Alliance May 24


Digging deep into construction machinery news

Multi-talented man & Mecalac

Tue 25 Oct 2016

Multi-talented man & Mecalac

I think it’s fair to say that rural Cornwall is probably one of the last places one would think of looking to find unusual and cutting edge pieces of construction machinery. However, on a visit to the annual Royal Cornwall Show, I was delighted to meet Graham Sandercock, who was keen to tell me more about his then recently purchased Mecalac 6MCR, which was and still is today the only one of its kind in the UK. I was keen to find out more about man and machine so arranged to meet up again on one of his jobs in Falmouth. 024 Like so many plant men, 30 year old Graham’s story started at a very young age, he even recalls that there are photos of him riding in machinery as a baby! Graham like so many young boys was mad on diggers and tractors, something he has never grown out of. This is hardly surprising really as his family are all very mechanically minded, with his father having a strong farming and agricultural engineering background before he moved into general building. But it was his uncle Alan who was to have a massive influence on the young Graham’s ambitions to become a plant operator. Alan is a plant man through and through and in 1987 he took the plunge and purchased his own Massey Ferguson 50HX backhoe loader, which Graham used to spend many hours in watching and learning in the time honoured way in those days. In 1994 Alan upgraded to a MF 860 model and used to visit the family farm on many occasions to do work for the 10 year old Graham’s father. Graham said, “The 860 was an awesome machine with its new yellow and grey livery and chunky front tyres. I was well and truly hooked at this point and knew that I would want to be a digger driver when I grew up. Alan let me drive his pride and joy all on my own, which to me felt like all my birthdays and Christmas’s rolled into one! “ 087 Graham continued, “Whilst I was at secondary school I used to help dad out in the holidays and if he ever had a digger on hire, he’d let me drive it, I took to it like a duck to water and can remember mum picking me up early from school one day after the holidays to take me to help dad push a job on with a digger.” “When I left school I went to work with dad on the general building side of things, where I did all the digger driving. At that time I wasn’t sure how I would get into plant operating full time as not many people would be interested in somebody as young as me. An opportunity arose when I was 17, but at the same time dad was considering buying a 3 tonne mini excavator. He told me it could be mine to use and find more work for it. It was a no brainer really. We bought a used Kubota KX71-2, which I thought the world of.  It was while doing all this building work that I gained the knowledge about what was required of me as a machine operator, which helped me to recognise what was needed to make things easier for the guys on the ground”. Word spread locally about Graham and his machine and work started to pile up. One day a friend of Graham’s, Dan Hurle from a local family forestry business J Hurle & Sons, asked him to look at a rhododendron clearance job they were doing by hand. The job was on fairly steep ground but Graham felt confident he could do it! After completing the job they sent lots of forestry based work his way and so with an ever expanding workload Graham was in a position to consider a machine upgrade. 620805_118846878269737_531855569_o After having such a good experience with the Kubota, Graham decided to stick with the brand and in 2007 he purchased a brand new KX161-3 Alpha from local dealers Vincent Tractors. Graham said, “This was a lovely machine which served me very well, not breaking down once in the following 7 years. The Hurle’s then introduced me to Geraint Richards, the Duchy of Cornwall’s head forester and work started to come in from him too. Over the following years I bought a few new attachments to suit this new line of work including, a timber grab, hedge trimmer flail, and a circular saw blade, all of which I modified myself to fit the machine. Eventually I fabricated a log trailer for timber extraction in the smaller and more awkward woods that the large machinery could never attempt to gain access too, giving me a bit of a niche in the market”. Having a keen interest in the latest developments in the plant and machinery sector Graham was always researching on the internet and confessed that he has every edition of Earthmovers Magazine that has ever been published! Graham was always on the lookout for his next machine to upgrade to, but he felt there was nothing on the market that could outperform the Kubota without moving into the realms of a bigger machine, something he wasn’t keen on doing as his main advantages were that of a compact set up with the ability to work in tight areas. There was however one machine that had caught his eye, the French