Swedish systems in deepest Dorset

Written by: Geraldine Faulkner | Published:
Me & My

Eco Sustainable Solutions swears by Volvo's machinery to help the company process green and food waste. Geraldine Faulkner visits the family business's site in Parley, Dorset, to find out more

If proof was needed of the benefits of cooperation within the EU, look no further than Dorset-based Eco Sustainable Solutions, where Swedish technology is helping the organic waste reprocessor deal with upwards of 250,000 tonnes of material each year.

Moving green waste

With the debate on the Tory government's proposed referendum on whether the UK should remain a member of the European Union generating a great deal of hot air, businesses like Eco are getting on with making a buck.

And if making a profit involves making the most of Scandinavian knowhow, then so be it in the view of Justin Dampney, site manager of Eco's 14-acre Parley site, where Volvo wheeled loaders are playing a crucial role in moving green waste, compost, soil, wood waste, street sweepings and food waste.

Established in 1993 by Justin's father, Trelawney Dampney, Eco now owns four sites in Dorset and Hampshire.

The facilities include an anaerobic digestion plant at Piddlehinton, just outside Dorchester, where it recycles over 25,000 tonnes of food waste, sites at Southampton docks and Weymouth, along with its operations at the company's headquarters in Parley in Dorset where the majority of processing occurs.

It is also where a 300-acre solar farm has been built. With an output of over 55MW, Eco expects the company's solar farm to become one of the UK's largest solar operations.

"The unique photovoltaic panels will be constructed using a network of frames allowing for grazing underneath and therefore creating a dual use for the land," says Dampney Senior. "Eco has plans to continue its transition into renewable energy and lead the way in the green energy sector."

His plans are enthusiastically endorsed by his son, although Justin is under no illusions as to the challenges facing the company.

"We're heading towards the renewable energy sector, but we're in business to make a profit so this means we relay on economic drivers implemented by the UK government and Europe," states the Parley site manager.

"Take a look at the AD market – it's been under-supplied with food waste so there's more demand than supply. A lot of business models aren't sustainable. However, those are the drawbacks of a new industry; the first people in are often the first casualties.

"There are pitfalls that we have to navigate our way around but we still have our cash cows, such as the established green waste business. This allows us to be more experimental in the renewable energy sector." He pauses before adding with a smile: "My father looks at the macro environment while it's my job to ensure the business runs smoothly and is able to afford his ideas."

Justin is no stranger to the challenges of running operations. He recalls how he was around 10 years old when he first started working in the family business.

"I worked every school holiday where I earned £10 a day and as soon as I left school at 17, I was operating machinery on site. This means I've done most things; whether it's splitting logs or litter picking. It also means I can tell how long it's going to take to do a job so the staff can't pull the wool over my eyes," he says with a grin.

Successful synergy

As for the company's success, Dampney attributes it to the synergy within the business. "Everything slots in nicely; whether it's compost, soil, wood waste or street sweepings."

So why Volvo?

"We have found them to be extremely reliable," says the site manager without hesitation. "We've been with them for at least 10 to 15 years and while we have used other brands, we find Volvo to be very dependable. For us, every hour that our machines are not running is downtime, and that is critical. We have a dedicated engineer at Volvo who drops everything and comes on site when a machine is down to get us up and running as quickly as possible."

In terms of Volvo machines, Eco has six loading shovels (most of them are the middle-of-the-range L70F wheeled loaders), one excavator and a couple of telehandlers – which are not Volvo as the company doesn't make them – with another three Volvo wheeled loaders at the company sites at Southampton and Weymouth.

"The loading shovels feed hoppers, empty bays and load vehicles," states Dampney. "All the usual activities on any waste industry site."

Along with reliability, the Volvo wheeled loaders have something else by the bucketful and that is longevity. "Two of our machines have clocked up over 20,000 hours and are still going strong," says Dampney. In an industry where a machine averages around 2,000 hours a year and most people keep them for between five to seven years, this is an impressive figure.

"When you buy a new machine, depreciation starts off really high with low maintenance costs," explains Dampney. "Then the two meet and the machine can end up costing you more in maintenance. This is when it's time to get a new machine, but while our Volvos have depreciated, they are not breaking down."

After-sales gold service

According to Neil Cooper, area business manager for Volvo Construction Equipment: "We might be more expensive than the competition but it's our after-sales service which helps us continue to do business with firms like Eco. We set up a servicing programme so the machines are looked after."

The servicing programme is said to have come about during the recession when Volvo reviewed its after-sales service. "We brought in all the different customer management teams to look at increasing our after-sales," recalls Cooper before adding: "Now the business levels are a lot higher and the focus is clearly on the customer."

Volvo CE is almost a victim of its own success. "There are constraints on the fitter's time as there is so much work. But we are putting processes in place to speed things up electronically so that the client gets a report on where a defect is to be found."

Adrian Woolcock is one of Eco's plant operators who spends nine hours a day in one of the company's wheeled loaders.

"I wouldn't want to drive anything else than a Volvo," he says unhesitatingly. "They are versatile and easy to operate and, thanks to the quick hitch, it doesn't take long to change attachments. My machine has clocked up nearly 25,000 hours and it's still going strong."

The last word goes to Eco's site manager, who quips: "It's a good thing the guys enjoy working with the Volvo shovels as most of them spend more time with their machines than their wives."

Fact File: Features on the Volvo L70F

- A quiet low-emission engine which delivers high torque near idle rpm, which gives the Volvo rimpull (the actual amount of effort in pounds available at the point of contact of tire and road surface), low fuel consumption and minimal emissions.

- The external sound level meets the requirements of EU legislation.

- It also offers automatic power shift where the system is dependent on machine speed and engine rpm. All the operator has to do is select forward or reverse.

- APS adapts to the operator's driving style and saves fuel by selecting the right gear.

- When it comes to braking, the Volvo L70F is equipped with Volvo's wet, circulation-cooled disc brakes. They have long operating life and give smooth and effective braking action.
-Engine: Volvo D6E LBE3.

-Bucket capacity (m3): 2-6.4.

-Operating weight: 12.7-14t.

Fact File: Eco Sustainable Solutions

Formed in 1993, Eco Sustainable Solutions transforms various wastes from the local area and turns them into usable saleable products.

A team now 50 strong combines to recycle waste from the local community: whether it consists of discarded food, road sweepings, surplus wood or garden material.

The company currently process upwards of 250,000 tons of organic material over four separate facilities.

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