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According to Trent Henry, Qube Bulk’s Logistics Manager for South West Operations, given the new wheel loaders work in a port environment, there is no room for unplanned downtime as the machines are required to work consistently while loading ships in port. That makes reliability non-negotiable alongside customer specific requirements that also drive purchasing decisions.
“Customers are looking for innovations like greener technologies to reduce exhaust emissions and use less fuel,” he said.
“Continuous safety improvement is also key for both Qube and our customers and these machines are easier for the operator to use so that reduces the overall risk of injuries or accidents.
“The ongoing challenge for any material handling organisation is to get things done safely, productively and efficiently at the same time, so we always have that mix in mind when we look at equipment.”
Although Qube had experience with other XE wheel loaders, there were factors that had to be considered given the work environment in which they were to be deployed.
WesTrac Account Manager Jake Lewis said long before the machines were ordered, WesTrac and Qube worked together to complete application studies in the sheds at the port.
“We had to understand exactly what Qube was trying to achieve and what limitations they’d face when operating inside the sheds and around the hoppers,” Jake said.
While Qube was looking for maximum productivity, the smaller machine was best suited to the types of operations being carried out. For that reason, a high-lift option was included, enabling the 982 XEs to perform work that might typically be carried out by a larger Cat 988 model.
Lawrie says the combination of improved technology and the smaller machine are likely to deliver significant fuel savings for Qube.
“The 982 XE configuration will allow Qube to reduce fuel consumption by 35 per cent over the earlier Cat 982,” he said. “And even greater savings if you compare it to what a traditional Cat 988 would achieve to deliver similar productivity.
“You're also reducing carbon emissions by 45 per cent per tonne of material moved.”
Jake said those sorts of numbers played a big part in helping Qube make the decision to go with the 982 XEs.
“Qube is an organisation that really does look at total cost of ownership (TCO) rather than just the capital outlay, and that’s important when you’re considering this newer technology which may come with a premium price,” he said.
Reduced fuel burn aside, from a TCO perspective the premium price delivers a lot of added functionality that delivers further return on investment over time.
That includes features such as Auto Set Tyres, preventing unwanted wheel spin as the operator digs into a stockpile and thus preventing premature tyre wear. Auto Tip Off ensures the correct payload is achieved, reducing the need to return overburden material, while Auto Dig is highly beneficial in high intensity operations involving repeat processes. The function enables more experienced operators to record digging operations before handing the machine off to less experienced operators, who can then repeat the same operations with precision.
Lawrie says the focus on safer operations is another highlight of the Cat 982 XE – as it is in other XE wheel loaders.
“One of the most obvious improvements is that everything can be checked on this machine from ground level,” he said.
“You can also complete refuelling from the ground. There’s very safe access and egress to the cab with a lot of handholds, handrails and a wide door opening.
“Everything inside the cab is ergonomically designed to maximise the comfort and efficiency for the operator.”
Anthony says having local support in Bunbury was another key factor in Qube’s decision given the criticality of keeping the machines operational at peak times, while extended service scheduling was also a priority.
“In conjunction with the WesTrac team, we’ve been working on optimising service and maintenance intervals,” he said.
“It's not just on these new machines - we've been able to achieve it with our other XE wheel loaders as well.
“That set the foundation for how we will service these 982 XEs which we have on maintenance FitFleet® Customer Value Agreements with WesTrac that push them out to 1000-hour servicing intervals.
“Apart from the need to run almost constantly during peak times, there are some other challenges with the location where these machines work. They're in a port, meaning people need special security clearance to get in and out of the facility.
“Having extended service intervals allows us to better plan and put routines in place for bringing service personnel onsite.”
It is proof of the strong relationship Qube and WesTrac have built by working together over time. Jake says clients such as Qube are key to driving WesTrac and Caterpillar to continually innovate.
“Qube won't settle for the status quo,” he said.
“We've always moved materials in the past but they’re looking for innovative, more efficient ways of conducting the business of materials handling.
“We've been fortunate to be able to partner with Qube on a number of different projects and being a first mover on these Cat 982 XE Wheel Loaders is one example.
“We're also working with them on various other technology projects and doing so provides WesTrac with valuable data that helps us improve and innovate our own business, so it’s very much a win-win situation.”
From Anthony’s perspective, it goes further up the supply chain with Qube’s customers also driving that innovative approach.
“Our customers have expectations that we’ll continue to move forward and evolve the equipment we use and the way we operate it to align with their values and expectations. So they always influence our decision making.” he said.
“These Cat 982 XEs are an example of the way Qube is continually striving to deliver to our customers’ expectations.”