built Mecalac. Graham said, “I had been a fan of Mecalac’s ever since I drove one at the SED show. That machine was a 714 MC that a company called Hiremee had on display. I was amazed by the complex boom and arm configuration and tried to make use of all its features whilst driving it. The demo driver on the plot told me I was one of the best he had seen operating it during the course of the show, words that stuck with me long afterwards. It was here that I first met Magnus Mildwater, who told me that Mecalac were going to be releasing a compact excavator that could also be used as a skid steer loader, a concept that really interested me. Magnus sent me a brochure on that first machine, the 8MCR, but sadly at that time I could not consider spending that kind of money, so I forgot about it for a while”. 027 In 2010 Graham decided to purchase a second hand Bobcat 864 tracked skid steer loader to assist with his clearance work. The machine turned out to be an incredible bit of kit, but he didn’t really have enough work to keep it going full flow and came to the conclusion it wasn’t worth the expense. It was around this time that Graham started to think about the compact Mecalac again. As he saw it the Mecalac could do both the jobs in one package. With that in mind Graham was on the case, initially with a visit to Mecalac’s website, where he discovered that a new 6MCR (Mecalac Crawler Rapide) model was due out, the next task was to find out if there was a dealer in the UK. It transpired that a company in Essex called Largam were the UK dealers and that the Managing Director was none other than Magnus Mildwater, whom he had spoken to previously at the SED show! 030 After a chat with Magnus he said that he would find out some information and prices on the machine and suggested that if Graham was genuinely interested in the product, then a visit to the factory would give him a great chance to try one and give him an insight into the machines and the Mecalac concept. Graham said, “The 6MCR would be a huge upgrade for me as it was coming on for double the horsepower of my Kubota and had a much higher flow rate on the auxiliary lines of around 90 litres per minute, which in turn was unaffected by tracking as the tracks have separate pumps and a closed circuit. This would be ideal for my flail work, of which I was getting more and more of. I also felt the clever boom geometry would work so well with my log grab as it had a much larger lifting capacity and you could lift heavy logs high whilst keeping them tight to the base machine, helping to retain stability. In addition, the high tracking speed would work well with the log trailer when extracting timber from the forests, I just thought, if there was ever going to be a perfect machine for me this machine just had to be the one!” 039 A factory visit was arranged in 2013 and Graham and his cousin Ben flew out to Geneva, where they were greeted by Martin Foster of Largam, who would be their guide and who drove them down to Mecalac’s facility in Annency. The party was greeted by Mecalac’s Sales Support Manager, Patrick Renard, who gave a short presentation about the company and its products. This was followed by the obligatory factory tour, Graham said, “The factory tour was amazing. In this facility they carried out assembly and painting, with the main steel works being carried out in another factory. Every machine was built to order there and we spotted a couple in a customer’s corporate livery which was really interesting to see. We felt Patrick really knew his stuff as he was able to answer any questions we had on the tour, including technical questions about the manufacturing process”. Following the tour Graham was taken outside to the company’s own demonstration area where a brand new 6MCR was already parked up ready for action. This machine was demonstrated by one of Mecalac’s demonstrators to show off all its attributes before Graham was invited to try out the machine for himself. Graham talked about his first impressions, “The machine was very good, it felt smooth, powerful and was both quiet and comfortable. It gave me a good feel of what the machine was like, but in that short space of time I couldn’t operate it to the best of its abilities and I could tell it would take a little while to adjust to when compared to an everyday standard excavator”. 