The excavator is probably the best platform for attachments because of the 360° swing and essentially 160° digging arc," says Matthew Hendry, product consultant, hydraulic excavators and articulated trucks, John Deere."You add the tilt blade, now you have added another component of flexibility to an incredibly flexible system."
Prior to being hired as a product consultant, Hendry was a contractor who performed a lot of specialty work."People who use tilt buckets learn that they can do all kinds of contour grading from one position," he says. This increases productivity and reduces costs."They are not going to be wearing their undercarriage as much.
“In the right application an excavator takes the place of a finish dozer or a motor grader with a tilt bucket," he continues."You eliminate the overhead of a dozer, a second operator-the whole shooting match."
Hendry adds that tilt blades are particularly well suited to wheeled excavators, especially for maintaining ditches on the side of the road."It is just a very quick and versatile tool," he states.
Mobility expands application
Pinto Construction Services Inc., Buffalo, NY, has been an innovator in Western New York for the past 50 years."We were the first in Western New York to have a hydraulic excavator," recalls James Panepinto."We were the first in our state to have a hydraulic shear. We had a LaBounty shear. We have always tried to stay ahead of the learning curve a little bit. We like technology and the advantages that it gives you."
Labor savings is always a primary consideration."Labor is our single most expensive portion of a project cost," says Panepinto."Anything that we can do to reduce that is a huge savings."
For that reason, Pinto Construc-tion Services was one of the early adopters of the swing and tilt attachments. They have since upgraded to the Helac PowerTilt."I would never buy a utility-size machine that digs foundations or does pipe work without a PowerTilt," says Panepinto.
“Imagine if you had a cast on your arm," says Panepinto."You could still use your arm, you could still use your fingers, but you cannot use your wrist. That's how much less mobility you will have without this attachment.
It gives you an extra joint. If you didn't have one of these, you would not know any different. But guys who have these, it is almost [to where we won't even consider] not putting them on our smaller excavators. We have them for 50,000-lb. excavators and down."
Digging a foundation provides a good example of the benefits."OSHA allows you to bench or slope," says Panepinto."Try to slope with an excavator that doesn't have one of these. It doesn't happen, not that easily. With the tilt, you tip the bucket to the slope that you want and you pull it. The next thing you know, you have an OSHA-approved hole as opposed to a step. A lot of times, steps do not hold up depending upon the cohesiveness of the soil."
In addition, the PowerTilts are used for ditch cleaning and with hydraulic breakers."I have the largest hydraulic breaker fleet in this area," says Panepinto."Probably 50% of the hours on all of the ones that I have are hammer hours. This unit allows you to angle your hammer in such a way that you have a good seating point and you can hammer on all different angles." It also allows you to hammer a foundation in a trench vs. bringing in employees with hand-held breakers.
Pinto Construction Services has been using the swivel attachments since 1993 with great success."It's been great and we are not kind to them. We still have our original one. I probably have 12,000 hours on it," says Panepinto."I have rebuilt it twice."
Prices for the swivels range from $7,000 to $14,000 installed and Panepinto claims it only takes about four weeks to get a return on this investment in his operation.
A true multi-use tool
Based in the Boston area, J.F. White Contracting Co. performs heavy civil construction, highway, railroad right of way and some marine work. It has 12 WainRoy tilt and swinging attachments that have been in use since 1996 on John Deere 410 and 710 backhoes and various wheeled excavators.