New shift work loaders get the ‘thumbs up’ at Cockburn Cement in WA

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Updated: August 16, 2013

It is often said that a machine is only as good as the service that comes with it, and while it was this that prompted a move to a new loader at Cockburn Cement’s Munster plant in Western Australia, it was also a decision that pleased its operators.

Cockburn Cement is the major supplier of quicklime and cement to the State’s resources, agriculture and construction industries.

It is the largest lime producer in Australia, with a production capacity in excess of a million tonnes, while it also produces and supplies about 900,000t of cement and 550,000t of clinker from its sites at Munster, Dongara, Kalgoorlie, Kemerton, Kwinana and Port Hedland.

The lime production has been buoyed by major global resource industries such as alumina, gold and mineral sands, which require it for processing operations.

The company’s specialised cement products are used in civil infrastructure, especially freeways and railways, as well as in commercial building projects and residential housing.

At the Munster site, two wheeled loaders are kept busy shifting and loading shell sand, coal and clinker and after switching to a Volvo loader several years ago, Cockburn Cement has recently added another Volvo machine.

Mobile Fleet Manager Harry Oakley, who has been working at the site for 16 years, said service and support from national distributor, CJD Equipment, and Volvo Construction Equipment since early inspections of the Volvo L350F loader had been excellent and the machines had not missed a beat. Their competitive pricing also was well received.

Shift workers operate the loaders 22 hours a day, stopping for lunch and “smoko’’, so they are certainly put through their paces.

This also explains why the first Volvo L350F has clocked-up about 26,000 hours in just a few years – and it’s still on its original componentry.

Harry said early testing and follow-up training for operators conducted by CJD Equipment over a two-week period was a major boost for machine productivity and efficiency of operations at Munster.

“The training was very good. In particular, it showed operators how not to overuse the power. It was about achieving the same productivity at lower revs,’’ he said.

“The Volvo loader had the Power Shift transmission, but we were not using it properly. The training showed how to do it correctly.’’

The 397-kilowatt (540-horsepower) Volvo L350F loader, featuring Volvo’s turbocharged, electronically controlled, low emission D16E engine, achieves maximum power at 1700-1800rpm.

Its planetary transmission features smooth shifting with automatic Lock-Up in the second, third and fourth gears, helping to reduce fuel costs. Load-sensing hydraulics, ensuring oil is pumped around the system only when required, also allows higher efficiency and lower fuel consumption.

Harry said with operators working 12-hour shifts in the loaders, comfort in the cab was a key consideration and the Volvo got the “thumbs up’’.

“When we got the first one, everyone was very keen to operate it once they got through the training.’’

“It has better comfort, the visibility is a lot better and with the reversing camera, there’s no more turning around.’’

The cab on the Volvo L350F loader is wider and deeper than its predecessors, providing ample room, while the large windshield allows visibility in every direction. All instruments are easy to read and all buttons on the right side are easily accessible on a sturdy pillar.

Harry said together with the boom suspension, the Volvo offered a better ride all-round. Volvo’s Boom Suspension System (BSS) features two operating modes and is designed with heavy-duty shock accumulators that promote faster, more comfortable work cycles, increasing productivity by up to 20 per cent.

Its electro-hydraulic steering with Comfort Drive Control (CDC) features an end-stroke damping that provides smooth, full range steering and eliminates frame shocks that can occur during quick turns. The CDC also significantly reduces repetitive steering wheel movements via fingertip controls in the left armrest.

Loader Operator Kevin Bell said while some operators preferred to continue using the steering wheel in the machines, he liked the added comfort from steering with the joystick in the armrest.

Munster Plant Production Manager Justin Miller said Cockburn Cement was now looking forward to using Volvo’s ‘CareTrack’ system to analyse the performance of the loaders.

CareTrack allows remote monitoring of a machine’s fuel economy and performance shift-by-shift. It also monitors the machine’s condition and checks for any problems.

Meanwhile, a smaller Volvo L70F loader has extended the Volvo family at Cockburn Cement’s Munster site and supports its bigger brothers mainly with cleaning up and general services.