A de-vegetation revolution?

April 22, 2020

If there is one name in the land clearance industry that is synonymous with innovation it is Eddie Warrener. The man behind Moorlands Specialist Excavations Ltd. has recently taken a UK first into his fleet of very specialised equipment.

Following on from his previous Kubota midi excavators, Liebherr R924, ‘Big Feller’ and Kobelco SK270 ‘Big Boy Blue’, the Staffordshire based contractor has returned to the Molson Group for his latest addition a Sennebogen 718E. 

From a distance the Sennebogen looks like a typical wheeled material handler to have been built at the German manufacturers Straubing factory. It’s only when you get up close and see the added detail and engineering that has been put into the machine that the true nature and potential can be realised. 

Eddie is well known for his conversion and development work on his previous machines to bring them to a standard for which he believes offers his clients a productive and effective solution to their land management requirements. From LGP conversation, installation of extensive forestry guarding to the use of the latest tilt rotator technology, Eddie is regarded as a font of knowledge for this sector of the industry. Undertaking a variety of land management disciplines, Eddie has spec’d up the new Sennebogen in conjunction with Molson Green, the Bristol based dealer’s recycling and waste management division. Working closely with material handling specialist Dave Peacock, the pair have started what they believe will become the benchmark tool carrier for the specialist contractor wanting in mechanised de-vegetation. 

From the ground up the Sennebogen has been tweaked to become a machine capable of handling a variety of tasks as well as meeting the stringent legislation laid down for the work the machine is expected to be undertaking. “We wanted to spec the Sennebogen to be as mobile as possible, retain its productivity whilst achieving the highest compliance standards.” Eddie explains “We have achieved  a very special machine which combines the power and reach which we believe will take us to another level.”

FMJ were invited out to Alton Towers to see the machine in its first hours of operation, an opportunity we naturally jumped at. 

The base machine is a 21.3 tonne wheeled material handler obviously with a few ‘Eddie tweaks’. With the standard 600/50-22.5 Nokian tyres provide a very stable and comfortable ride and also offer a very low impact footprint when working on softer ground. The front of the 5.2m long chassis has been equipped with a parallel blade arrangement whist the rear has a pair of hydraulic stabilisers. Both the blade and the stabilisers have been fitted with removable protective strips made from the same material as crane mats. Eddie has specified these to reduce any potential damage to surfaces when working on the road. For anyone who has ever had to climb aboard a duck, the access is never that easy. While the rear of the chassis boasts a set of impressive galvanised steps, the access from the front doesn’t. To help the climb into the cab a set of folding steps have been bolted to each side of the blade and have been highlighted in the popular green paint seen on many machines working roadside. A single steering axle gives the machine a tight turning circle of just 6.3m. One notable feature is a centralised undercarriage greasing point located centrally on the rear of the chassis, with the rest of the machine taken care of by a autolube system. 

The bright green upper structure has been adorned in various spots with reflective hi-viz tape to highlight handrails and steps. The Sennebogen Max Cab has been mounted to a huge parallel arm arrangement that not only lifts the cab a heady 2.6m higher giving the top of the cab a maximum height of over 6.1min the air, but can also tilt it back almost 35 degrees enabling Eddie to sit back in comfort at all times. Fitted with a fixed Mar-guard front window and roof panel, the view from the seat is amazing despite the presence of a substantial front protection screen. Standard joysticks for the 718E are designed for using a multitude of attachments and come with two mini joysticks and more buttons than Cadbury’s. The clean, well laid out interior boast the standard Sennebogen information screen which relays all machine information to the operator and lets them adjust certain setting with ease. A large full colour screen relays the images from the Synergy 360 degree camera system and a smaller screen conveys the status of the GKD system which keeps the working range of the machine in check at all times ensuring safe and secure operation of the Sennebogen in a variety of working conditions such as slew, height and reach constraints. “I’ve used Prolec systems in the past and have found them to be very good but this GKD system is something else!” Eddie comments “Its so intuitive to use, I’m extremely pleased we went for this installation. Nasco worked with us to customise a unique solution to let the system work with its extending arm.”

As is common throughout the range, the engine and cooling pack are mounted inline along the offside of the upper structure. Whilst providing good access to the components underneath the positioning of the engine reduces the rear overhang of the machine.powered by a 160hp 4.5 litre Cummins Diesel engine which meets Stage 4 Final regulations, the Sennebogen has been filled with the latest in Biodegradable oil for sensitive applications. Behind the cab lift system a separate access panel opens up to reveal the fuse panel, fuel and AdBlue tanks. The top of the upper structure is surrounded by a substantial boxing ring giving protected access to the air cleaner box and hydraulic connections to the boom.

