Bulk terminal operators are seeking highly versatile and efficient wheel loaders for handling bulk materials
Wheel loaders, or front-end loaders, play a variety of roles in bulk terminals. For example, they can be used to optimise stockpiles by shovelling loose materials back into the stock to minimise losses. Wheel loaders are also often deployed at intermediate feed points, loading materials onto conveyor belts or wagon tipplers.
In many instances, they are lifted into a ship’s hold to clean the inaccessible corners that are out of reach of conventional ship-unloaders.
While it might seem counterintuitive, a manual task like driving a wheel loader around a terminal can help boost productivity. This is the case at TIS Group, Ukraine’s largest stevedore and port operator. There, a fleet of Volvo L180 and L220 wheel loaders is helping TIS set new standards for productivity.
For TIS, business is booming. Since its foundation in 1994, the company has grown to run five terminals close to the Yuzhny port area, 27 km from Odessa. These terminals specialise in the re-handling of grain, mineral fertilisers, coal, iron ore and containers for both import and export.
In 2015, TIS terminals handled 26 Mt, representing 18% of all cargoes passing through Ukrainian ports. By the first half of 2017, this share grew to 21%. Meanwhile, in March 2017, the TIS coal terminal set a new productivity record, loading 115,000t of coal in just 24 hours.
“The key performance indicator for the port operator is the speed of re-handling the cargoes – and here the special handling equipment makes all the difference,” said Oleg Sologub, chief engineer at TIS.
The firm’s fleet of Volvo L180 and L220 wheel loaders span the E, F, G and H machine generations. Recently, TIS took delivery of a further four L220H models.
“The majority of loaders on the market are designed for quarry applications, while our crucial needs are high productivity, fast speeds, superior manoeuvrability, small overall size and highest possible bucket capacity,” said Sologub. “It seemed to us that Volvo loaders have a design that is suited best to our tasks. Not every machine can meet these requirements.”
Volvo Construction Equipment (Volvo CE) offers customers a range of factory-fit options to suit the needs of an application. For re-handling jobs, such as at TIS, Volvo CE offers a dedicated re-handling bucket, as well as a flat floor re-handling bucket, on the L110-L350 wheel loader models. The shape, balanced floor back ratio and countersunk holes on these application-specific buckets make them easier to fill in re-handling jobs, while the curved side plates minimise any spillage, allowing operators to move more materials at a faster rate. The reduction in cycle times also helps customers improve fuel efficiency by up to 20%, compared to using standard wheel loader buckets.
Volvo wheel loaders also promote a productive work shift by providing a comfortable and spacious cab fitted with an ergonomic seat and controls. According to Volvo, attention to detail in the operator environment helps to decrease fatigue significantly.
“It’s the best cab for the operator – very comfortable. You feel good after the shift is over,” said Alexander Vykhvatnyuk, a former operator, and now shift mechanic at TIS.
Lead operator Igor Kolyuzhnyi added: “All the controls are very conveniently located and easy to access.”
The Volvo wheel loaders’ high uptime has also proved crucial in the success of TIS’s round-the-clock operations. These machines are designed to work hard for long hours with minimal wear and tear.
“The machines we purchased initially have been running for more than 40,000 hours and they are still working. For sure, we use them without mercy,” said Sologub.
Daily maintenance and service checks are quick and easy to carry out. The engine compartment is accessed via an electrically activated, wide-opening hood, and the whole cab can be titled by 30 or 70 degrees. Grouped greasing points are controlled by an optional automatic lubrication system. The sealed oscillation pins cradle keeps components greased for up to 8,000 hours, dramatically cutting service time.
When further help is required, TIS counts on customer service from the local Volvo dealer.
“One of the strengths Volvo machines have here is the way the company is represented in Ukraine,” said Aleksey Shlapakov, head of procurement at TIS. “We are pleased with the performance not only of the equipment manufacturer but also the local dealer. It is a very big advantage since our operation mode leaves us no room for long breakdown times and long delivery times for parts. The Volvo service depot performs well here and we feel confident and easy with these machines and their support.”
Sologub added: “No one else can show results like we do – and these machines contribute not the least part in these achievements.”
New to market
In what is a highly competitive market, wheel loader manufacturers constantly have to introduce innovations and, sometimes, completely new models.
Already this year, Caterpillar and John Deere have launched new vehicles for materials handling.
Caterpillar says its 990K Aggregate Handler will now be able to carry 25% more material. With a payload of 20t and a full turn static tipping load of 43,738 kg, the wheel loader has additional counterweights to maintain stability. The vehicle’s powertrain includes an in-house built C27 engine that delivers a net power of 699 hp (521 kW), while lower engine speed helps minimise fuel use. Economic gains are furthered through the use of the Eco-mode (on-demand throttle), engine-idle shutdown system and engine-idle kick-down/auto-resume system.
