When Nick Drew and Earthmovers Magazine Came to Site…

Credit to: Nick Drew and Earthmovers Magazine for Article and Photos

Digital Digging

Leamington Spa based family run business O’Brien Contractors Ltd have been at the forefront of innovative technology in the construction industry since the company was first formed in 1958 by Tom O’Brien, the father of the current directors Peter & Mick O’Brien who are also joined by fellow director Stuart Chamberlain.

Of course, in recent years technology involving state-of-the-art GPS guidance systems has really taken off and we are seeing a massive uptake in machine guidance set ups. O’Brien Contractors have been embracing the concept since it was first introduced into the UK market and as trailblazers fully understand the benefits that Machine Control (3DMC) systems can offer their business. Managing Engineering Surveyor for O’Brien Contractors Gareth Price said, “3D machine control technology not only makes our sites, or in fact any construction site, operate more efficiently and effectively, but also improves safety for our operatives on the ground and around the machine”.

O’Brien Contractors run a diverse fleet of machines from a wide range of manufacturers with an impressive 29 items of plant already running machine controls systems, these include excavators, dozers and even rollers. The company have always had a strong relationship with Takeuchi, primarily for the products well proven, tried and tested reliability. They have been running the distinctive red and grey Japanese built excavators on the fleet for well over 15 years now ranging from 1.5 tonne class TB216’s and nine tonne class TB290’s right up to the 15 tonne TB2150’s with offset booms. The most recent addition to the fleet is a TB2150R which features a conventional fixed boom which is said to be the first of its kind to be fitted with 3D machine control. Talking about the machine Gareth Price said, “The natural evolution of our relationship with Takeuchi was to marry a Topcon 3DMC system to the new TB2150R, we have looked into fitting the systems to our offset boom versions but that’s still a bit complicated at the moment, but I’m confident a solution will be found, but for now we are happy to have the system on the new fixed boom model”.

We caught up with the new machine on a site in Worcester, where O’Brien’s are tackling the work for Stoford Developments Limited forming part of the next phase of expansion for the Worcester Six Industrial Estate. This work includes but is not limited to 5,600m2 of site strip under an archaeological watching brief, 500m of watercourse diversion, and 1300m of bund construction all involving circa 12,000m3 of earthworks. On the day of our visit the Takeuchi was excavating part of the site for the archaeologists who are performing a survey of the area ahead of the main excavation works and the operator had pre-mapped out the excavation including shelving levels before digging commenced.

At the controls was long term operator John Neeson, who has been driving excavators for over 32 years. Until he joined O’Brien Contractor’s John, like many an old school operator, had never used a machine control system before, but after a few hours of training he is now fully confident in the use and application of the Topcon 3DMC. At the time of our visit John had been using the GPS system for a couple of weeks and he was keen to talk to us about his experience with it so far, John said, “I was sceptical at first, but I have to say that since using the Topcon system for a short period of time, I wouldn’t want to be without it now, it’s just a fantastic piece of kit and from an operators point of view, it just makes my life a lot easier”.

John continued, “As I said previously, I’d never used one before and initially it was a bit daunting, but I have found it very easy to use and of course we are lucky to have a very good engineering back up team on the end of the phone if there are ever any problems. Also, from an ease of use and safety perspective, it means we only require minimal groundcrew around us which is reassuring and it also eliminates the need for any spray paint lines so that’s one more thing less to have to worry about as the dig is all mapped out in the GPS system”. Explaining how the back-up works Gareth Price said, “We can offer John all our other GPS operators full support from the office via our remote support system our Engineering Surveyors to remotely access and control the 3DMC system from any internet-connected device. This support network is invaluable in reducing down time, remotely updating models and offering continued support for our drivers”.

As an example of how easy it is, John said he had arrived in the corner of the green field, and marked out the plan of the dig using the GPS unit, which mapped it all out for him on the screen without him having to leave his cab. Gareth demonstrated how the system can be accessed remotely via a mobile phone or tablet at any time of the day or night, incredible technology! The company operate a policy of one machine, one operator, and his GPS system which is dedicated to that machine for its entire working life on the fleet, when machines are traded-in they are generally sold with the GPS system intact as part of the machine. For security reasons the Topcon screen and receiver pods are easily removed at the end of the shift and can be taken off site for safe keeping overnight. The movement sensors are mounted on the upper-structure, boom, dipper and bucket tipping link and are securely bolted on.

