Digger Man

Digger Man Blog

by Nick Drew  |  Thu 03 Dec 2020

Young Outlook for Woodmace

Taking a look back at another one of my articles first published in Earthmovers Magazine earlier this year, bringing it to life on the internet with alternative photos and video footage.

Owning and running a multi-million-pound construction business might seem rather daunting to your average 30-year-old, but Joshua Eiles-Clarke, Managing Director of Woodmace Ltd., is by no means your average 30-year-old.

Young Outlook for Woodmace

Based in Poole, Dorset, Woodmace Ltd was originally established in 1986 by John Oak and has consistently posted around £30m turnover per annum over the past 4-years.

Joshua had worked for the company for 10 years previously, initially joining the business in 2011 straight out of Southampton University to just help out for a couple of weeks! By chance he stayed with them and that led to spells as a trainee QS, estimator, and some contract management before moving into the position of Operations Manager and during that time had gained a great understanding of how the company worked. When Mr Oak decided to sell it as an ongoing affair, the opportunity arose for Joshua to purchase the business, so he put in the leg work to get everything in place and finally took over the firm in January this year.

As we reported in the March 2017 edition of Earthmovers, the Woodmace business is primarily engaged in large commercial civil engineering work mainly for blue chip main contractors, so with that in mind they need all their equipment to be top of the range kit. And of course, the machinery is no good without the operators and ground crew, so with that in mind the firm endeavours to employ some of the best staff in the business.

As a young guy with a fresh outlook, Joshua is now looking to move the business on and has ambitious plans to implement a more modern forward-thinking approach to civil engineering and construction techniques. Whilst utilising all the current technologies available on the ground and in the plant fleet, using latest 2D and 3D GPS systems, a work smarter not harder philosophy is implemented that will not only drive efficiency but will enable them to deliver a better end product for their clients.

On the machinery side of things, they are now looking to keep the plant fleet up to date at all times with a renewal period of 3 to 4 years on most items of heavy plant. With that in mind they have implemented a fleet renewal programme to facilitate that.

Talking about the plant side of things Joshua said, “We are working with Molson on the best way forward in terms of things like timings and trade-ins, to make sure we always have the most efficient machines on the market. Going forward this will mean that as new projects come in, new machines will be delivered and the old ones will be shipped out in part exchange”.

Joshua continued “We are currently running around 65 excavators from 1.5 to 30 tonnes with the fleet being dominated by Korean machines from the Hyundai stable, all supplied by Molson, alongside 6 CASE machines and the most recent additions coming from Japanese manufacturer Kobelco which have also been supplied by Molson”.

The latest additions to the excavator fleet consist of 1 x SK260LC-10, 1 x SK210LC-10 and 2 of the all new and long awaited SK130LC-11 conventional tail swing models, an additional Hyundai HX220L has just been delivered recently.

The company is now looking to purchase a further 6 – 8 Kobelco SK130LC’s over the next six months to replace the existing 2016 Hyundai R 140LC-9A models on the fleet. They are also toying with the idea of adding an SK180LC-10 hydraulic excavator, which Joshua feels would be a very useful size machine, depending on what projects come through.

Talking about the new Kobelco additions on the fleet Joshua commented “What has impressed us most with the Kobelco’s so far is the fuel savings, which we have noticed on the Hino powered SK260LC-10 since its arrived, its been working on a site with one of our Hyundai 22-tonne machines and the Kobelco is getting an additional days work out of a fuel tank, so that’s a big saving at the end of the day, admittedly its fitted with a more modern engine and technology so that is to be expected, but its still impressive and something we need to be considering even more going forward”.

In due course GPS systems will be being fitted to the new SK130LC Kobelco machines, which actually tip the scales at around the 15-tonne mark.

Joshua sees these machines as being the optimum size for such systems as he explained, “Working on such things as fine grading, finishing works, and drainage, in fact especially so on drainage, as I see it, if you can save 100mm on a trench dig over a 400 metre run, that’s a lot of expensive pipe bedding material which can be saved, helping us to minimise our waste as that’s often the only place where you are going to be able to make any margin on a job. It’s such a competitive market that you’ve got to basically utilise the technology to increase your margin, so the investment in the machines gets paid back by doing the work more efficiently in the long run”.

With an eye on the future Joshua had already been making cost saving drives and improving efficiencies in the business last year prior to taking it over, in some ways almost pre-empting the Covid-19 scenario. Talking about the Covid period, which in all fairness could have been an absolute nightmare for a new business owner and Josh reports that the company managed to remain 100% operational throughout the lockdown during which time they also secured 3 new projects to start. Virtually all job sites are now back up and running again.  

They currently employ around 160 employees on the ground including machine operators and 45 employees who are based at the offices in Poole.

The aim is to keep people interested in working for the company, treat and pay them well and give them the best equipment to use to keep the turnover of staff to a minimum at all times. Joshua also intends to adopt the old school, well proven approach of one man, one machine, with the designated operator sticking with that machine at all times, as we all know it’s the best way to ensure the machine is well looked after.

When machines are finished on a particular site, they return to the yard using Woodmace’s own transport, where they are washed down, fully inspected, and certified by their own team of mechanics, to ensure that they are in 100% operational order before going back out to the next jobsite.

As mentioned earlier the latest additions to the Woodmace fleet are Kobelco’s long awaited SK130LC-11’s the first conventional tailswing 13-tonne class machine from the Japanese manufacturer in this generation. Previously they could only offer the zero tailswing SK140SRLC which has proven to be a great machine but slightly more expensive.

The SK130LC-11 is powered by a tried and tested Stage V emissions compliant 4-cylinder Isuzu diesel engine offering a power output rating of 78.5kw @2000rpm using AdBlue to meet the current EU emissions regulations. As previously mentioned, Joshua is looking forward to vastly improved fuel consumption from these Kobelco models, which according to the spec will deliver around 6-7 litres per hour when operating in standard mode.

What struck me most about these machines is the strong but compact look to them, stylish but very workmanlike, I especially like the fact that two top rollers are fitted, which is great for cutting down on the track sag that we see on machines with just one top roller.

An all new cab design is featured and I was delighted to climb onboard for a brief spell on the sticks. We are totally spoiled in today’s modern machines and this Kobelco is another class act in terms of cab comfort too, a comfy heated Grammer seat is fitted as standard and the layout of controls is well done with subtle back lighting providing a nice touch. The large 10-inch monitor is clear and concise and of course doubles up as a screen for the two standard cameras, although there is additional space for two more to be fitted if required.

Operation wise the machine is all we have come to expect from the Kobelco brand, Japanese quality at its best. One of Woodmace’s long standing operator’s Bill White who has been with the company for over 20 years gave us his thoughts on the new model, “It’s a very nice machine, extremely smooth to operate and seems to have plenty of power too, if its anything like the SK260LC they will be top drawer machines”.

Summarizing Joshua said, “Its great to have the relationship we have with Molson and their continuous support and the nothing is too much trouble approach, we find that we generally get what we ask for from them with very quick turnarounds too, our local sales representative Danny Guibarra is always available to assist with our requirements”.

Pictured Above: Joshua Eiles-Clarke with the impressive Woodmace in-house transport. 

“I am looking forward to growing the business in a controlled manner going forward as new contracts come in and to diversify our customer base too, while working closely with Molson for our equipment needs”.

Joshua clearly has ambitious plans for the business and I found his enthusiasm for success infectious, and its great to see that what was already a brilliant business is going to get even better under his leadership.

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