Additionally, an impeller clutch torque converter uses a lock-up clutch, providing direct drive for better fuel economy, trim cycle times and reduced heat – especially in load-and-carry applications. The system allows operators to balance rim pull and hydraulic power for optimum loading efficiency.
For greater safety, the 990K is equipped with a rear-view camera system and in-cab display to show the operator the area behind the loader. In addition, the Cat Detect object detection system, available as an option, builds on the camera system with radars and in-cab software that provide notification to the operator when an object is detected within the radar coverage area.
John Deere has unveiled three new L-Series utility wheel loaders. The 524L, 544L and 624L incorporate several new features, including improved cabs for more comfort and visibility, electro-hydraulic (EH) loader controls for easier operation and redesigned near-parallel linkage, and improved buckets.
The most notable of changes to the L-Series from its K-Series predecessors is the improved cab, which is roomier and more comfortable, offering more functional storage and floor space. The optional heavy-duty air suspension seat is heated, ventilated and designed to offer additional legroom. The HVAC performance is also improved, and now includes rear defrost, increasing air flow while reducing noise. Three standard 12V auxiliary power ports in the cab enable the operator to charge multiple devices. Optional remote-heated, adjustable mirrors increase jobsite visibility.
Behind the wheel, EH loader controls with integrated third and fourth function auxiliary hydraulics provide faster cycle times, resulting in more material moved in shorter periods, says Deere. Two multifunction buttons integrated into the hydraulic controls allow the operator to assign a function to each button, improving operability and productivity.
The loader also has an ergonomically designed, seat-mounted right-hand joystick with a standard forward-neutral-reverse switch and fully integrated auxiliary hydraulic controls. A throttle lock option removes the need for the operator to push the throttle pedal to maintain engine speed.
Improvements to the machine boom structure increase visibility to the coupler, bucket or forks, reducing overall cycle times, material spillage and equipment damage. Additional bucket options include enhanced production buckets with integrated spill guards, profiled side cutters, and greater rollback, improving bucket fill and material retention. A new shaft-style fork design offers more visibility and tine length options, including 48, 60 and 72 inches. Smoother boom and bucket hydraulic kick-outs reduce operator fatigue, while new standard parallel lift linkage improves load levelling, limits bucket spillage and increases fork operation speed.
It’s behind you!
At last year’s Bauma trade fair in Munich, Liebherr presented a package of multiple intelligent assistance systems for its XPower large wheel loaders.
The systems include the new active rear person recognition and a sensor-supported, integrated tyre pressure monitoring system.
Liebherr says that the new assistance systems increase comfort and safety in daily operation in many ways. One of the advantages is that they enable machine operators to concentrate more on operating the loader by removing additional distractions. For example, the active rear person recognition automatically provides a warning on the machine display and sounds acoustic signals if there is danger in the wheel loader’s rear area. A special feature of this system is that it uses sensors to differentiate automatically between people and objects.
If a person moves in the area behind the machine, the system alerts the machine operator. The active rear person recognition is activated at a greater distance than warning systems for inanimate objects such as walls or columns. Therefore, the operator receives a more precise warning if there is a risk of personal injury. The active rear person recognition thereby avoids an overload of warning signals, which in turn reduces the burden on the machine operator.
Meanwhile, the integrated tyre monitoring system helps increase the lifetime of tyres.
Tyres are among the most expensive wearing parts on a wheel loader. Incorrect tyre pressure leads to increased wear and higher fuel consumption. Other negative consequences are stability limitations and reduced manoeuvrability. Liebherr’s integrated tyre pressure monitoring system detects tyre pressure deficiencies early, ensures good manoeuvrability and so increases the lifetime of the tyres.
With the aid of sensors, which are installed on the tyres and protected from damage, the system records the status of the tyres and indicates this on the machine display. If there are deviations from optimal pressure, the machine operator receives a warning notification on the display. The operator can therefore act early if there is insufficient pressure or excessive temperature levels, in order to avoid safety risks and high associated costs. The system is available as standard for many wheeled earthmovers and container handling machines across the Liebherr range.
Liebherr also showcased two representatives of the latest Stereo loaders at Bauma 2018. Liebherr recently reworked the series, which comprises four models from the L507 Stereo to the L518 Stereo. All models are available in a Speeder version on request. In this version, Stereo loaders can reach a top speed of up to 40 kph. This helps operators save time and enables them to move their wheel loader quickly from one operation to the next.
The Stereo steering Volvo has developed is claimed to be a balanced combination of articulated steering and rear axle steering. It combines the advantages of conventional articulated steering with the benefits of all-wheel steering. The resulting minimal turning circle is particularly practical when space is limited. The controlled rear axle enables Liebherr engineers to reduce the articulation angle of Stereo loaders to 30 degrees. As a consequence, the centre of gravity remains in the centre of the machine, even when transporting large loads, which increases stability.