Wheel loaders offer benefits to Canadian producer

By |  July 7, 2017

One indicator of whether a machine will work in any application is putting that machine under the stress of actual operating conditions before buying it.

Canadian-based Fowler Construction did just that before adding two new 320-hp 1121F wheel loaders from Case Construction Equipment to its fleet, working both to load trucks with aggregate and feed the company’s asphalt plants that serve its paving operation.

“We recorded fuel, operational comforts for the operator, the strength of the machine, and we were very well pleased,” says Mark Genders, equipment manager at Fowler Construction. “We came out at [3.96 gallons] an hour. It outperformed the current loaders on site. The operators felt very comfortable.”

Fostering growth

Fowler Construction was founded in Bracebridge, Ontario, Canada, in 1949 by Archie Fowler, Glen Coates and Ralph Boothby. With beginnings in the logging industry, Fowler expanded over the years and now offers services in road construction, aggregate and asphalt production, as well as water and sewer work, golf course and sports court construction, seasonal road maintenance and excavation, and site preparation.

With more than 400 employees, Fowler is one of the largest employers in the Muskoka, Ontario area, and the company continues to accelerate the growth of the business. Part of the company’s growth strategy is to add new equipment as needed. Fowler went with the 320-hp wheel loaders with 6-cu.-yd. buckets because that size was optimal both for its summer pit/plant operation, as well as for winter snow removal and other seasonal work.

For Fowler, one of the most important elements of its testing process was evaluating fuel consumption. The fuel savings Genders has experienced with the 1121F wheel loader are the result of several components of the machine working together – the selective catalytic reduction (SCR) engine, four operating modes that allow the operator to tailor the machine output to the application, and a unique cooling design that requires less machine effort and fuel to operate.

One advantage of achieving greater fuel efficiency is extended runtime, Genders says. With multiple aggregate sites spread across a region spanning more than 90 miles, those extended runtimes result in fewer required visits from a fuel truck, he says.

“With our geographical region where our pits and quarries and our jobs are so spread out, I might not be able to have a fuel truck there for 10 to 12 hours, so the site has to run independently until our fuel supply is delivered. That means a huge amount [to us].”

Genders attributes some of the machine’s fuel savings to the design of its boom (Z-bar) and hydraulics.

“I think a big factor that plays into it is the design of the front loader frame,” Genders says. “It’s whether or not the machine has the capability of loading the bucket and coming up through the pile, rather than the machine actually fighting itself. The [1121F] is well balanced where it can run at a lower rim pull, but more of its horsepower goes to the front loader frame and loads a bucket full, and then leaves the pile again in a timely fashion. [This] keeps our cycle times all in tune. At the same time, the loader’s not really working that hard to fill the [bucket].”

Downstream efficiency

A cooling cube helps to keep the loader’s engine cool while minimizing the buildup of debris during operation, according to Case Construction Equipment. Photos courtesy of Case Construction Equipment

Genders has also spent significant time designing work cycles that require the fewest number of machine movements to get the job done, as well as right-
sizing each machine to an application.

The 1121F with a 6-cu.-yd. bucket is an ideal match for the truck fleets the company runs, typically filling one in three passes. It’s a match to the aggregate plant hoppers it’s charged with feeding, too.

“[You can run into trouble] if you’re feeding a plant with something too small,” Genders says. “You’re making, on average, probably a third to a quarter more trips to the plant a day to keep the plant fed [with a smaller machine]. It factors into your fuel, the wear and the tear on the tires, the loader.

“Another factor is the stone,” he adds. “The more you handle stone, especially for asphalt, the more it separates. The less you can handle it, the better.”

Also, Genders’ operators report that the wheel loader provides a smooth ride, as both 1121Fs are outfitted with Ride Control. This makes the ride easier on the operator, helps to retain more material in the bucket and plays a role in the company’s weighing methods.

“The smoothness and the agility of the machine allow the operators to load and weigh on the go,” Genders says. “We put weigh scales on them. If you get a loader that bounces, you can’t weigh because the scales weigh from the fluid in the lift cylinders, so the smoother the loader, the more efficient weighing you have, and the more product you ship.”

Ease of service

With an electronically raised hood, environmentally safe fluid drains, sight gauges and accessible ground-level checkpoints, the 1121F is designed for simple maintenance, according to Case. A cooling cube helps to keep the engine cool while minimizing the buildup of debris during operation.

“All the fluid level checks are done within minutes,” Genders says. “The back doors are opened up. The 1121s have the reversing fans where all the coolers are in a box configuration.

“The operator can visibly look inside, make sure none of the cooling coils are plugged, which they’re not because of the reversing fan. It takes the operator a matter of minutes, and he’s very comfortable. He doesn’t have to bend over or crawl to look at most spots.

“Also, these machines have automatic grease systems on [them],” Genders adds. “So the operator isn’t crawling around and trying to get into tight spots or dangerous areas.”

Information for this article courtesy of Case Construction Equipment.

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