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Terra Cat has delivered the very first next generation Cat 352 hydraulic excavator to arrive in New Zealand. Owner Ryan Bagrie, of Graeme Bagrie Contracts Ltd near Otaki, says the excavator’s standard technology suite combined with its heavy duty digging and lifting power makes for an unbeatable match.

Not only is Waitohu quarry of Graeme Bagrie Contracts Ltd the only non-alluvial quarry on the Kapiti Coast, it’s the last sizeable source for aggregate before you get to the Wellington City limits. Its position has made it a ‘go to’ for the extended Kapiti Expressway project, as well as the ongoing work through Transmission Gully.

Couple these colossal roading works projects with the increase in subdivision builds along the Coast, as well as Graeme Bagrie Contracts Ltd’s history of supplying aggregate to the forestry industry, and their need for large scale, reliable machinery becomes obvious.

“We’re certainly very busy here. We bought the quarry 25 years ago, but we’ve managed our growth at a pace that is comfortable,” says Ryan Bagrie, son of company founder Graeme Bagrie.

“Our tonnage out the gate varies year-to-year, but we have been able to remain consistent suppliers for our clients. Our location also gives us the ability to quarry a wide variety of material, such as blue and brown domestic aggregates, NZTA specked base coarses, drainage products and cow race material, among other metals.”

The company’s Cat wheel loaders (Cat 966K and Cat 980 models) and its Cat 740B dump trucks are busy all day, every day. And in order to support them, Graeme Bagrie Contracts Ltd has recently taken possession of a new next-generation Cat 352 hydraulic excavator.

Aside from offering Ryan and his team the very latest in factory-installed Cat technology, it’s also a rather special unit in that it’s the first next generation Cat machine of this size to be delivered to a Kiwi customer. And while it arrived with plenty of standardised off-the-shelf features, Ryan was able to tailor the excavator to suit his specific needs.

“When you’re working an excavator in a quarry, the stronger the undercarriage, the better,” he says.

“We’re very conscious of ground clearance in the uneven quarry environment, so the 352’s variable gauge trackframes are essential. We’ve specified a heavy-duty undercarriage and mass excavation boom for our machine, along with a Caterpillar 3.2m³ ‘severe duty’ rock bucket. The bucket is using the new hammerless Cat Advansys Ground Engaging Tools.”

The heavier machine means Ryan has increased his payload by around two ton per pass, creating a perfect pass match for the company’s Cat 740B dumpers. The increased weight in the frame, combined with the hydraulic power of the excavator (mass excavation boom and UB linkage) means the Cat 352 digs the fractured greywacke rock without the need for blasting.

Ryan can measure and monitor the aggregate being loaded thanks to Cat PAYLOAD; standard technology that delivers precise load targets with on-the-go weighing in real time, which helps prevent over- or under-loading and maximising the efficiency of every truck movement. Backing this system up – and also a standard feature of the Cat 352 – is Cat Lift Assist, which quickly calculates the actual load being lifted and compares it to the rated load the excavator is capable of handling. The system provides the operator with both visual and auditory alerts to know if the load is within the machine’s safe working range.

“Aside from the operational benefits the physical machine delivers us, the simple reason we’ve stuck with the Cat brand for so long is the Terra Cat support,” continues Ryan.

“I just don’t think the back-up they deliver can be beat. The depth of knowledge within everyone you deal with is excellent and the staff at the Palmerston North branch, which is our nearest, are fantastic. We’ve been dealing with the same technical crew there for years, which to my mind speaks to the quality of the company as a whole.

“You don’t often see that these days, where people come and go. But Terra Cat has a very good team. They probably don’t mind coming out to see our gear either, because we try to look after it. If something needs fixing, we’ll get it fixed.”

Ryan’s comments underline the fact that Terra Cat has supported its customers throughout New Zealand through thick and thin, providing a far-reaching and reliable distributor network to the construction and quarrying sector for decades.

The 40-strong Graeme Bagrie Contracts Ltd team currently run 30 items of Cat mobile equipment. Ryan says that while they replace excavators as they get older, if a machine is well maintained, the gear has a long service life. The Cat 345 that the new Cat 352 replaced has 13,000 hours and is still working at the site.

Ryan is effusive about the company’s newest Cat, however.

“I reckon the 352 has to be one of the best diggers I’ve ever driven. It has plenty of brake-out in rock and is very smooth and fast for a large machine. The tracks are very powerful and can climb the hills in the quarry in high speed.”

Another noticeable contrast between old and new is the increased operating efficiencies Cat’s next-generation machines afford their owners. Caterpillar says that systems such as Cat PAYLOAD and Lift Assist, in combination with other new technology onboard like the programmable Cat Grade with 2D feature for cutting precision, and automated boom, stick, and bucket movements with the extended Cat Assist programs, can increase overall operating efficiency by up to 45%.

Graeme Bagrie Contracts Ltd’s Cat 352 boasts 10% better fuel efficiency thanks to an updated main control valve and large hydraulic pump in its electrohydraulic system, which allow the engine to run at a lower engine speed without impacting production, ensuring more productivity from every litre of diesel. The machine also features a new Smart Mode power setting which automatically adjusts engine and hydraulic power for the highest fuel efficiency – less power for tasks such as swinging and more power for digging.

Maintenance costs are much lower than before too, with standardised filters (and fewer of them) and extended maintenance intervals lowering average costs for next-generation Cat excavator operators by up to 25%.

Caterpillar has taken a ‘simpler is better’ approach with the new next-generation machines, reducing sharp edges in the body work design that can be costly to repair, and ensuring routine maintenance checks can be performed faster and safer with ground-level access to the air filter, the fuel water separator, fuel tank water and sediment drains, and cooling system coolant gauge.

“Combining the operational benefits of the new excavator’s technology and design with its actual heavy-duty abilities and increased payload, it’s the perfect machine for our purposes,” concludes Ryan.

“We’re very happy to finally see it here on the ground and doing what we need it to do.”