Product feature: Bobcat T870

By: Chris McCullough, Photography by: Chris McCullough

Good things come in small Bobcat packages

It may not be big in stature but the Bobcat T870 sure has been producing huge results for County Tyrone-based P&M Excavations, particularly so on the company’s latest road construction job.

It may be small but the Bobcat certainly has big ambitions

Based in Carrickmore near Omagh in Northern Ireland, P&M Excavations carry out all types of grounds work, including road construction, and currently has a team working on the new A6 road between Castledawson and Randalstown.

Seamus McIlvar, P&M Excavations contracts manager (left) with Martin Dobbs, P&M Excavations managing director

As well as the A6 road project, the company, set up by Peter and Martin Dobbs, is working at the new Strabane Academy school project, which is costing over £20 million. Heading up the company these days as managing director is Martin, who is Peter’s son, and is the first to acknowledge how technology has changed over the years and enhanced the family business.

Grading with 3D technology makes the job easier

This sentiment has been particularly emphasised with the purchase of a new Bobcat T870, the largest in the range, fitted with a six-way blade and state-of-the-art 3D grading technology controlled via a Total Station.

Onboard receivers take instruction from the Total Station

"For many years, those of us involved in grounds work preparation were well used to chalking out lines on sites and taking measurements by hand to determine levels and falls," says Martin.

"We relied heavily on extra labour to carry these tedious tasks out and the skill of that labour to ensure the levels were right."Nowadays, site managers demand tight tolerances when it comes to levels, as they want to make sure there’s no wastage of materials adding to their costs.

"And that’s exactly why we purchased a new Bobcat T870 with six-way blade and Trimble 3D grading system."

Compact and powerful

Powered by a 100hp Tier 4 diesel engine

While Martin and his team of 20 employees were working in Strabane, the need for a totally efficient grading system arose but the other requirement was that it had to be compact yet powerful to manoeuvre around on the site.

After exploring different options, Martin decided to invest in the biggest Bobcat skid steer of its kind fitted with a grading six-way blade and levelling system."We decided on purchasing the Bobcat T870 from the Northern Excavators Ltd dealership based at Lisburn," says Martin.

Running on tracks gives the Bobcat extra versatility

"That machine really impressed us, as it’s very easy to operate, has lots of power, and has good grip with the tracks."

In fact, the Bobcat T870 is powered by a 100hp Tier 4 diesel engine and can travel between 5.5 and 9.3 miles per hour (approx. 8.85 to 14.96 kilometres​​ per hour) depending on the transmission option.

Performance features

The Bobcat can operate up to 150m on either side of the Total Station

As the highest lifting compact loader on the market, the T870 can handle heavier loads than ever before; up to three tonnes it’s claimed. It features the industry-leading five link torsion suspension undercarriage and can easily load cement mixers or trucks and stack brick, blocks, and other palletised materials.

Engineered for reliability from the start, the five link torsion suspension undercarriage will stand up to the most demanding job sites. It starts with an improved drive motor that’s continuously lubricated from the hydraulic system, leading to a longer life.

Other components are much larger and more durable, including the shaft inside the gearbox, track rollers, and rear idler. Hydraulic hoses are carefully routed inside the undercarriage, free from potential snag points.

Together with the new Bobcat, Martin also opted for a six-way grader, a bucket, road brush, and forks. In order to achieve the best results from the grader, Martin also invested in a 3D auto grading system that takes its orders from a Total Station that’s pre-programmed with the exact specifications of the job.

"We originally bought the Bobcat to use at the school," says Martin. "And then when the job on the A6 required an accurate grader, we brought it here, too."For the past two years, we’ve been working on the A6 dual carriageway under main contractor Graham Farrans JV.

Initially, we were involved with the installation of mainline drainage for the new road, which is still ongoing, but we’re also now grading in preparation for drainage channels and blacktop with the Bobcat."

P&M Excavations run a fleet of mainly 20-tonne and 13-tonne Hitachi excavators with a number of dump trucks, compaction equipment, and other plant. The company policy is to upgrade equipment every four years.

Trimble technology controls the grading

Using the Bobcat and grading system has benefited P&M Excavations immensely, as they now can offer another service to clients.

Contracts manager Seamus McIlvar says, "Once I receive the drawings of the road from the main contractor, I then run them through software to create a design to machine control format, which is then uploaded into the in-cab Trimble control box.

If no drawings are available, we create our own 3D designs from scratch.

"The grader is referenced from the machine control Total Station set up on-site and the screen in the cab allows the operator to view the design and choose vertical and horizontal offsets for the grading operation.

Cab screen delivers operator exact instructions

"The Bobcat can operate to a range of 150 metres on either side of the Total Station and works to a tolerance of less than five millimetres, depending on the size of aggregate.

"Working to these high tolerances ensures expensive material wastage is kept to a minimum, therefore providing a huge cost saving to the job," he says.

When it comes to how the Bobcat performs, Martin adds, "We’re very pleased with both the performance of the machine and the back-up service from Northern Excavators Ltd.

"They have looked after us every step of the purchase and since then. Using the two joysticks the Bobcat is easy to handle and it only took me a short time to master the control of the grader and the software.

"Using this combination means our company can work faster and more efficiently with the Bobcat and grader."This has the benefit of saving us labour and, therefore, costs, which we can pass on to our clients. It also means our sites are much safer as we are using less labour there."

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