Porter Press Extra: RDL Group

By: Cameron Officer, Photography by: Cameron Officer

When it comes to investing in reliable machine technology, Wellington’s RDL Group trusts Porter Equipment and Hyundai to deliver excellence

Do you remember that old electronic game Tetris? The one where you had to join together brightly coloured blocks in a seamless fashion as they fell into view at an ever-increasing speed?

Looking at the RDL Group project site I visited, cascading down a steep hill in the sinewy back streets of Newtown, Wellington, I can’t help but be reminded of all those ascending blocks in their variety of shapes. I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a complex schematic bulk excavation drawing as the one pinned to the wall in RDL’s site office.

RDL Group has a number of machinery from Porter Equipment

Spread over an intricately-woven pattern of multi-level terraces and accessed up a long right-of-way driveway alongside existing suburban housing, the Newtown site (which will be home to over a dozen modern townhouses by June next year) is the very definition of a complex and confined urban job site. To work here, you need experience and equipment that hits that ‘right power/right size’ sweet spot.

The Hyundai R145CR-9 hits the ‘right power/right size’ sweet spot

Thankfully, on the first score, RDL has plenty of experience. What started out as a construction operation more than 25 years ago has now evolved into a one-stop-shop for earthworks, construction, and demolition.

I last caught up with RDL Group director Benji Sneddon’s team almost four years ago to the day, on a demolition job in Waikanae.

Back then, Benji had just taken delivery of a couple of new Hyundai excavators—a Hyundai R235LCR-9 and a Hyundai R290LC-9—and was putting them through their paces demolishing the old Waikanae Hotel. Those machines were by no means RDL’s first Porter Equipment-supplied gear, and they certainly weren’t the last.

When I caught up with them in 2015, the company had eight projects on the boil and around 30 staff. Today? It’s actively engaged in more than 30 projects, being completed by a staff roster numbering 80.

Not only have the company’s team numbers and project portfolio grown steadily since 2015, its machine fleet has, too. Taking into account Hyundai excavation, BOMAG compaction, and ASV tracked mini loader equipment, as well as a variety of breaker attachments manufactured by the likes of Furukawa, RDL Group operates more than 20 machines supplied by Porter Equipment.

John ‘Sparky’ Wickens

But according to site manager John ‘Sparky’ Wickens, the star of the show on this particularly precipitous project is his Hyundai R145CR-9 tracked excavator.

"I reckon the 14-tonner has to be my favourite machine in the entire fleet," he enthuses. "You can look at it and see it works really well size-wise on a job like this. But what you can’t see is just how powerful and fast it is.

"I can zip around the place and shift soil wherever it’s needed; that speed is crucial here because there are so many elevations and difficult access points on the slope. You could spend far too much time in the day just moving machines around if you didn’t have something that was fast and nimble."

The schematic bulk excavation drawing pinned to the wall in RDL’s site office

That’d be the ‘right power/right size’ sweet spot taken care of, then. The site has so many operational pinch points that the team working here has often been forced to lift smaller excavators and other gear in overhead rather than drive it into place.

I ponder the difficulties they must face getting an even bigger machine in here to do the heavy lifting, to which Sparky replies with a sideways glance: "Nah mate, we use the 14-tonner. Like I say, it’s really powerful; completely stable even at a decent reach too."

Fair enough. Something else that has proven stable over the years is the back-up support RDL receives from Porter Equipment. Sparky says that, machine reliability aside, the proactive full-service support RDL gets from the Hyundai and BOMAG distributor really is a crucial difference.

Sparky says the 14-tonner is both powerful and completely stable

"Honestly, there isn’t another company out there that can beat Porters in terms of their ability to solve issues or provide advice as soon as it’s needed. Here in the Wellington region, Josh Hunter has been absolutely instrumental in ensuring we have the right gear at the right time.

"The service is so prompt; we have had work crop up in the past where we’ve urgently needed another machine because everything else is tied up elsewhere, and Porters will get us something immediately. They have the depth of supply to do that and Josh goes the extra mile to make sure that reputation holds up.

"Also, their stock of parts is such that you never have to wait for anything; that aspect really helps our full-time diesel mechanic, who services our gear once its out of warranty. Even after that point, the link back to Porter Equipment remains very strong. Having a common fleet with common parts also means we’re well-covered to get machines serviced or fixed and back out on-site quickly."

That link to Porter Equipment remains strong away from the work site, too, with the company enthusiastic sponsors of Benji Sneddon and Daniel Hole’s ‘Mukka Motorsport’ Super Stock race cars.

Porter Equipment are sponsors of Benji Sneddon (pictured here) and Daniel Hole’s ‘Mukka Motorsport’ Super Stock race cars

Sparky, who is currently undertaking a BCITO Project Management apprenticeship and has been in the demolition game all his working life, says all aspects of the work RDL undertakes can make for tough going at times, but the work is rewarding as well.

"Whether we’re building something up, or pulling it down, there’s a real sense of pride and achievement in what we do. It’s satisfying to see something being transformed for the better.

"Our machines definitely don’t get a lot of rest, and they face some demanding jobs. But we make sure our machines stay in really good condition considering they’re on the front line in some demanding demo and civil jobs. We look after the machines but also make them earn their keep and we haven’t been let down at all," he says.

Despite being pulled between pillar and post on the day I was in Wellington and unable to catch up in person, the last word on the subject needs to go to RDL Group director Benji Sneddon. They were actually words he spoke to me four years ago, but they still represent an effective bottom line on RDL’s relationship and trust in Porter Equipment.

"I was determined that if we wanted to become a major player with a solid reputation in the region, then we needed to be more visible and take on more challenges; overhauling the fleet was a vital part of that," Benji said.

"We needed a machinery distributor who had the ability to deliver. And that distributor, bar none, was Porter Equipment."

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