Porter Press Extra: Great Southern Group

By: Cameron Officer, Photography by: Cameron Officer

Great Southern Group’s busy Invercargill yard is home to a brand-new Hyundai HX145CR excavator, sporting an equally new processing head

You’d be hard beat to find a more suitable corporate moniker for this particular supplier than Great Southern Group. Between Ashburton to the north and Invercargill in the south, they certainly do have the south of the south covered. They’re also well-known for providing great service to all manner of farmers, fencing contractors, private landowners, and beyond.

The Group was founded many years ago by company owner Rob Lawrence and has grown into a large-scale corporate entity made up of three separate but complementary companies.

Great Southern Invercargill, run by Mary McDowall and her 20-strong team, has been manufacturing posts for around 18 years now. With Southland forestry such a mainstay of local industry and on the company’s back doorstep, it has always made sense to site timber production at the large yard on the outskirts of the city. Great Southern Invercargill supplies retail and wholesale posts and other products to myriad customers, as well as other outlets in the Group, such as its yards at Milton, Cromwell, and Gore.

The reduced footprint of a ‘zero swing’ machine is crucial when working in tight spaces
The reduced footprint of a ‘zero swing’ machine is crucial when working in tight spaces

In addition to poles, piles, posts, and strainers, Great Southern Group also fabricates concrete water troughs, landscaping and outdoor equipment, supplies firewood, and constructs small transportable buildings such as woodsheds, chicken coops, and dog houses. It’s fair to say, though, fence posts and poles make up the majority of the product leaving through the gates.

A new chapter

Mary says on average there will be between eight and 10 truckloads of logs coming in to be processed per week. The work of measuring and cutting the timber as it arrives, fresh from the forest, is completed by a new Hyundai HX145CR sporting an equally new processing head.

"The new excavator actually came about because we needed to replace the processing head," Mary explains. "We were utilising an older Hyundai machine that we bought second-hand and had been running for quite a few years. When the decision was made to upgrade the processing head, I discussed our options with Wayne Cunningham at Porter Equipment.

"I did a lot of research and looked at a lot of brands, but I could see that a Hyundai ‘zero swing’ machine was going to work for us. The great thing about Wayne and the advice he offered was that he took the time to look at our business and what we actually need from a machine in that processing role and understand what would work and why. I really valued that approach."

Mary says that getting the balance of size and power right is crucial, as while there was the one long stack of timber to be processed on the day Deals on Wheels visited the Invercargill yard—and plenty of room on either side for the Hyundai HX145CR to manoeuvre—there are often multiple stacks. This means that space is tight between the rows of logs that need processing: the reduced footprint of a ‘zero swing’ machine is crucial.

The operator doing the picking, measuring, and cutting is Maurice Thompson, one of Great Southern Invercargill’s longest-standing employees.

An ingeniously simple measuring device bolted to the side of the processing head—a sprung aerial from a road vehicle—gives Maurice the perfect measure of how long each section of timber destined for peeling, pointing, drying, and treating needs to be. Although Maurice is so adept at what he does, you get the feeling he’d be able to cut to millimetre-precise lengths blindfolded. All offcuts are dropped into a nearby skip, destined for the company’s firewood supply division.

"Absolutely nothing gets wasted around here," laughs Mary.

New series, new features

Hyundai’s new HX series excavators bring with them plenty of significant step-changes in terms of what they deliver heavy machinery users from a variety of sectors. There are not only big advances in engineering, design, and operating durability of the machines but also the HX series’ entirely new operator cab environment has quickly become a focal point.

Aside from more cab space than its predecessor across the board, the HX series’ operator console also sees significant upgrades in terms of both hardware and software.

Mary McDowall and Maurice Thompson
Mary McDowall and Maurice Thompson

Great Southern Invercargill’s new Hyundai HX145CR features an all-new instrument cluster with a redesigned widescreen display. Mirroring the familiar organisational look of most smartphone screens, the new display also offers excellent legibility in a variety of light levels and working environments.

The range’s new smart terminal ‘miracast’ system also makes this the most connected Hyundai excavator ever, employing the operator’s Android smartphone to quickly enable all of that handheld device’s apps and functionality to be accessed directly from the machine’s screen.

Bird’s-eye view

It’s the new machine’s camera system that has impressed Maurice, however.

"I think it’s amazing what they can do with that camera technology. Being able to see your machine in its surroundings right there on the screen is excellent. And when you walked up to it just now, the system alerted me with arrows on the screen that there was an obstacle behind me. It’s clever stuff," he enthuses.

The new HX series represents the safest Hyundai excavators yet
The new HX series represents the safest Hyundai excavators yet

Hyundai’s state-of-the-art Advanced Around View Monitoring (AAVM) camera system has every corner covered, providing the operator with a secure field of vision right around the machine, thanks to multiple cameras. No less than nine views are available, including the 3D ‘bird’s-eye’ view, which has impressed Maurice, and which uses all of the available camera views to show the excavator and its immediate surroundings from above in real-time.

Hyundai’s Intelligent Moving Object Detection system, which alerted Maurice to an errant magazine writer approaching his Hyundai, sounds an alarm to let the operator know when a person or object is detected within their range of operation, up to five metres away.

Top team

There’s no doubt that the new HX series represents the safest Hyundai excavators yet, offering a high-quality heavy-duty machine that is fit-for-purpose. More than just reliable machinery, Mary is also adamant about the benefits of surrounding herself with top-quality people in all aspects of the wider Great Southern Invercargill operation.

"It doesn’t matter whether you’re talking about the processing team, or the transport drivers, or the people who service our machinery, I can’t be effective in my role without good people and solid support around me," she concludes.

"I’m very lucky that we have such good employees, suppliers, and partners in this industry. And I would count Wayne and Porter Equipment among these."

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