Quarrying & Mining Magazine

CAT 323FL versatile and efficient

CAT 323FL versatile and efficient - Q&M Mag - Oct-Nov 2017 - Featured Image

Warren Holden from Te Kuiti-based Ruakuri Contracting thought he might 
need a bigger excavator for his quarry operation at Ravensdown, but says the 
Cat 323FL excavator has proved very versatile and efficient.

WARREN SAYS HIS company sits in the sweet spot; a good-sized team operating at near-capacity across two busy sites that are just a short four kilometres from one another.
“We’re not a big company, but we are big on delivering results,” he says. “And actually, that’s a pretty good scenario for me and my team.”
Looking after two separate quarry operations for Omya New Zealand and Ravensdown, he and his team of eight process a mix of high-grade industrial limestone at Omya New Zealand (a site the company has operated from for the past 15 years), and agricultural limestone at Ravensdown, the contract for which Ruakuri Contracting won earlier this year. Stripping operations are also carried out at both quarries.
That particular contract win led Warren to make the decision to invest in a new 26-ton Cat 323FL excavator. But this latest acquisition certainly isn’t the first Cat on his fleet. On the contrary, Ruakuri Contracting’s combined yards have a certain yellow hue to them.
“We’ve got four Cat excavators now and I think we’ll be looking for a fifth soon,” he says.
“We currently run two Cat 320Ds, a 56-ton Cat 349EL and the new Cat 323FL. One of the 320’s feeds the crusher at Omya New Zealand, while the other operates with a rock-breaker attachment on it most of the time. The larger 349E and our bulldozer generally float between the two quarries.
“All-in-all we’re pretty well kitted out for a company of our size. We also run four ADT dumpers, with another two available from Holden Earthmoving and an on-highway nine-axle Cat CT630, which is an awesome truck too.”
Warren says that, when it came to assessing his options around a new excavator to work the Ravensdown site, he could have potentially gone to a bigger machine. But in practice, he and his team have found the Cat 323FL to be a very efficient and capable digger.
“I’ve been very impressed with the through-put capacity the 323 provides for. Initially I wondered whether we would be better with a bit of extra weight, given what we need the machine for, but it feeds rock through consistently at Ravensdown and ensures material is always flowing through well, providing a consistent feed to the crusher.”
Ruakuri Contracting processes 120,000 ton of rock at each of the two sites, although Warren also contracts out plant to Holden earthmoving for operations at the iron sands mine at Taharoa on the Kawhia Harbour, so he needs his machinery to offer plenty of flexibility.
He reckons the Cat 323FL is the most versatile machine he owns, with new Cat technology, such as the Cat Grade Control functionality, making daily operating life that much easier.
“I reckon they’ve really nailed it with this particular model. The technology available onboard is really impressive and Cat’s Grade Control system in particular is one of those modern machine features that becomes integral to the way we use the machine almost immediately. I knew we would benefit from it as soon as I tried it out, so that was definitely an optional extra I went for when spec-ing up the digger.”
A feature available on Cat’s F-Series excavators, Cat Grade Control Depth and Slope provides accurate bucket guidance during digging and slope cutting, which advances both cycle times and digging precision. This in turn has knock-on effects as far as improved machine fuel efficiency, as well as allowing contractors such as Warren and his team to meet project benchmarks that much faster.
Warren has spent plenty of time in the Cat 323FL already; he’s actually one of Gough Cat’s demonstration drivers for the recently-launched F-Series machines, while his brother Lawrence Holden bought one of the very first Cat 323FLs for his own operation when they arrived in the country.
“There is a bit of a connection between us and Gough Cat, but I honestly have to say I’ve been impressed with them as both a sales agent and as a back-up service provider since long before I was approached to do some demonstration operating for them.
“We’ve run machines supplied by other distributor groups in the past, but the technology and power the Cat diggers possess, combined with a class act in the background like Goughs, who really know their gear inside and out, is the ideal situation in my mind.
“Goughs has been outstanding to deal with, that’s for sure. We’re based in Te Kuiti, which is still a fair way south of the nearest Goughs service centre in Hamilton. But actually, that’s no barrier to great service. We know we would get the helping hand we require from them regardless of where our machines are, if it came to it.”
Warren says he doesn’t need to up-spec the Cat excavators too heavily, as for the most part they arrive fit-for-purpose, with all the required quarry-work specification taken care of already. In fact, he knows exactly what his next machine purchase will look like.
“We’ll definitely go for another Cat 323FL. It’s such a great machine; when we pull one of the 320s back from the front line, it will be replaced with a 323; no question. Caterpillar has definitely hit the sweet spot with this machine.”
Coming from an operator with such a well-balanced operation as Warren has with Ruakuri Contracting, that’s probably high praise indeed.

This article first appeared in Q&M‘s October/November issue.

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