There are some plant hire firms that like to have a mixed fleet. They like the variety and to explore the different options available to them. Others like to stick with a brand or machine that serves them well. As the old saying goes ‘If it is not broke, don’t try and fix it’. James King plant hire have mixed the old with the new. They take great care of their equipment and they believe if you take care of the machine it will take care of your business. They also understand the need to upgrade the fleet and that is why they purchased new Hyundai diggers to already add to their existing Hyundai fleet. It is a classic family business, started by one man who then passed the baton on to his sons. They take great pride in what they achieve and the service they give to their customers. Their story is a familiar one in the plant industry, a story of hard work and determination, and treating their employees like family.
James King was born and raised in Clonmel, Tipperary, in Ireland. If you are not familiar with that part of the world, it is premier farming country, based in the south of Ireland with lush green rolling hills and fields. If you wanted to raise a herd of dairy cattle, then this would be the ideal place to do it. James, like many of his fellow countrymen, came to England in 1958 in search of opportunity. He started out working in Rugby railway station, loading the coal hoppers with a loading shovel.
This gave him his first taste of operating machinery. He then got a job working with a contractor in Bedford and then settled in Northampton in the late 60’s. He started working with Webster plant hire and built up a solid reputation as a plant man and then decided to buy a machine from them and start out on his own. James King plant hire was born in 1975 with his Caterpillar 951A tracked loading shovel. They still have that first machine stored away in their yard. Over the years and with hard graft the business expanded mainly servicing the Northampton area. The early years purely focused on plant hire. They then moved into bulk earthworks and they have done everything from golf courses to by-passes to groundworks for housing and industrial.
The business is currently run by the managing director, Sam King. His brothers Pat and Seamus are also very involved operating the company.
A chat with the boss
I had a chat with the boss, Sam King. I asked him to expand on how business is currently doing. “Business is good, but it can be very much peaks and troughs. Over nearly forty-five years of business we have seen much changes. We never take anything for granted and are always grateful of the work our customers give us. We are a family business, and this means we can make decisions very quickly and give a very personal service. We have recently done the A45 by-pass, we are currently on the A-43 and the Rugby link road. We have built up a strong reputation for constructing roads over the years” he said. When you look at fleet that King currently run it is very much dominated by Hyundai, I ask Sam to give the reasons why that is. “We started a relationship with them in 2013. Our fleet then was getting a bit tired, so we needed to invest in new machinery. We were mainly Caterpillar back then, but we wanted to see what else was on the market. At that time Hyundai were pushing hard to make a presence over here, so we got talking to them, and they put a great package together, and we trialled the machines and we were very happy.
We started with four Hyundai excavators and now we have ten. We have also just purchased another four and hopefully we will be buying some more new ones in the early part of 2020” said Sam. That is a considerable financial investment in machinery, and I ask him what is it that he likes about Hyundai machines? “They are a good solid machine, that work with a bit of pace, and they deliver excellent value for money. The lads really like them, and the back-up is excellent, and they are really good on the fuel burn”. Their fleet of diggers are fitted with Trimble machine control, and this has had a significant impact on the business. “Having Trimble machine control has made our lives a lot easier. More accurate and from a health and safety point of view as you need less men working around the machine. That significantly reduces the risk which is a good thing. But you also need it nowadays as all the contractors will enquire if our machines are fitted with GPS when we are pricing a job” he stated.
Plant managers point of view
Gary Follen has been the plant manager for James King plant for the past eight years. He has been involved with the plant industry for a quarter of a century, working as an operator and then a muck shifting foreman.
He is responsible for a fleet of fifteen excavators, five dozers, and thirteen ADT’s. Their smallest machine is a three-tonne mini-excavator and their largest is a thirty-tonne excavator. All the large excavator fleet is Hyundai, the dozers are Caterpillar and Liebherr and Volvo ADT’s. With his plant manager hat on I asked him why the love for Hyundai excavators. “We bought the machines from TBS and before that Willowbrook. The relationship with TBS is really good. If they say they will do something, they always deliver. Before we did the first deal, we had a bit of a mismatch of brands and we decided to renew the fleet and look what was out there. We were very impressed with what Hyundai had to offer and we decided to give them a go. Touchwood (taps the desk) we have had no problems and they are going well. The top three reasons why I buy a machine is reliability, strength and back-up service. We have decided to enter a programme where we will be renewing the machines every three to four years. We do this because clients will want fresh machines on the jobs and because of resale values. Hyundai also gives us a great warranty programme and that is also why we want to upgrade after a certain amount of time”. King only supply machines with their own operators and they currently have thirty-five employees. Their operators are trained on all machines which gives them many options on the job. They are currently pricing a lot of jobs and Gary is very hopeful that his fleet will be very busy into he near future.
The operators view
I get out to see a new Hyundai HX220L that is helping to construct the Rugby – radio link road. Operating the levers is David Stuart-Roberts. He is now doing this job for forty-two years. I was taken aback a little when he said that as he doesn’t look like a man that has been operating diggers for four decades. He was straight out of school when he got his first job operating a Massey wheel digger. It had no cab and the year was 1974, when there were not many fancy things like cabs on diggers. I ask Dave what the biggest changes has been he has noticed in his time. “The comfort nowadays is amazing. The safety has come along way. The machines have more power, and you are not as knackered at the end of the shift compared to years ago. The GPS is amazing also, very easy to use, no banksmen, no profiles, no waste, I feel sorry for the guy who had the job making the profiles as he was sacked” he laughed. David is ideally positioned to give his expert view on his new Hyundai 220 excavator. “It is a fantastic machine, seriously, it is a good all-rounder. Extremely smooth and will do what you want it to do. It is excellent on the dig, very powerful and great vision out of the cab and the camera 360 vision is excellent”. Today Dave is doing the batters for a bridge that is going over the canal in Rugby. The machine he is on today is only four weeks old. What he really likes about it is the touch on the levers, very light and responsive.
Lifting the covers
I get to take a closer look at this Hyundai HX220L. The HX (Hyundai Excavator) range was launched several years back. They have become a common sight around job sites in the UK. When they first came on the market, one of the key features was its large information screen in the cab. The 8-inch capacitive-type display (like smartphone display) of the HX Series is 30% larger than the previous models, delivering excellent legibility. The centralized switches on the display allow convenience of checking the urea level and temperature outside the cabin. The audio AUX, air conditioner and heater interoperation, and inclination sensor also maximize operator’s convenience.
The ECO Gauge enables economic operation of the machine. The gauge level and colour display engine torque and fuel efficiency level. On top of that, the status of fuel consumption such as average rate and the total amount of fuel consumed are displayed. Hourly and daily based fuel consumption can be checked in the detailed menu as well. The cab has plenty of room and is very comfortable. Visibility is good, and the camera gives you an all-round view of any obstacles or anyone approaching from behind. The HX series improves lubricity of connecting parts between the equipment and attachments. Gaps with attachments are minimized by wear-resistant long-life pins, bushes and polymer shims, supporting the highest performance with invariable durability. The HX Series has an eco-friendly, high-performance Cummins engine which ensures both excellent fuel efficiency and high power. The HX Series minimizes equipment input and output control signals to improve fuel efficiency. Its three-stage Power mode ensures the highest performance in any operating environment. On the dig it has plenty of power and it was very fast on the cycles. You can see why King have invested in Hyundai.