Reaching expectations

Features - Specialty Demo

How Caterpillar and Veit & Co. worked together to develop a next-generation high-reach excavator.

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March 2, 2021

Photos provided by cat

With roots tracing back to the 1920s, multi-generational, family-owned Veit & Co. has spent nearly a century performing full-service demolition work spanning a range of projects.

Beginning operations in 1928 under the ownership of Frank Veit, the Rogers, Minnesota-based company grew from owning only a Chevrolet truck with a box dump from Osseo Motors to owning its first piece of excavating equipment—a HD4 Caterpillar Traxcavator from Minneapolis-based Ziegler Co.—by 1941.

The company’s relationship with Caterpillar only grew from there, with Veit becoming the first company in Minnesota to own a Cat D8H with a hydraulic ripper in 1951, as well as the first company in the state to own a 966A, Cat’s first rubber-tired loader, in the early 1960s.

This close tie with Cat and Ziegler eventually helped Veit become a regular participant in the equipment company’s “field follow program,” where dealers and customers can test machines under development in real-world applications. Veit has since partnered on several field follow programs with Cat, and most recently helped test its 352 UHD ultra-high-reach demolition excavator.

“We had taken the [352 UHD] out on-site and helped them develop the software and the functionality of the machine before it was to hit the market,” says Ryan Olson, demolition general superintendent for Veit.

“We tested it on-site on our demolition projects, and we used it in each of its applications. We physically were out there using it as our main wrecking machine to take down structures we were working on, and then provided constant feedback to Cat and Ziegler regarding any concerns or suggestions we had to make the functionality the way we wanted it,” he says.

FINDING THE RIGHT APPLICATION

According to Jadon Kool, sales support consultant for Cat, high-reach excavators like the 352 UHD are ideal for nonresidential projects, such as apartment complexes and hospitals, as well as industrial projects like power plants and manufacturing complexes.

“With the high-reach, it’s usually like that eight- to nine-story range for the 352 UHD [that’s ideal],” he says.

The machine offers two different front options, a high-reach front and a retro front, which can both be used for lower-level demolition and earthmoving applications. In addition, the machine has a quick coupler system on the boom foot where an operator and an assistant can change between the two booms in only 15 to 20 minutes.

“Typically, the cycle of the machine is you start [with the] higher demolition work at the top of the building, then the building comes down and there’s a lot of concrete to be sorted out, loaded and removed. That’s where the efficiency of the machine [comes in]. Loading the trucks, levelling at the end, making sure we have [proper grading] for the rain or water—all that can be done from the machine with the technology integrated into [it],” says Vincent Migeotte, global product marketing and application consultant for Cat.

For Veit, these were desirable factors during the demolition of a six-story office complex in Eden Prairie, Minnesota, where the height of the building and adjacent structures designated to remain presented some challenges.

“There was an area where we had to be very careful because [of] the building that we were removing and the remaining structures of the building complex, so there were still active areas that were set for reuse,” says Olson. “With the reach that it had, we were able to work from the top down on the buildings. So, that’s a big thing.”

The 352 UHD’s high-reach front is capable of supporting concrete processors, shears and grapples, while the retro front is more commonly used with buckets, thumbs and hammers.

“The work tool that was on the end of it was capable of cutting the steel members that we needed to piece apart. And then being able to switch to the shorter retro boom to handle the lower portions of the building and below-grade [work] without having to change out to a different machine [was also a benefit],” Olson says. “[With the] UHD, you’re able to reach up to the top of the building, cut these pieces apart and handle them surgically. You can piece the building apart rather than having a large collapse or having to fell the building. It allows you to dismantle the building rather than using other means.”

A STREAMLINED APPROACH

In terms of improved efficiency and safety on the job site, Kool says the high-reach excavator comes with Cat’s high-wide variable gauge undercarriage that provides operators with a stable platform for long-reach digging.

“We have [a] 360-degree stability range for that machine, so we can work over the front, we can work over the side, there’s not really a need to constantly move it [in order to operate safely]. If you can get into an area, you don’t have to constantly move the excavator around to work over the front only,” he says.

In particular, Olson says this increased stability helped alleviate some of the need for added safety protection on the remaining structures at the Eden Prairie site.

Another key feature is the excavator’s built-in stability monitoring system, which Cat says continuously informs the operator of work tool position within a safe working range and warns when the operator is approaching stability limits.

“The stability monitor is built-in and uses sensors on the boom, the mid-boom and the stick. It gives the operator instant feedback on any position and tells [them] how stable the machine is, from a range of 0 to 100 percent,” Kool says. “It also tells the operator which way to move that machine to bring it into more of a stable position, and it gives warnings when it gets close to out of range.”

According to Kool, the stability monitoring system is helpful for new operators who have not run a high-reach excavator before.

“Having that stability monitor, and especially one that gives a lot of feedback on what the machine is doing, really helps [operators] gain confidence,” he says. “A more seasoned operator, they can feel the stability of the machine without really looking at the monitor, because they’ve run it enough. [Whereas] this new operator might need it more just as reassurance. But [really], it doesn’t matter if it’s a new operator or a seasoned operator, it will help them have that confidence to run the machine and know that they’re doing the right thing with that tool all the way up in the air.”

In order to consistently operate these machines safely, however, Kool says the best thing an operator can do the first time they get a new excavator is to open the operation and maintenance manual and read it thoroughly.

“It’s important that they know what they’re looking at [and that they] follow the recommendations that we have lined out,” he advises.

In addition, Migeotte emphasizes the industry-wide practice of placing the machine as far away from the demolition zone as possible while keeping a safe point of view.

“The building might collapse one day, or you might have some debris falling down. So, kind of a rule of thumb [is] to have the machine at about half the height of where it is operating. So, if [the project necessitates] the boom at, let’s say 90 feet, we want the machine to be positioned 45 feet away from the building’s demolition zone.”

The author is the assistant editor for Construction & Demolition Recycling magazine and can be reached at hrischar@gie.net.