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Volvo EC350EL fleet of 20 excavators specially modified for demolition

Volvo EC350EL fleet of 20 excavators specially modified for demolition

“Our specialty is high-reach excavators – basically, the extremes of what a machine can reach in all directions,” says Marc Ferrari, president of FERMA Corp. “Right now in North America we have the highest-reaching demolition machine, just shy of 200 feet (60.96 m),” he explains.

In 1963, four brothers and a partner started FERMA as a site-clearing business. Over the years, it evolved into a pioneering engineering and demolition company that today knocks down everything from high-rise structures to small business buildings.

In the high-tech centre of Silicon Valley, California, FEMA is helping prepare for a wave of new development using its own technologically advanced machinery, including a fleet of specially modified Volvo EC350EL excavators. Two of these units are being used to demolish a building on the future site of a Google parking lot.

The EC350EL features a D13 Tier 4 Final engine, a new electrohydraulic control system and Volvo’s ECO mode which can deliver up to 9 percent greater fuel efficiency, something that Ferrari says was hard to believe at first.

“They’re running on about eight U.S. gallons (30.3 litres) per hour, and because we run mostly tools, we have them running at higher rpm for longer than most other applications. We’re always at the high end, or maxed, based on the type of work we do and the tools we use,” he explains. “Because we’re doing demolition, there’s always activity, so we achieve more than 90 percent working utilization while the engine is running, versus the industry standard of around 60 to 75 percent. These machines, when they’re on, they’re working.”

The first of 20 Volvo EC350ELs arrived in August 2015 to join the Volvo EC480E high-reach excavator that Ferrari already runs for FERMA.

Creating unparalleled value

Similar to its hi-tech neighbours, FERMA is focused on staying ahead of the competition with a vision that makes it difficult for the rest of the industry to keep pace. Its mantra, to create unparalleled value by using the latest in technology and machinery, is the reason that Ferrari recently switched to Volvo Construction Equipment.

Dan McCausland, sales representative for Volvo Construction Equipment & Services (VCES), the local dealer, admits it was not easy persuading FERMA that their future was with Volvo, but he had lots to sell.

“The machines have come a long way over the last few years with Tier 4 Final engine technology and their ability to run multiple attachments, such as a concrete processor, a shear, a hydraulic breaker, and a bucket and thumb,” says McCausland. “Now, the operator can program all of the attachment hydraulic pressures and different flow settings from the monitor in the cab.”

Once convinced, Ferrari worked closely with local dealer VCES to instruct FERMA operators who were not familiar with the brand. “We’ve had a great deal of help from Volvo Construction Equipment and VCES getting our operators comfortable with the equipment, and dialing in the controls so they were similar to what they have been used to,” he says.

McCausland adds that Volvo is a big advocate of the demolition industry, both in its support of the National Demolition Association (NDA) and in supplying machines specific to the demolition industry.

Innovative ideas

As the third-generation family member to lead the company, Ferrari’s innovative ideas, such as the heavy-duty bucket-and-thumb attachment he designed that can grasp objects as small as a one-inch (25.4 mm) pipe, have helped FERMA’s annual gross revenue skyrocket from $40 million to $70 million in two years.

Just as impressive, Ferrari has used his innovations and his Volvo EC350EL fleet to recycle an average of 98.5 percent of the material demolished by FERMA at every site, a statistic that is practically unheard of in the demolition industry.

Modifications include hands-free communication

“The EC350EL has two cameras and heavy-duty side bumpers,” says Ferrari. “We also asked VCES to customize the controls. We now have digital frequency, wired-in radios in the machines. We took out the factory stereos, put in the radios, ran them through the factory speakers and wired in toggle controls for the microphones and the push-to-talk, so now the operator never has to take his hands off the excavator controls to talk to the personnel around him. It’s a very nice safety feature.

“With all of our modifications, such as the added protections, the heavier bucket and thumb, its larger cylinder and the Volvo S-series quick coupler, these machines currently spec out at just over 90,000 pounds (40,832 kg).”

To the untrained eye, the mechanical changes might be difficult to distinguish. However, Ferrari’s most obvious modification request can be spotted from several blocks away. Volvo custom-painted the entire excavator fleet with FERMA’s unique green and white colours.
Photography by Franch Rogozienski.

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