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Bigger than big – the new Cat 637K wheeled tractor scraper

Goodman Contractors’ purchase of two new Cat 637K wheeled tractor scrapers from Gough Cat is a once in a generation addition to its fleet. Cameron Officer explains.

THIS KAPITI COAST construction company needed to be 100 percent sure it was investing in both the right machine technology for the ultimate performance, and the right distributor for expert technical back-up.

There’s big and then there’s Cat big. And if it’s a big Cat machine you’re after, they don’t come much more generously-sized than the legendary manufacturer’s 637K wheeled tractor scraper. This is seriously XXL-sized iron, with suitably serious power and earthmoving abilities to match.

Seeing one arrive in New Zealand would be a big deal, but with Waikanae-headquartered Goodman Contractors ordering two 637Ks from Gough Cat to add to its busy machine fleet, it’s a real occasion for managing director Stan Goodman and his team. It’s over 40 years since the family-run company bought a brand-new scraper, highlighting the longevity expected from these sorts of machines on the earthmoving and construction front line.

“We’ve been Cat customers for the last few years and as the company has grown, [Cat’s New Zealand distributor] Gough Cat has grown with us,” says Stan.

“The scrapers are big ticket items; there’s no two way around that. This was a big decision for us, as in the past we’ve only purchased second-hand scrapers.

“That’s why peace-of-mind is everything; we have confidence in the machines, but they also give us confidence we can tackle a greater variety of work on a large scale.”

With Goodman Contractors’ previous newest scraper dating back to 1982, Stan says the new Cat 637K wheeled tractor scrapers are an absolute leap ahead across the board when compared with what they’ve run in the past.

“It would have been less of a big step to buy a couple of smaller scrapers. But to be honest, I don’t think we would end up as far ahead in the game as a result,” he continues.

“These machines are built tough and you just can’t compare the degree of finesse available from the Cat 637s with what you get from a smaller unit.

“The 40-ton capacity of the twin-powered machines means they’re really suited to the bigger jobs we have coming up. They can carry more, meaning we can work much more efficiently and quicker too. But they’re also fuel efficient, which is important for us across the length of a project.”

Straightforward toughness is perhaps a given. But Stan is quick to point out that the two big yellow machines offer a huge amount of technological advancement to his company too.

“These machines have seven separate computing systems onboard; even though they’re at the heavy-duty end of the scale, they’re seriously technical machines,” he says.

The Cat 637K wheeled tractor scrapers feature a number of clever features designed to improve performance and operation.

There is a two-stage Fuel Economy Mode system onboard, which automatically varies power distribution between the tractor and the scraper to allow operation at lower revs.

The Ground Speed Control and Machine Speed Limit systems, meanwhile, both work to improve each scraper’s performance during specific tasks, helping to manage fuel burn and engine load.

Ground Speed Control allows the operator to set a desired top speed for the machine, ensuring it works in a gear ratio optimised for the best engine performance. Taking the place of top gear selection, Machine Speed Limit functionality is intended for use when top speed needs to be limited for longer durations. Allowing the engine and transmission to select the correct gear to pull the load will, in most cases, lower both the engine load and fuel burn versus using top gear selection.

There are also numerous safety features engineered into the Cat 637K wheeled tractor scrapers. In addition to Tyre Spin Reduction, which allows the machine to control the slip of the tractor tyres, Engine Over-Speed Protection calculates the acceleration rate and ensures the compression brakes will automatically engage in an engine over-speed situation.

Things are comfortable for the operator too, with an ergonomically designed command console and better outward visibility across all points of the machine. What’s more, the interior space on offer is 21 percent greater than in the K Series machine’s predecessor. The Cat 637K also features High Pressure Steering, which reduces the steering effort required to manoeuvre the tractor scraper, helping to mitigate driver fatigue over long work cycles.

And speaking of operator comfort, a clever system called Advanced Cushion Hitch is also available on the Cat 637K. Relying on advanced software that reacts with machine movement in real-time, this system has the ability to predict end-stroke events through the cushion hitch and manage the rate of dampening accordingly. The smart system results in reduced hitch maintenance and improved ride for the operator across rough ground.

The two new additions to the Goodman Contractors fleet takes the number of twin-powered scrapers the firm runs to eight. On the question of whether Goodmans will have dedicated operators for the two new machines, Stan says that yes, and for the time being my brother Vaughan and his son Cody will be the operators.

“The machines are unique to our company, from both an operator and a mechanical point-of-view, so within the timeframes available to us between project commitments, we’re being very methodical about getting to know how the machines work.

“We also need to get our mechanics skilled up on the service requirements of the 637s. But we have a good knowledge base to assist with that in the form of Gough Cat. We wouldn’t have made such a large purchase decision without a solid distributor behind our chosen machines. Goughs has the technical experience to help us get to grips with the machines over the next few months.

“Mind you, we would expect each machine to offer trouble-free operation for the first 15,000 hours or so and, in reality, that could be 15 years’ worth of work,” concludes Stan.

“You have to sort of adjust your expectations with machines like these; everything is on a different scale.”

In all, bigger, it seems, really can be better.

This article first appeared in Contractor June 2017.

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