Many Australians can remember the HG Kingswood, the XA Falcon or even the VG Valiant from their younger days. For many, they were the family chariot of choice growing up. Many a day was spent being ferried here and there, and the old machines became a sweltering hot box during five-hour trips to the caravan park in the summer holidays.
Fond memories aside, the cars were far from perfect. Seatbelts were only made compulsory in all Australian states in 1973. Air conditioning was a rarely seen option, and automatic transmissions (the new three-speed versions) were only starting to gain acceptance. Vinyl bench seats ruled, fuel economy wasn’t an uttered phrase until the 1970s energy crisis and safety was measured by mass. How things have changed.
Advances in automotive technology since have indisputably been significant, and the same can be said of road equipment technology. Relentless improvement has been a constant throughout each of Wirtgen Group’s brand histories. The Wirtgen Group machines of today demonstrate not only the innovations of yesterday (which are now considered standard) but also showcase the next phase of technological advances that offer users many real world benefits both in use and on the bottom line. However, even the smallest of changes can sometimes take some time to get used to, even if they’ve been introduced to benefit safety, operator efficiency, fuel use or the quality of the job.
The newly introduced Super Series 1700 and 2000 range of tired and tracked pavers from Wirtgen Group company Vögele are a perfect example. Previously, Vögele offered a European style paver (the Super Series) and an American style paver (Vision Series). While the balance is slowly turning, American style paving equipment is the most popular in Australia. In a true parallel with cars, the old American style pavers were heavy, higher output, lower efficiency and higher thirst. The European style pavers have smart technology that makes them easier and cheaper to operate and are no less durable than the American style units. Bringing European technology to the American style paving machines gives owners the chance to capture the benefits of technology and innovations not previously available to American style pavers. What does this mean on the ground? Quieter, more fuel-efficient pavers with automated functions operators can use to improve set up and pack up.
Features such as EcoPlus, AutoSet and Pavedock Assistant may sound like the marketers have won but are useful features that give operators and owners many benefits (see side bar). However, these are not new technologies to Vögele. “Many of these features have been available on Vögele European style machines for a number of years. With Australia’s thirst for American style paving machines, only customers using the European style machines have been enjoying the luxury and benefits of having these features,” explains Ralf Peter – Product Specialist Vögele at Wirtgen Australia. With the introduction of these new models, customers can now avail themselves of the benefits, whether European or American style paving is preferred.
One of the first customers to opt for the new model Super 1703-3 is Boral Asphalt.
“We were long-time users of American style pavers and, as expected, had some concerns about the change. But, to be honest, we were worrying about nothing,” explains Matthew Jones, Project Manager at Boral Asphalt. “The Wirtgen team gave us great instruction on the use of the new paver, and plenty of support to quickly address any questions or operational issues, which certainly helped. Our operators were pretty quick to adapt and are loving their new paver. It’s not that surprising that the younger guys were the quickest to pick up the new technology, but even the old fellas are mastering the electronics,” he says. “Looking back on it, we laugh about what we used to put up with, thinking why we didn’t make the change earlier.”
Another customer reaping the benefits of the new pavers is All Pavement Solutions Asphalt (APSA). “When the decision was made for the CJ Murphy group to establish APSA, I reviewed what was currently out in the marketplace, consulted colleagues and reviewed feedback from our crew members,” explains Andrew Bernadino, Manager at APSA. “After much consultation, the decision to move forward with the Super 1700-3, with the support from the team at Wirtgen, was made simple. “Our crew, through previous experience in part and a willingness to learn the new machine and its new features, were quick to adapt their discipline to the machine. Even those who were ‘old school’ skeptics were quickly loving the machine and its capabilities,” he says.
The next challenge in breaking down the barriers to change in paving in Australia appears to be emanating from new and innovative asphalt mixes that are a lot stiffer than traditional mix designs. This is forcing customers to explore the option of higher compaction screed technologies, another area in which European practice leads.
A number of large firms are trialing the next level up from the basic vibrating only screed on these new mixes using Vögele machines with impressive results. “Even what in Europe would be considered a relatively basic single tamping and vibrating screed is highlighting the benefits in finishing speed and compaction effectiveness of this technology on the early trials our customers have done in Australia,” says Mr. Peter.
Stuart Torpy, General Manager Road Technologies at Wirtgen Australia, says the benefits for the customer are extensive. “By offering a myriad of both machine and screed options, we’re confident we have a world class machine for every job that our customers may want to undertake,” he says, “whether that is paving fast and thin for more traditional wearing course mixes, slow and deep base layers of traditional or newer EME-type mixes, or super slow and super deep granular base paving. I think our customers get better outcomes because Vögele specialises in paving equipment, and locally we have a similar approach with our paving application and machine resources.”
Mr. Torpy says this makes it easier for Wirtgen to not only focus on designing great machines, but also on supporting owners in getting the most from them. “By specialising, we’re better geared to keeping abreast of changes in products and customer needs and then supporting the implementation of changes that may subsequently arise.”
Currently in the Vögele development tunnel is continuous real time scanning of paved materials ‘RoadScan’, next generation improvements to the MT 3000 material transfer vehicle (to appear at BAUMA 2019), and ongoing refinement of machine and screed technologies.
It doesn’t matter if the family owned a Holden, a Ford or a Chrysler, those childhood memories are typically fond ones. But, as adults we drive current generation vehicles that are a million miles further down the road than those childhood chariots, and we’re all better for it. As Mr Torpy asserts: “Who wants to stand in the way of progress? Who can afford to stand in the way of progress?” Change can be a good thing.