Caterpillar puts Powerday on the right track

Written by: Geraldine Faulkner | Published:
Above left to right: Adam Lansdale, industrial and waste business manager with Finning and Mick Crossan, owner and chairman of Powerday

Powerday's 24-hour site on London's Grand Union Canal gives it access to not only road and rail, but waterways too. The heart of its fleet though, here and elsewhere, is a range of Caterpillar machines. Geraldine Faulkner reports

Everyone likes to think their business is unique, whether that’s the services they offer or the location, or perhaps both. Few, however, are justified in making such a claim. London-based Powerday fulfils such criteria with ease, particularly when it comes to its site at Old Oak Sidings next to Willesden Junction in North West London.

Opened in 2006, the company’s 12-acre site not only has access to rail, canal and road transport, but it also has a 24-hour operating licence and, along with Powerday’s two other sites in London, boasts a capacity to handle over two million tonnes of waste per annum. This includes construction and demolition, municipal, commercial and industrial waste.

“Our site at Old Oak Sidings is truly unique,” states Simon Little, Powerday’s sales and marketing director. “While some waste management specialists have road and rail access, there isn’t another site that can match all the elements we offer.”

The site sits on the Grand Union Canal and has its own wharf as well as railway sidings, thereby offering Powerday a unique choice in the transport of the waste materials it handles. Added to which, the business also owns a materials recovery facility (MRF) in Enfield, North London, which opened in 2015 along with a site in Brixton. “Our aim is to deliver 100% recovery from waste for our clients across London by prioritising recycling first and then turning any residual material into high-quality refuse fuels,” states Mick Crossan, Powerday’s owner and chairman who has led the business through its evolution from bulk materials handler to waste-recovery specialist.

Powerday is certainly no stranger to handling waste.

Originally launched in 1977 by Crossan as a labour hire specialist, which led to the skip hire business that is still thriving today, the business morphed naturally into waste management and materials recovery in the 1990s and it hasn’t looked back since. Nor does the company think anything of ploughing profits back into the business.

Powerday has invested £40 million in plant and equipment in its aim to deliver 100% recovery from waste. And the number of vehicles used by Powerday is pretty impressive.

It runs a fleet of over 50 vehicles including skip, compactor, roll-on/off and artic lorries, box vans, bulkers and dustcarts.

The business also has a strong bias for Caterpillar machines.

“On the Old Oak Sidings site, we have five Cat 966M wheeled loaders, two Cat M318D material handling wheeled excavators, two Cat TH414B telescopic handlers and three Cat DP30 fork-lift trucks for handling bales containing refuse-derived fuel,” says Adam Langdale, industrial and waste business manager with Finning, Caterpillar’s UK dealer and distributor.

“At Enfield, there are two Cat 966M wheeled loaders, a new Cat MH3022 material handler, Cat TH414B telehandler and two Cat DP30 forklift trucks. Finally, at the site in Brixton, Powerday operates a Cat MH3022 material handler and a small Cat 938m wheeled loader.”

It has been a decade since Powerday and Finning first started working together and the relationship between the two companies has changed over the years.

Langdale again: “Since we started working in 2006, we have moved from a purely transactional sale basis to a partnership which operates on a monthly cost basis along with a repair and maintenance contract.”

Crossan corroborates the success of the relationship: “Essentially, if our plant is not working, we’re not working. The back-up service with Finning includes holding parts on site and engineers who can be dispatched immediately, so the only time we have any issues is when something unforeseen happens. As well as all the Caterpillar machines we source from Finning, all we don’t buy from Finning has to have Cat engines, so this means Finning indirectly maintains the entire fleet,” says the chairman with a smile.

Maintenance includes close monitoring of the fleet. Finning’s repair and maintenance contract incorporates the use of GPS data and telemetry whereby data is collected at various points and transmitted to receiving equipment for monitoring.

Preventative maintenance

“Finning engineers analyse information and look at trends so we are much more in control of preventative maintenance,” explains Langdale. “It gives us the opportunity to study drivers’ operating techniques as well as oversee issues such as fuel burn. Powerday wants to be as carbon-efficient as possible so personnel who allow their machines to idle are encouraged to turn off their engines. Similarly, if our engineers spot excessive braking or movements that incurs more wear and tear, it could simply mean the operator is not using the machine in the most cost-effective way.”

Langdale points out that while Powerday would have previously borne the cost of wasteful operator techniques, it is now Finning’s responsibility to ensure the drivers are more efficient when operating the machines.

“We invest in training the operators,” continues Finning’s industrial and waste business manager. “By careful monitoring, this has resulted in things like the life of tyres being extended from 6,000 to 8,000 hours.”

As well as making best use of the vehicles, the sophisticated telemetry gives the waste processing system transparency, which also benefits Powerday’s client base. “We need to show our clients their materials are being handled in a compliant manner with a secure destination at the end of the sorting process.

“There must be transparency, so that when it comes to clients completing their own corporate social responsibility reports, they can be completely confident in the validity of our data,” emphasises Little.

The technology doesn’t end there

Reinforced peaked caps (as opposed to the traditional hard hats) that are worn on site include a clever bit of kit called a proximity-warning sensor. Attached to the back of the cap, it warns an operator or visitor when they are getting too close to a machine by vibrating. Similarly, machine operators are alerted to the approaching pedestrian by a buzzer on the console in their cab.

Crossan is a firm believer in technology, especially when it comes to protecting his work force, his fleet of vehicles and, importantly, the company’s reputation.

“Before we installed telemetry, we had people accusing our drivers of damaging their vehicles. Now with mirrors, cameras and bleepers, we can accurately verify the nature of any accusation, or general feedback, and present those findings back to the relevant people. This also helps us to deliver additional specific training when it is required,” affirms the company owner.

At ground level, the Caterpillar machines operated on Powerday’s sites also get the thumbs-up from machine operators such as Billy Maulkin, who has been with the company for 17 years. “I have used different makes of equipment over the years and Caterpillar machines are a lot sturdier and stand up to the job better. For a start, you don’t get many problems with them and, if you do, a Finning engineer is either there within a couple of hours or the next day,” says Maulkin, who along with his colleagues can spend up to 10 hours a day in a machine, whether it’s a shovel or a telehandler.

“If you look after the machine, it will look after you,” he adds with a grin.

Fact file: Powerday

A family-owned business founded in 1977 by chairman and owner Mick Crossan, Powerday currently operates three waste management sites in London. These are Old Oak Sidings, North West London, Enfield in North London, and Brixton in South London. Licensed to process just under two million tonnes of construction and demolition, commercial and industrial and municipal waste per year, the three sites operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Powerday recycles as much of the waste as possible and recovers the rest as renewable fuel in the form of refuse-derived fuel. For instance, recovered wood is graded, chipped then reused in the UK as a biomass fuel.

Fact file: Powerday’s Cat 966M wheel loaders

  • Net power: 206kW
  • Operating weight: 25,220kg
  • High lift loader arms with 3rd line auxiliary hydraulics
  • 6.5cu m high tip waste buckets
  • Turbine air pre-cleaner
  • Variable pitch cooling fan with wide core cooling package
  • Cat Flexport solid rubber tyre/wheel assemblies
  • Front windscreen guards
  • Front & rear light guards
  • Lower chassis & power train guards


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