Porter Press Extra: Protranz Earthmoving

By: Cameron Officer, Photography by: Cameron Officer

The Protranz Earthmoving crew is getting on with the bulk of work on the outskirts of Rangiora, north of Christchurch, with a couple of Hyundai HX Series excavators

Those in the north of the north who might be thinking themselves hard done by with 2023’s perpetually wet and stormy weather might be surprised to learn that other regions haven’t had it all their own way so far this year either.

On a 100,000-square-metre site on the outskirts of Rangiora, north of Christchurch, mud is the most prominent feature of the landscape. The future home of a large-scale retirement village complex is, for the meantime, a sea of the stuff, with the inclement winter weather having put its soggy stamp on the place over the past few weeks.

Hyundai HX Series at work on the outskirts of Rangiora

Still, it’s no major for the Protranz Earthmoving crew working here, who’ve worked in much worse conditions. And in the form of a couple of Hyundai excavators — namely a Hyundai HX300L and Hyundai HX235LCR — supported by plenty of other gear besides, company owner Gerard Daldry’s team is getting on with the bulk earthworks irrespective of the forecast.

This isn’t the only talent Protranz Earthmoving possesses, however. Land remediation, foundation and retaining work, drainage and landscaping also feature in the service list. And that’s in addition to the transportation side of the company, as well as the demolition and asbestos divisions. In fact, it might be this last aspect of Protranz’s operations that makes them so well-known and well-regarded. Gerard has been at the forefront of full remote-control conversions of heavy-duty earthmoving and demolition machinery for years now, continually finessing the accuracy and operating range of Protranz’s bespoke systems in tandem with the scope and scale of the work the company has been engaged to complete using it.

"The remote-control system has given us some interesting work over the years since we developed the first version in 2013," says Gerard.

"We worked on the Christchurch Cathedral stabilisation and rebuild project, the landslides following the Kaikoura earthquake, ammunition dumps, risky demolitions in the Port Hills and across the country. Over the years, we’ve got the system to the point where we can be a kilometre away without line of sight, solely using cameras, or 300 metres above the machine in a helicopter."

HX Series machines feature a state-of-the-art AAVM video camera system

Their in-house-developed systems helped Protranz bag the overall World Demolition Awards prize in 2015 at a ceremony in the Netherlands. Gerard and his team have also been invited
to other events overseas to showcase the remote-control system.

Gerard is understandably proud of the high-tech system. But above and beyond the hardware, his belief is that ‘our business is our people’, and he’s even prouder of the loyalty that’s evidenced through the solid growth of Protranz’s resource base and the high calibre of its staff.

As much as Protranz’s 135-strong team and company culture are crucial to the ongoing success of the multifaceted entity, Gerard says that external contractors and suppliers
are an equally important part of the chain that helps ensure ongoing growth within the company and beyond.

"Chris [Toase, Canterbury and West Coast Porter Equipment sales representative] is a great guy. He’s one of us. Porter Equipment is literally over the back fence from our main depot, so obviously they’re convenient to us. But it’s more than that: they get our business, they’re always on tap when we need them and yeah, it comes back to them being a good bunch of people to deal with."

As for the Hyundai excavators themselves, Gerard plays his cards close to his chest but concedes that the new Hyundai HX series of machines represent a massive step up.

The Fine Swing Control system works to both maintain stability and help with swing accuracy

"At the end of the day, if the digger’s doing the work without any issues, then that’s good.
If it’s serviced by good people, even better. We’ve had Hyundais on the fleet for more than 10 years now. We’ve had ‘dash 7s’ and ‘dash 9s’ in the past. These new machines are really good — a big improvement over what they used to be.

"But honestly, we have great performance out of other brands we have on the fleet, too. The fact is, it’s always about the people. I’m not that interested in what the badge on the side says. If the machine is backed by a good team, then that’s good enough for me."

Something that certainly appeals to Gerard given his mission to remove the risk from difficult and potentially dangerous working environments for contractors is his Hyundai HX235LCR’s level of safety equipment.

Most notably, HX Series machines feature a state-of-the-art Advanced Around View Monitoring (AAVM) video camera system to secure field of vision for operators in all directions. The excavator operator can easily check the workplace in the front and rear and to the right and left, with no less than nine views available. This also includes a clever ‘bird’s-eye view’ (in 3D) from above.

Protranz’s HX235LCR features Intelligent Moving Object Detection that can recognise a person or object within the machine’s range of operation

Protranz’s Hyundai HX235LCR also features Intelligent Moving Object Detection (IMOD), which can recognise a person or object within the machine’s range of operation (from up to five metres away) and audibly alert the driver to the potential hazard. Also available on the
HX Series machines, as an option, is the Fine Swing Control system, which works to both maintain stability when swing movement needs to be limited and help with swing accuracy, thereby improving operating speed and productivity.

When it comes to helping provide Gerard’s team with a better work experience, the latest Hyundai excavator’s cab suspension mounts feature a new low-vibration design by the coil spring and damper inside the mount. This helps improve comfort for the operator, reduce noise inside the cabin, and lessen the onset of on-the-job fatigue.

Protranz has other Hyundai equipment elsewhere, including 2x Hyundai HX220L, Hyundai HX145CR, HW140A, R60CR-9, and two small Hyundai R17Z-9 mini excavators. Gerard says the machines are a good fit for converting to remote control.

"The nature of the work dictates what remote-controlled machine we use. If we need some grunt on major slip works, we’ll go with a big machine, or if it’s a riskier demo inside a building, smaller is better. But yeah, Porters are a safe pair of hands to give us whatever we need. Can’t fault them, they’re good people."

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