The ‘Rolls Royce’ of the milling machines: Wirtgen

BildGroup’s Wirtgen W 210 Fi milling machine at work on Darlington Upgrade Project in Adelaide.
BildGroup’s Wirtgen W 210 Fi milling machine at work on Darlington Upgrade Project in Adelaide.

Boasting the largest fleet of Wirtgen cold milling machines in the Southern Hemisphere, BildGroup CEO Stephen Hill speaks to Roads & Infrastructure about why the German brand has always been his first choice in road profiling equipment.

“You can name any of the big projects in Melbourne and we have probably been on them,” says Stephen Hill, Chief Executive Officer of the BildGroup.

He is not exaggerating. The Monash freeway widening, the Norfolk Island airport runway, the City Link re-surfacing, the West Gate freeway and the Tullamarine freeway widening are only a few of the projects where BildGroup has been the profiling contractor.

BildGroup’s journey as a business began in 1979 and for many years, the company operated under the banner of the Bitu-mill Group, carrying out road profiling projects across Victoria and the rest of the country.

Over the years, the company diversified into new areas such as civil and landscaping and this year, the group underwent a re-branding, changing its brand identity to the BildGroup to represent its four core businesses: Building, Infrastructure, Landscaping and Development.

Today, the BildGroup has a 440-plus strong team and is supported by over 1000 sub-contractors across Australia each year. The group continues its road profiling and asphalt paving business under the Bitu-mill brand, while the BildCivil branch represents the team’s infrastructure division.

Besides having completed an impressive portfolio of civil and infrastructure projects, there’s another thing the company prides itself on: Owning the Southern Hemisphere’s largest fleet of Wirtgen cold milling machines, in addition to other Wirtgen equipment such as Hamm rollers, Kleemann screening equipment, Voegele pavers and Streumaster spreaders.

When it comes to road milling machines, Hill says the BildGroup only uses Wirtgen.

“That’s because of the association we have had with the brand for so long. We originally started with American built machines many years ago but in the 1990s we changed to Wirtgen and we have only used Wirtgen since,” says Hill.

“We believe that they are the Rolls Royce of the road milling machines. Their technology and what goes into those machines is far better than anything that their competitors produce.”

Fleet upgrade

In its fleet, the BildGroup has approximately 70 to 80 Wirtgen cold milling machines, a dozen Hamm rollers and two Voegele asphalt pavers. More recently, BildGroup has acquired a handful of W 210 Fi milling machines from Wirtgen and Hill says he is impressed with the features.

“We are constantly in conversation with Wirtgen about their latest gear. In the past, when we were able to travel, we would go to Germany and Wirtgen would demonstrate their latest machinery to us and then we would go and purchase the latest models of that machine,” says Hill.

BildGroup was part of Albert Park resurfacing project in Melbourne.
BildGroup was part of Albert Park resurfacing project in Melbourne.

Wirtgen launched the W 210 Fi machine in Australia last year and the BildGroup was among the first ones to try the machines out in the field. This year, Hill says he wants to order more of the large milling machines for his fleet.

When asked what he was impressed with in the W 210 Fi, Hill says the feature upgrades were a key selling point for him and the team.

“This model is a step change from the previous model. It has a lot more features, it’s more user friendly, it has some innovations on it which wasn’t in the previous models and so we believe going forward it will make us more efficient and better at what we do,” he says.

The intelligent F Series

Wirtgen’s F Series models, including the W 210 Fi machine, are settings new standards in terms of milling performance and machine efficiency. In the automatic mode, the Mill Assist standard assistance system provides the optimal balance between performance and operating costs. This not only improves milling performance, but also reduces diesel, water, and pick consumption, as well as CO2 emissions.

The machine operator can also preselect a working strategy from ‘Cost-optimised,’’ ‘Performance-optimised,’ or ‘Milling texture quality’. For example, it is possible to define the required milling texture quality on a scale of 1 (coarse) to 10 (very fine) in advance at the touch of a button.

Mill Assist also automatically controls the two-speed Dual Shift powershift transmission. Together with the diesel engine, the intelligent control of the two-speed powershift transmission extends both the upper and lower range of possible milling drum speeds. At lower speeds, fuel and pick wear can be significantly reduced. At higher speeds, high milling pattern quality is ensured even in the case of high area performances.

Operator interest

Hill says he finds it’s easier to attract a good skillset with a Wirtgen fleet.

“A lot of operators in the industry would rather drive Wirtgen machines than other machines. That’s because they are better to use, they are smarter to operate and they do allow more ease of use,” says Hill.

 BildGroup was engaged in profiling the runway for Alice Springs Airport.
BildGroup was engaged in profiling the runway for Alice Springs Airport.

Shortage of good operators is a serious issue for businesses like the BildGroup, as Hill elaborates.

“Particularly in Victoria, at the moment we are struggling to keep up with the demand from projects. Our biggest challenge is finding new people for the business. We can go and buy as many machines as we need but if we can’t get people to operate them, there’s no point in having them.”

It’s more of a challenge for the BildGroup because they are committed to hiring only professional operators.

“We want to make sure that when we do send people out, they do the job that’s to our standard and we don’t end up with brand damage or issues as a result of not having properly trained people operating our machinery.”

Having the latest profiling machines on the market goes a long way for the BildGroup, but their professionalism is also manifested in how they maintain their equipment.

“I think we provide a good service because we’ve got one of the best fleets, we’ve got the latest profiling machines in the marketplace, and that helps us obviously with efficiencies and productivities. The fact that we buy new gear with the latest technology that is well serviced and looked after means our reliability and ability to deliver is greater,” says Hill.

“Plus, we have a lot more safety and environmental controls on our gear. We have better dust control and lower emissions from our machines because they are new and they all meet modern emission requirements. So having the new gear does provide definite advantages in many respects.”

The future

With a full pipeline of roads and infrastructure projects in Victoria and across the country as part of the Australian Government’s $110 billion infrastructure investment program, the BildGroup looks ahead to continued diversification and growth.

Having started with road milling and diversified into building, infrastructure, landscaping and development, Hill says the group will grow in each branch of the business and seek avenues to diversify even further.

“Since starting our civil business over 10 years ago, we have diversified our service offering and today the Bitu-mill name only represents a part of what we do,” says Hill.

“Bitu-mill is a great part of our history, and we will continue to build on that expertise, but our business is now much bigger and more diverse than just road milling. We will keep on looking for new opportunities to further grow and diversify.”

This article originally appeared in the July edition of our magazine. To read the magazine, click here.

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