Porter Press Extra: JFC Civil

By: Cameron Officer, Photography by: Cameron Officer

John Fillmore Contracting introduces its newest crawler excavator—a mighty Hyundai HX350L—to its frontline machine fleet

The Hyundai HX350L working at Mercy Ascot Hospital is both JFC’s newest and largest crawler excavator

JFC is certainly no stranger to high-profile urban projects. The familiar green and purple livery of the family business that has been operating for more than 50 years has been a part of many large civic projects in the Auckland region.

Notable highly visible, highly pedestrianised locations shaped in part by the JFC team include the Downtown Development Infrastructure Project alongside the Ferry Building on Auckland’s Quay Street, Westfield Newmarket’s streetscape, Maki Street and surrounds at the Westgate shopping precinct, and the Ellen Melville Centre and Freyberg Place upgrade in the CBD, to name just a handful.

And what do these XL-sized projects have in common? ‘Neighbours’, challenging access, tight timeframes, plenty of traffic navigating the work sites and, overall, many moving parts. Where the JFC civil works and land development project portfolio is concerned, it’s almost like the more complex, the better.

Case in point is one of the company’s current large-scale jobs adjacent to Mercy Ascot Hospital in leafy Epsom. A staple of medical care for Aucklanders since the late 1800s, Mercy Ascot Hospital is currently undergoing one of the biggest transformations in its lengthy history.

An entirely new medical campus will rise out of the ground next door to the existing hospital buildings over the next three years, seeing Mercy Ascot emerge as the country’s leading private healthcare facility.

Due to open in 2024, a new hospital wing will contain a suite of operating theatres, an intensive care unit supported by new high-dependency care beds, and supplementary wards.

Before the ribbon can be cut on the new complex however, there is plenty of groundwork still to be done. Site excavation, retaining and piling work is currently underway, with JFC needing to remove around 20,000 cubic metres of earth from the Mountain Road site before main building construction can commence at the end of next year.

And, as JFC site manager Kane Hill tells me, it isn’t just dirt that his crew has to extract.

"The rock here is unbelievable and it’s in pockets and layers, meaning the job of shifting material out definitely isn’t straightforward. We have scoria, ash, and volcanic basalt to contend with.

Getting rid of the rock has been a huge job on this central Auckland site, with volcanic basalt in particular very prominent sub-surface

And more than just the amount of rock, it’s the size of it as well. We’ve unearthed some significant pieces, some the size of that bin," says Kane, pointing at a nearby 9m³ skip.
But despite the sub-surface obstacles, Kane’s team must be judicious with the use of the rock breaker, which is attached to a 14-tonne Hyundai HX145CR.

Another Hyundai, the 14-tonne HX145CR, is on-hand with the rock breaker when needed... and it’s needed often

"We have a live hospital environment right alongside the jobsite, so naturally we need to be fully conscious of any noise or physical impact our work could have," he explains.

"At the end of the day, we have to be respectful of our client and in this instance the primary needs are eliminating as much noise and vibration from our activities as possible under the circumstances."

On paper it might seem counterintuitive, but with the need to operate as unobtrusively as possible, JFC is looking to its biggest excavator to help meet such expectations.
The latest arrival – not only on this job site, but at any current JFC project – is the company’s brand-new Hyundai HX350L.

At 35-tonnes, the box-fresh crawler excavator supplied by distributor Porter Equipment is the biggest on the JFC machine fleet: no small thing given that the Mangere-headquartered company’s excavator line-up is 90% Hyundai. In fact, the last time Deals On Wheels caught up with JFC, they had just taken delivery of their one-hundredth Hyundai – and that was two years ago.

JFC machine operator Luke Scully

Machine operator Luke Scully, who has had a decade of experience at the controls of a variety of earthmoving equipment for JFC, says the new Hyundai HX350L is a significant step up from what has come before.

"I have to say it’s the most comfortable machine I’ve worked in. The cab is really good, with good air con and ventilation. And I really like the fact the operator seat and controls are housed in one moveable unit; it means I can position the seat where it is most comfortable, but everything is still at my fingertips," he says.

The cab is also notable for its quietness compared to older models, says Luke, with obvious improvements in insulating the cab from machine noise and vibration as well, thanks to upgraded cab suspension mounts.

And with the company’s need for its biggest machine to work as quietly as possible on the hospital site, Hyundai’s engineering advances around operating acoustics are appreciable outside the 35-tonner’s cab as well.

"It’s definitely quiet for its size. I think it’s probably quieter than our older Hyundai R320LC-9," continues Luke. "But the really impressive thing where its performance is concerned is just how responsive it is.

Excavator operator Luke says the new Hyundai HX350L has heaps of power and is exceptionally responsive, ensuring quick cycles and great efficiency on the job

The hydraulic pump has been improved to the point that if I’m tracking and slewing at the same time, there’s absolutely no loss of power like you might experience in an older machine. This just makes it way more flexible on the site, more responsive and quicker to get from one point to another."

Kane Hill points out that the improved onboard Advanced Around View Monitoring (AAVM) camera system in the Hyundai HX350L is also a huge benefit on a big machine like this, and will no doubt prove its worth on this, and subsequent urban sites, for JFC.

"Like all large sites, this place can get very busy very quickly. Naturally we have very strict work protocols to do with personnel moving around the periphery of active machinery, but the Hyundai system is pretty cool.

You can set it to alert the operator to anyone coming within a set distance of the machine. There are five cameras mounted around the excavator, so Luke has a good view of each corner," says Kane.

With all manner of Porter Equipment-supplied machinery on the fleet, from a collection of six-tonne Hyundai R60CR-9s to the latest 35-tonne Hyundai HX350L, JFC as a business has long recognised the benefits of running a machine fleet with plenty of parts commonality, enhanced by Porter Equipment’s after-sales support in the field.

Porter Equipment’s extensive parts inventory gives JFC peace of mind that any issue can be rectified quickly without any delay due to unavailability of crucial componentry, for example.

"Yes, one phone call would sort any issue, which is good to know," says Kane.
Combined with its ongoing investment in new machinery from a brand it trusts, and the advances in Hyundai’s machine performance that are evident on the job day-to-day for a seasoned operator like Luke, Kane and the wider JFC team can continue to tackle ever more complex projects with confidence.

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