on job sites in Europe for more than 30 years, they are new, and radical, in North America.
Mr. Gardocki bought his tiltrotator from engcon, a Swedish firm, which opened a North American sales and distribution office in Connecticut last year. Tom took delivery of his tiltrotator in July 2017, and after four months of use he calculated that his engcon system saves one-third on his machine time, eliminates one laborer on every project and on some jobs saves 50 percent on materials. “The flexibility of the tiltrotator allows me to save on labor, because I no longer need a man with a hand tool shoveling around, say, a perimeter drain. I can place the stone exactly where I want it. And because of that, especially on backfill jobs, there is no waste of material. So that’s two ways in which the tiltrotator saves me money.”
A tiltrotator is sometimes attached with a device called a quick coupler or quick hitch. Engcon calls theirs Q-Safe. Combine this with engcon’s EC-Oil, a hydraulic system that allows automatic connection of hydraulic tools and accessories from the cab, and you’ve got a third way in which a tiltrotator becomes a powerful time saver that increases the efficiency, flexibility and precision of an excavator.
“Imagine changing from the tiltrotator to a digging bucket to a hydraulic grapple without leaving the cab. That’s what I do in under 20 seconds. Literally. I’ve timed it,” says Mr. Gardocki. “Just think how much time that saves me in a day! And let’s face it, hooking up those hoses isn’t easy; they just fight you. With EC-Oil, I avoid that hassle.”
Is that safe? How can an operator be sure that a bucket is attached properly when he hasn’t left the cab? Knowing that dropped attachments are a major jobsite hazard, we asked Gardocki the question. He told us that engcon’s design eliminates the possibility of incorrect excavator tool connection. The risk of incorrect coupling has simply been designed out, because the operator cannot lift or otherwise move the attachment if it is not fastened correctly.
Engcon’s versatility is powerful. Q-Safe with EC-Oil can be installed on both the machine coupler and the coupler below the tiltrotator. That means an operator can remove the tiltrotator, attach the bucket or other tool directly on the machine’s quick coupler, or keep the tiltrotator mounted and attach another tool, such as a grapple, underneath the tiltrotator. "In certain situations, like stump-pulling or moving boulders, I will remove the tiltrotator from the machine and hook an attachment directly to the machine. Having the Q-Safe coupler with EC-Oil makes this process very easy and quick," explains Tom.
Tom attached his engcon system to his 1999, 20 metric ton, John Deere 200lc excavator. The system can be attached to any excavator between 1.5 and 33 metric tons.
The more he has used his tiltrotator, the more efficiencies Tom has discovered. “I’ve begun to appreciate that it’s going to save me on undercarriage wear. Because the tiltrotator bucket can spin 360 degrees, I reposition the machine less frequently. I don’t have to drive to the other side of a pile to dig into it. Undercarriage work is expensive, and I have realized that I won’t have to do it as often,” he says. “That’s a fourth manner in which it saves me money.”
Next Era Excavation has also invested in 2D machine control on its John Deere excavator. They are currently running Trimble’s new Earthworks 2D grade control platform. It allows Gardocki to excavate to a precise depth, without leaving the cab and checking with a grade rod, or having a second person checking hole depth. Engcon’s system is fully compatible with Trimble’s system – a key requirement for Gardocki’s tiltrotator purchase.
“People tease me about all my toys, but the thing is, these devices and technology have made me extraordinarily efficient and productive,” says Tom. “The investment in the engcon system, for example, will pay back in 1500-2000 hours of use.” He purchased engcon digging and grading buckets and recently took delivery of an SK sorting grapple from the Swedish firm.
With good help becoming harder and harder to find, Next Era decided to make a big investment in machine attachments and technology. “Anything that saves me labor, time, materials and wear and tear on my equipment is a great investment in my book,” says Gardocki. “If you are an excavation contractor you need to do yourself a favor and try out an engcon tiltrotator. It will change the way you work – forever.”
Tom Gardocki, Next Era Excavation
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