Due to the intricate nature of the works to be carried out on this project shaping the watercourse this site was identified as the ideal application for the Takeuchi excavator combined with the Topcon 3DMC system. Operator John is normally found at the controls of one of O’Brien’s new Caterpillar 320 next generation 20 tonne class excavators, but in the early stages of this job he was trying out the new Takeuchi and had plenty of praise for it saying, “I must say it’s a nice piece of kit, very smooth and precise on the sticks and with plenty of speed and power, it’s a good all-round package really”.

Photo: John Neeson’s regular mount the Caterpillar 320 Next Generation excavator. The machine itself tips the scales at 15.6 tonnes and like its off-set boom style counterpart the TB2150, it retains the German built 4-cylinder Deutz TCD3.6L4 engine which is a Stage 4 Final emissions compliant unit complete with AdBlue system and DOC unit to achieve the required emissions levels. This engine has a rated power output of 85kw (115hp) @2000rpm.

This example was fitted with the standard 700mm UK spec steel triple grouser track pads. The undercarriage has an overall length of 3750mm and measures 2690mm in width which gives the machine a good footprint and offering extremely good balance throughout the working arc. Forward and centrally mounted track guides help to keep everything in place even in the toughest of terrains, and twin speed track motors with auto step down function provide torque on demand when pushing, climbing slopes or when turning in high speed mode.


The mono boom features check valves which are located behind the boom lift rams for protection from accidental damage and a check valve is also fitted on the dipper ram. There are 3 x auxiliary hydraulic circuits fitted as standard.


The TB2150R is still being rolled out with a relatively short 2.3m dipper arm, but there has since been an upgrade to a new dipper size of 2.85m, not far short of the standard preferred UK spec of 3m. As we understood previously, following consultation between UK dealers and Takeuchi designers in Japan they plan to re-design the dipper and fit a larger top ram to offer the same breakout force as is currently achievable with the shorter dipper. At the business end on this example a Tefra automatic hydraulic quick coupler from Hill Engineering was fitted.


Its down to forward thinking companies such as O’Brien Contractors that we are now seeing much more of this GPS kit being used, its only going to be a matter of time before this digital digging technology becomes the industry standard.



O’Brien Charitable Trust – 2019 £15,000 Target Reached and Mission Accomplished!

The trust has for the third year, since it was set up by the O’Brien staff in 2017 reached it’s target!


The Charitable Trust has now reached it’s 2019 target after a year of fundraising organised by the O’Brien Trust committee that is made up of staff members who give their time and dedication to reach that magic £15,000 target, so we can get another £15,000 from the O’Brien Directors once we reach that target, enabling us to give £30,000 to good causes.


It has been a year of hard work to organising the various events.  The year kicked off in July with the Charity Golf Day which is always so competitive!  Our wonderful Charity Ball in the Great Hall at Warwick Castle where everyone dazzled us with their beautiful outfits.  We also had lots of smaller events, such as a Bake Sale organised by one of the staff, Movember, Christmas Jumper Day, the sale of homemade Christmas cake, and our Gold Bar Raffle.  We have had auctions at our events and outside of the events as well, it has been a busy year!


Of course without the people who support us each year, we could not achieve these fantastic results and meet our targets.  Our suppliers, people who sponsor our events, those that purchase tickets to attend the events, people who donate the auction items, those that share our posts to help sell our tickets and get those bids in for the auction items, we could not do it without you, so: A GREAT BIG, HUGE, MASSIVE THANK YOU TO ALL OF YOU!


In the new year we will be distributing the 2019 money that has been raised to our selected charitable organisations and we will keep you posted about where the money has gone and information on those organisations, so keep an eye out for information on that!


We will also be announcing our events for 2020 in the New Year, which are currently being discussed. We hope that you are able to be as generous and supportive of the trust in the New Year and we look forward to seeing you at next years events!

Who’s Been Naughty and Who’s Been Nice on Christmas Jumper Day!!!

Our annual Christmas Jumper and Charity Shoe Box Day has arrived!

So who are the naughty people not wearing a jumper!

Mmm, take a look at the rogues in the gallery of photos to find out!  On the plus side they paid their money for charity (£5 entry fee for the office staff) all money goes to the O’Brien Charitable Trust.

