Product profile: Hidromek HMK310LC

By: Steve Atkinson, Photography by: Phil Means

Magnum Equipment takes on the West Coast with a recent delivery of a Hidromek HMK310LC to Taranaki

The new 31T Hidromek will be joined in a few weeks by its 14T sibling

It’s early days, but things look promising after the arrival of a new Hidromek HMK310LC at one of S&A Gibson Contracting’s rural job sites. Fresh off the transporter, the new 31-tonne machine will slot into a fleet of eight excavators and a host of other heavy equipment that the family-run business utilises across the Taranaki region.

Family head Steve Gibson, who we last caught up with in early 2012 (DOW 221) runs the business with his wife Amara and three sons Kayden, Josh, and Liam. Their latest addition is the first arrival of two Hidromek excavators, with a second smaller HMK140LC scheduled to turn up in a few weeks—all things going well—sometime around Christmas.

Trusted reputation

A Robur DynaGrip coupler and a Robur Tilt Bucket have been fitted

Fitted with a Robur DynaGrip coupler and a Robur Tilt Bucket, the new 31-tonne excavator will be replacing two older machines in the company quarry, as well as being used for drainage and land development jobs around the region.

"We’re really only getting to grips with a new brand of machine, and I’ve only had a short run, but it feels just as smooth as our Case and Sumitomo excavators. It’s much what we expected after having a close look over a smaller 20-tonne Hidromek," says Steve.

What Steve means is that the larger Hidromek was being shipped to New Zealand, destined as a stock unit for distributors Magnum Equipment and was purchased while still on the water.

"With the shortage of new machines around, we made the decision to purchase
the 31-tonne Hidromek sight unseen. We’ve known rep Phil Means for a long time, and he’s passionate about what he does, so we put our trust in him and were not disappointed when the excavator turned up," Steve says.

Getting a feel for the machine

A 1.5T thumb is still to be fitted

Tasked with operating the new HMK310LC is eldest son Kayden Gibson and his voice after a short time behind the controls on the day we catch up has a positive note to it.

"I haven’t got into any serious work yet, but I’m confident it will get through the jobs a lot better," Kayden says.

Kayden Gibson with son Cooper

Balance-wise, Kayden is still getting used to the feel of the new excavator and says it has a heavier stance than what he was using previously.

"It feels well-balanced, but almost too well-balanced if you know what I mean.

"It will be fine once I get accustomed to the extended reach with a full bucket, but I’ll need to re-adjust after the 1.5-tonne thumb gets put on the arm. It may be that we add a bit of additional steel to the counterweight to get everything set up how I like it when that happens," he says.

Better lifting and faster completion

The HMK310LC makes its way to the first job

Kayden says the HMK310LC will be a big help on drainage projects, especially with the larger diameter pipes that have become more popular over the last few years.

"Going back a while, a 20-tonne machine would be fine to drop pipes in the ground, but they’ve progressively gotten bigger and will stand one of those machines on its toes, so the larger Hidromek with its better lifting capacity should easily handle the heavier pipes," he says.

Another reason for opting for a large machine is the lack of skilled operators in the region.
"We’re a hands-on business with a lot of customers who are individual landowners," says Steve

"They like one of the family to do their work, and the problem is that there’s only four of us to do this, and with Josh also being a single parent, our availability is stretched, so it creates a backlog of work. The new machine should help us complete jobs faster."

Breaking out the rock

The new machine will spend half its time working in the family quarry

With the HMK310LC spending a good part of its working life in the family quarry, having a larger machine doing the heavy rock work is a key factor, especially with two hungry crushers and a screening plant needing to be fed.

"We’re not at the quarry on a continual basis, so if the Hidromek can help us to get enough crushed to keep us going for a month in less time, then that allows us to get back out on our job sites quicker," says Steve.

Heavier steel

A key purchase factor was Hidromek’s use of heavier gauge steel

One of the key factors for the Gibson family deciding to buy Hidromek was the heavier gauge steel used by the manufacturer and what’s proving to be a popular selling point with potential buyers, according to distributor Magnum Equipment.

"As I see it, these Hidromek excavators are fitted with the same pumps and engines as a lot of the more well-known brands, but the steel they use is a lot heavier gauge and looks to be better prepared," says Steve.

"We’ve got some great older machines, but the bodies start to deteriorate around them. They still run well, so that tells me the componentry is fine, with just the quality of what’s around that stuff which is the problem.

And that’s where we’re hoping this new Hidromek and the other machine, which is due to arrive at the end of the year, will be different." We’ll check in with Steve, Kayden, Josh, and Liam at a later time for an update but will make sure we don’t wait another 10 years before that happens.

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