036 “One thing I noticed was how large and well-built the quick hitch looked, it was virtually the same dimensions as those found on larger machines and the hitch plates were the same. I asked if we could hitch up a bucket from a bigger machine so we could really put it through its paces. We hitched up a bucket that wouldn’t look out of place on a 12 tonner and as I gouged out a big bucketful it proved to be no problem for the 6MCR, it was a fantastic display of the machines power and by then I had seen enough to know that I wanted one!” 080 Graham took delivery of the machine on the 28th February 2014, having ordered it with Mecalacs own hydraulic quick hitch, a full set of buckets and Mecalac’s so called skid bucket, which is basically a loader bucket as wide as the machine, which is fitted with rollers on the back that rest against the blade to transfer the tractive forces through the undercarriage when pushing with the tracks, pure genius when you see it in operation, especially in the hands of someone like Graham, who is clearly in tune with his machine. Graham bought a few hitch plates to modify all his existing attachments to fit the 6MCR with the modification’s being performed by local engineer Geoff Burroughs. Graham told us initially he wondered if he had made the right decision as on his first day with it the machine felt so different and almost a little unstable when compared to his previous machine. This wasn’t helped by the fact that his first job involved dragging tree length poles off steep ground with his grab, which is challenging work at the best of times, but as time went by he became more used to the Mecalac and soon had it outperforming his old Kubota, Graham said, “I quickly realised that the problem was me and not knowing the limitations of the machine made me very cautious with it. Now though I feel completely at home with it and would struggle to go back to a conventional machine”. 051 Power for this 5.7 tonne skid-excavator comes from a Deutz 4 cylinder Tier 4i stage 3B emissions compliant engine and Graham reports that all his attachments run much better on the new machine. The ability to track whilst flailing means that hedge trimming jobs are carried out in a third of the time compared to his old set up. Lifting capacity has been vastly improved and Graham says that he is yet to find a log that the machine cannot cope with! These machines are very quick on their feet, with up to 10 KPH possible in top speed mode, this speed has proven to be a great time saver on jobs. 004 Graham said, “The skid bucket is a brilliant attachment which to be honest was something I had considered not having to save on cost, but I am so glad I did go for it as it is probably the bucket I use the most on a whole range of different tasks, whether it be moving loose material or stripping topsoil, it’s all just so effortless with this bucket. You can operate it like a loader or a face shovel, this has made soil shifting jobs far quicker and more comparable to a machine twice the size”. 059 For most onlookers not in the know, it is the boom and arm that looks a bit strange. This boom is a very clever piece of design work and the ability to be able to tuck it right up beside the cab is excellent for when working in confined spaces. Add into the mix the offset “knuckle” boom feature, which when used in conjunction with the intermediate boom at certain positions means you can change the angle of the bucket, which can be very hand when grading. In addition, using this feature it is possible to trench outside of the line of the machine enabling the operator to reach into trenches without straddling them. 014 Graham’s engineer friend Geoff has made a couple of other modifications to the machine, with one being a thicker gauge steel belly plate, to offer protection against high tree stumps and the other being a new tow hitch for the pulling of his log trailer. Geoff cleverly designed this so that no cutting, welding or drilling was required on the machine. It is simply attached using the lifting eyes and central towing eye on the undercarriage. 013 The Mecalac combined with the log trailer and timber grab make an excellent compact forwarder and its manoeuvrability means it makes life easier for the guys felling the trees as they don't have to worry so much about the position of the logs as the machine can pick up from a 360degree radius meaning it can pick up logs in front of it and load them onto the trailer behind. dsc_0049 Graham recently designed and fabricated a roof mounted rail, to protect the top of the cab and lights. He has also added 8 new LED lights to make work in the darkness of the forests so much easier. 017 Summarising his decision to invest in this amazing piece of kit Graham said, “I bought the Mecalac to increase performance in my forestry operations and initially I didn't think I could warrant the extra cost just for general digging and groundwork’s jobs, but now having had it for nearly a year I don't think I would consider anything else as it way out performs anything else I have driven in that size. My customers also recognise the benefits and as a result my work load is increasing constantly”. 066 From what I witnessed on the day of Earthmovers visit I am amazed that we don’t see more of these machines in the UK. These machines are not cheap, but Graham has the right attitude and vision to make the most of every aspect on the machine. With a potential upgrade to an 8MCR on the cards in the future I am sure we will be visiting the forward thinking young man again.

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