Where the machine really changes is the front end equipment. A single ram is used to hoist the 6.5m straight boom into the air. Attached to this is a 4.2m extending stick,

Offering an additional 2.05m of potential reach, creating an impressive  maximum pin height of 14.65m. Similar in design to one found on a timber handling crane, the dipper carries a tried and tested Vosh mechanical quick coupler. Hydraulic pipe work is carried down the dipper like a huge umbilical cord and terminates with a number of manual couplings before jumping across to the attachment. Designed primarily for having a single attachment mounted for long periods of time, this is one area of the machine’s design Eddie is looking to tweak. “My ideal solution would be an automatic coupler or fast fit hose connections”. Manufactured in Holland by Vosch, Eddie has taken a cut-off saw, stump grinder, hedge cutter and mulching head. All four attachments can be coupled directly to the stick or through a manipulator arm. The manipulator arm consists of a cranked tubular structure fitted with a pair of hydraulic swivels that enable the attachment to be rotated and angled whilst in use. The cranked arm also allows the attachment to be stowed alongside the dipper stick whilst travelling therefore reducing the overall travelling height of the machine. The flow required is enormous for these attachments. Vosch fit a priority valve and large bore pipe work with a controller to provide a dedicated hi-flow circuit.

Manufactured from high strength steel the attachments have far exceeded Eddie’s expectations. At the time of our visit Eddie was tasked with the removal of a number of stumps remaining from the clearance of large rhododendron bushes. The bushes had been obscuring a view across the gardens at the attraction and as part of their ongoing maintenance works, the area was down for clearance and upgrading. The undulating and steeply sloping site wasn’t large, approximately 100m long by 6m in depth but was covered in a large amount of the fast growing plant. Using the stump grinder attachment Eddie gradually cut away the material to just below the surface level. Careful not to catch any large stones below the surface, the stumps were swiftly dispatched. Thanks to the heavy, 900mm diameter grinding wheel which sports 12 interchangeable segments each with 4 weldable grinding teeth and a variable speed of 11-1300rpm, the timber didn’t stand a chance. Thanks to the extending dipper, the bottom of the slope was easily within reach and, talking with the grounds maintenance teams, this work would have taken three times as long with a tracked stump grinder but would have also put a number of operatives at risk of slips trips and falls from the undulating, steep ground. “I see this as a major benefit and one of its unique selling points.” Eddie commented “It makes a difficult job easier and safer and much quicker. For instance, if we needed a road closure to undertake this job, we could do it with the Sennebogen in a single day. If we were to do it the more traditional way, it would almost be a full week’s work.” While the productivity advantages are easily apparent, the safety benefits are as equally noticeable. During the entire period of Eddie grinding the stumps away, the only time any of the maintenance team ventured down the slope was to take a photo of the machine in action! With the stump grinding completed, including making a 900mm diameter, 450mm spruce stump disappear in no time at all. Swapping over to the mulching head, the material left over from the grinding process was quickly dispatched thanks to the heavy steel hammers rotating within the mulcher’s body leaving a finished material ready to accept turf. 

The collaboration between Molson and Moorlands has certainly developed a machine that is capable of a multitude of operations. Whilst Eddie will utilise it to its full potential in land clearance operations, he believes that it could be used just as well in certain environmental and civil engineering situations such as shaft digging. If equipped with a pole grab the configuration of the Sennebogen will allow shafts of up to 15m to be excavated, whilst retaining a load over height of 4m to load the spoil into tipper trucks.

The new arrival is now available as possibly the UK’s ultimate mobile mechanised de-vegetation machine and available through Molson Green for demonstrations to potential customers. There are also plans afoot for several specialist demonstration days to showcase the machine to specific industries, such as as highways and environmental sectors. Molson have included a full service contract for the 718E to ensure Eddie has trouble free operating with his new machine. It is too early for any fuel consumption figures to be analysed but Eddie is expecting the Cummins engine to return good figures despite running at high engine speeds for the majority of its working life. With a potential road speed of up to 20km/h there are options for the machine to be able to travel under its own power short distances between jobs, or to safety of a compound. The 718E and attachments can fit on one standard step frame low loader without the need of obtaining a movement order, making it much easier to mobilise that a tracked alternative.

The burning question from many is will it be a success? From the response from the many members of the Alton Towers estate management team who came to see the machine in action, the answer has to be a resounding yes!

Written by Paul Argent for Earthmovers magazine.