Volvo workhorses gain ground in Gulf

Volvo, a veteran in the quarrying sector, is seeing an upswing in demand for its heavy-duty machines in the region, on the back of a resurgency in the construction market.

June 2011

VOLVO Construction Equipment (Volvo CE) has long been providing efficient solutions to the quarrying industry aimed at lowering the cost per tonne of material produced and sharpening the clients’ competitive edge. In the Gulf region, the full-line manufacturer of earthmoving and road construction equipment is witnessing a surge in demand for its tough workhorses in the quarrying sector, which is showing positive signs of growth.

The company has been supplying its machines to key quarrying operations in the UAE, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey, where they have been operating in arduous conditions in limestone, gabbro as well as marble quarries.

Commenting on the company’s performance in the Middle East, area sales manager Middle East Dragan Krznaric says: “We have done extremely well since early 2010 on the back of a recovery in the market and have seen almost 50 per cent year-on-year increase, albeit based on a low overall sales turnover in 2009. In fact, during 2010, we recovered some of the ground lost during 2009 and since then have been outperforming our targets and are satisfied with our growth.”

“Turkey, in particular, is a huge quarrying market that is growing rapidly, and we are proud to state that some 50 per cent of the equipment used in these quarries is from Volvo,” Krznaric adds.

While in the immediate post-economic crisis period, the focus in the Gulf region was on heavy infrastructure and road construction, quarrying operations are beginning to pick up with the rise in building construction activity, he says.

The A40F hauler (above) and EC700, the largest of the EC series of crawler excavators.

Volvo machines are popular in such applications because of the reputation they have gained worldwide for working efficiently in the toughest of environments, with quarrying operations being among the worst, he points out. In these dusty and abrasive environments where temperatures often exceed 50 deg C, machine performance and availability is a high priority. In addition, because of the remoteness of most of these locations, maintenance is a key issue.

“Volvo has been a strong player in the quarrying sector and is recognised for the quality built into its machines, which are designed for heavy-duty work. In addition, it has a strong dealer network and offers excellent customer service,” he says.

Popular machines

Among the most popular Volvo machines in quarrying operations in the region are the L-180 and L-220 wheel loaders, now released as the new G-Series; the A35F and A40F haulers, with the new F-Series; and the EC460 and EC700, the largest of the EC series of crawler excavators.

The G-Series wheel loaders, says Krznaric, set new standards in terms of fuel efficiency and reliability and offer a 20 per cent increase in lifting force and 10 per cent improvement in lifting strength, compared to the previous models.

Featuring tailored engines and driveline systems that improve fuel efficiency, productivity, smoothness, serviceability and operator comfort, they offer perfectly-matched drive trains, hydraulics and attachments alongside a complete range of equipment to meet the clients’ requirements.

All models are fitted with Volvo’s 13-litre, six-cylinder turbocharged off-highway diesel engine. Producing between 220 and 274 kW (300-371 hp), depending on the model, the units provide high torque at low engine speeds.

“The production of torque and power at low engine speeds, combined with load-sensing hydraulics, removes the need to overrun the engine, which in turn extends engine life as well as lowering fuel usage and dramatically reducing noise,” says Krznaric.

Among some of the innovative features of these machines are:

OptiShift – Volvo’s lock-up torque converter technology that provides a ground-breaking solution for faster loading cycles, higher durability and operator comfort – which increases fuel efficiency by up to 15 per cent over conventional Volvo torque converters;

A new hydraulic cooling system designed to reduce the working temperatures by up to 20 deg C over previous models; and

An enhanced hydraulic oil-return filter, which has improved from 20 to 10 microns to further protect the pumps from potential contamination.

Turning to the haulers, Krznaric says the F-Series are termed as Volvo’s most productive, comfortable, environment-friendly, fuel-efficient haulers to date. They are not only more powerful (up five per cent on E-Series) and more fuel-efficient (using six to eight per cent less diesel), they also feature a package of improvements in functionality, design, and maintenance.

The L-220 (above) and L-180 wheel loaders ... now released as the new G-Series.

Their articulated steering system gives operators outstanding control of the machine through both its high steering force in tough off-road conditions and also its accurate, safe operation at high hauling speeds, he says.

“Durability and strength are the hallmarks of all Volvo haulers, with their heavy-duty front and rear frames designed for severe off-road operation and long service life. A powerful, load-sensing ‘closed centre’ hydraulic system and double-acting, single-stage hoist cylinders raise the body even on steep downhill gradients. The system allows for precise, controllable dumping – shortening cycle times and aiding safety,” he says.

Meanwhile, the EC460 and EC700 excavators help achieve high levels of digging efficiency, providing dependable performance for quarrying, mining, road building, civil engineering, general construction and more. Each crawler excavator model in the EC series is designed and built to deliver long-lasting performance, powerful strength and leading fuel efficiency, with the EC700 being the gold standard in production digging. The EC series boasts powerful hydraulics, with work modes matching hydraulic speed and power in different applications and a boom/arm summation system that maximises power by prioritising functions. The machines have upper and lower, robotically-welded frames that are strategically reinforced for increased durability in the toughest applications.

All these machines are backed by advanced electronic monitoring diagnostics that are designed to prolong machine life, enhance uptime and maximise productivity. Caretrack, Volvo’s sophisticated telematics system, allows remote monitoring of a wide range of machine functions (location, fuel consumption, hours of operation, speed, service reminders, and more), enabling the customer and/or dealer to track the machines in real-time and use the system as a preventative tool to avoid machine breakdown.

Customer service

Volvo CE offers operator training in the operation and maintenance of its machines. This apart, customers can also opt to delegate the responsibility for machine maintenance to the dealer, Krznaric says.

As part of its customer-centric approach, Volvo holds open houses once or twice a year for customers and dealers. It also participates in the Quarry Institute seminars held annually in the UAE and in exhibitions in the region. In addition, the firm conducts live demonstrations of its machines at customers’ sites.

While sales and support activities are handled by its dealers in each of the countries in the region, Volvo’s regional office in Dubai serves as a regional parts distribution centre, supplying spares 24/7 across the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region. The regional office is responsible for both sales and the after-market services. This apart, Volvo representatives frequently visit the region to obtain feedback from dealers and customers. Volvo also has a technical training centre where regular training sessions are conducted by experts from the head office.

“We are committed to ensuring high availability of spare parts, which are sent to dealers within 24 hours of receiving enquiries,” he says.

In certain instances depending on requirements, such as in remote locations, Volvo also erects consignment workshops to support machines that operate in these sites.

A testimony to the high-performance and durability of Volvo machines is the fact that some of these machines have been in operation in the region for more than 30 years – and are still in use, according to Krznaric.

Volvo’s dealers in the region include Al Futtaim Auto and Machinery Company (Famco) in the UAE, Genserv in Oman, Al Rehab Company in Saudi Arabia, Arabian Agencies Company (Araco) in Qatar, Zabin in Kuwait and Bin Hindi in Bahrain. To extend services to customers, the company also supports dealer efforts to boost their coverage in each of the GCC states.

Another innovative service offered by Volvo is a site simulation program, a computer-based system that Volvo CE uses to plan an optimum fleet for its customers.

“This is an area in which we lead as not many of our competitors can offer this consultancy service,” he says. “This is particularly useful when customers have a large fleet.”

Volvo CE has been providing this service for about a decade and the feedback has been good, he adds.

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