Lots of lovely jumpers around the office and a few head and beard trimmings as well!

The staff also bring in shoe boxes filled with goodies and necessities for the homeless, vulnerable and lonely for ‘Coventry Cyrenians Charity’, who distribute the boxes on Christmas day and provide a Christmas meal for those less fortunate.

Vision Beyond the Ordinary, with O’Brien’s New Site Vision Technology!

Continuous Investment

O’Brien Contractors have made our latest investment in technology with Trimble’s new in-field visualisation system, SiteVision. Thanks to KOREC, we have been very fortunate to have the first unit in the country outside the beta testing group. We feel this new technology is going to be of great benefit to us with a wide range of on-site applications. Realising the potential of new technology and investing early in such systems has given us a proven strategic advantage in terms of quality, programme and cost.

Providing Our Clients’ and Prospective Client’s with a Vision! 

SiteVision gives us the ability to communicate Designs with our Clients (contracted or prospective), stakeholders, management and operatives by visualising a design in real time, in the real world rather than pondering over paper drawings or reviewing 3D models on a computer.

Improved Safety on Buried Services

It also enables us to highlight any existing buried services prior to breaking ground, helping us to improve the safety of our operatives. As well as promoting safety, it enables us to understand the possible implications and interaction our works will have with existing services and avoid any potential issues or clashes before we commence.

O’Brien and Dudley Metropolitan Borough Council Experiencing the Benefits of Site Vision

The benefits of SiteVision have already been capitalised on in our new job in Dudley, facilitating the enabling works for the Dudley Very Light Railway Innovation Centre. SiteVision enabled us to easily communicate the design to directors, engineers and operatives alike, making visualising the site much easier than it would be using traditional methods. As well as this, SiteVision enabled visual validation of the works being carried out by our 3D Machine Controlled (3DMC) plant. Due to the same 3D model and coordinate system being used in both the 3DMC machines and SiteVision, it was very straightforward to compare exactly where the machine operators had constructed elements on site in comparison to where they should be according to the design.

All in all we feel our new SiteVision will be a valuable asset to the company, and are confident there will be many new and interesting opportunities it will assist us on in the future.

O’Brien Celebrates the 2019 Winners of our ‘Employee Outstanding Achievement Award’!

O’Brien values the skills, experience and dedication of our site teams.

In recognition of this, we have for many years run the ‘Outstanding Achievement Award’.  The award goes to a member of one of our site teams each quarter to coincide with our quarterly newsletter.

Project Managers nominate the operative that they think has gone above and beyond for the previous quarter and the candidate with the most recommendations wins the award.  In recognition of their outstanding contribution, the winner gets a £500 cheque and a certificate in recognition of their hard work.


Colin Robinson

Awarded it in recognition of his willingness to tackle any task on site. Although he works as a machine driver, he is willing to help out with any task on site, nothing is too much trouble!

John Reilly

Described as one of the most dependable and skilful employees at O’Brien’s, who can be relied onto make some of the trickier finishing works look simple!

Paul Owen 

Stuart Hopkins – Project Manager commented, “Paul is an integral part of any project team he works on, he is always one of the first on the job each morning and his work and safety when operating large excavators around our workforce is exemplary”.

Pat Kelly

Project Manager Rob Gallagher commented, “Pat is a great team player, whether he is working on his own or sharing his outstanding knowledge of groundworks with others.



The boys in the office have done us proud once again, raising an amazing £1,800 for the O’Brien Charitable Trust in the Movember Challenge.

Dan Taylor, John Maxwell and James O’Brien grew those top lip warmers for the whole of November (in the freezing weather we have had, they were likely glad of the extra warmth)!

With Peter O’Brien pledging additional money for the winner, we decided to put the vote to the public and let them decide who the winner would be and after a 24 hour vote, the public decided that John Maxwell was the voted King of the Moustache this year, (although they are all winners in our eyes).

John raised £1,130 which is a fantastic amount of money!

Thank you to everyone who sponsored our worthy contestants and got behind one of our last fundraisers of the year, in our quest to raise that magic £15,000.

Just in case you don’t know, if the staff raise £15,000 between January and the end of December, the O’Brien Directors match that amount so we have £30,000 to distribute in January to our chosen Charities for 2019.

We really appreciate all the support and sponsors, not just for this event, but all of our events throughout the year.