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.



Leamington Spa to Romford in 5 seconds

Civil engineering and groundworks specialist providing earthworks and laser levelling services at Broxhill Sports Centre.

If your boss gave you the choice of travelling a minimum 5 hour round trip in the car, or to make that journey in 5 seconds at the click of a button, what would you choose?

Well, for engineering surveyor, Gareth Price and his team at civil engineering and groundworks specialist, O’Brien Contractors, that choice has become a reality, thanks to director, Mick O’Brien, whose investment in 3D machine control and Trimble Connected Community software, has dramatically reshaped the business.

In order to understand how the solution works, Finning News took up the offer from SITECH UK and Ireland’s Zoë Adnitt, to visit Mick at a new sports pitch project in Romford and then travel to O’Brien’s head office in Leamington Spa, all in one very long day.

The project itself involved the creation of a brand new 3G sports pitch and a multi-use games area (MUGA), constructed next to an existing sports centre. With very tight tolerances required to meet the exacting standards for the pitch, before the job was secured, the surveying team carried out an in house survey, modeled the whole project in 3D and then monitored it throughout the earthworks programme, as Mick explained:

Having proven the benefits of machine control on previous sports pitch projects, we have now gone to the lengths of setting up a new specialist division for this type of work.

“So in practical terms, our first aim with any project is to try and ensure that no material leaves site, eliminating the need and cost of truck movements. This is achieved by recycling good quality soils and designing in features like earth bunds to use material that would normally be classified as inert waste.

“Our challenge throughout this process is that we have to stick as closely to our design as possible, but you never truly know what you will unearth or how materials will compact, until you actually start doing the job.

“This is why you have to be on top of a project from day one. Typically before GPS enabled 3D machine control, we would have had to send a member of our team down to site on a very regular basis, which is a costly exercise when a round trip is 5 hours. This was the reason that prior to our investment in this technology, we tendered for jobs much closer to our base in Leamington Spa.

“This was obviously quite restrictive to our growth, especially in the more specialist sports pitch market. So by using two-way communication through the Trimble technology using the GPS network, the machines are able to tell us what they have been doing and we can see the daily progress onsite at the touch of a button.

“Equally, we can see the all important levels being achieved and therefore continually update our calculations around material movements, settlement and compaction. This means that Gareth, our engineering surveyor, can make relevant adjustments to the 3D model from his desk, delivering changes to the individual machines onsite, at the touch of a button, via the Trimble Connected Community.

“So what would be a round trip of at least 5 hours to our latest Romford project to upload a file from a memory stick or complete a survey using older techniques, is a 5 second file click and drag process, which is then sent through the cloud.

“In commercial terms, this approach has totally changed our capabilities and more importantly for the customer, changed the way a project is delivered. Our customers get a 3D design matching high quality finish, reduced truck movements, which pleases the local residents and a faster job, at a fixed competitive price.

“It really is a win win for both parties and a transformational journey from regional to national contractor for our business, I honestly don’t know how we could run a profitable job without it.”

So if you’ve got an earthworks project you’re looking to start, click here to talk to us about how we can help you generate cost and efficiency savings.

The key to independence…


According to a report published by Ofsted, outside of football, a large proportion of students, who have gone on to become the next elite athletes and tennis, rugby union and cricket players, have been nurtured on the sports fields of England’s independent schools.

41% of Team GB athletes who won a medal during the London 2012 Olympics were educated at an independent school. This is quite remarkable when you consider only 7% of school-aged pupils attend an independent school in England, compared to 86–93% of the population who are educated by a state run school.

This should come as no surprise when you consider that Independent schools have embedded competitive sports into their culture and ethos. They ensure all students participate in frequent sports activities; building confidence, self-esteem, academic excellence, character building, but also providing young people with the platform to realise their sporting goals and ambitions.

Independent schools do enjoy greater financial benefits over state schools, but now the Department for Culture, Media and Sport is investing over £1 billion in the next few years to help people get fitter and healthier through a range of programmes designed to make access to sports facilities easier for everyone.

So, with grants and funding available to schools and local authorities, this is a great opportunity to get new sports pitches and facilities in place and bring competitive sport into the fabric of the education curriculum of state schools.

It is vital that schools and local authorities make the most of this opportunity because the skills adopted during physical education and through regular participation, are essential to the early development of children and young people. It can teach them key values, including: sportsmanship, teamwork, respect, mutual understanding and honesty.

Through competition, a child’s education is a far richer experience. They enjoy competition. Competitive sport encourages children to try harder. It also provides them with the experience of winning and losing and how to deal with both emotions.

Sports Pitch Specialists!

Investing in new sports facilities has to be done right for two important reasons: firstly, so that you get the best value from your budget, and secondly, so that you receive a high standard installation ensuring students can and will use them for years to come. To do it right you need to work with the best sports pitch providers you can and O’Brien Sports, who’s management team has over 55 years’ experience in sports pitch construction, is one of the first large civil engineering firms able to offer turnkey solutions for a range of sports facilities.

The company delivers projects ranging from stadiums and arenas through to rugby, football and hockey pitches. This capability is all maintained in house – with no outsourcing required – by a team of experts with a proven track record of delivering design and build sports projects to a diverse range of exacting client specifications.

The sports installations that we deliver include synthetic and Multi Use Games Area (MUGA) pitches with surfaces suitable for just about every sport and user, from professional sports teams to schools and communities, and natural sports pitches, such as those used for rugby, football and cricket.

Recent projects have included the construction of a FIFA-compliant football pitch, an Olympic-standard, eight lane athletics track (complete with long jump, triple jump, high jump and pole vault) and a football club (complete with 11 natural turf pitches, changing facilities, entrance road and car park). All elements of these projects were handled in house and to our uncompromising standards.


O’Brien Sports offers a full range of sports pitch services, including:

  • Full design and build construction projects
  • Synthetic and multi-use games area (MUGA) pitches
  • Pitch renovations
  • Natural sports pitches
  • Total solutions for sports pitches
  • Infrastructure, including: access roads and car parks

The total solution…from concept to construction, we design and build all Synthetic and Natural Sports Surfaces.

T: 01926 423918

E: info@obriencontractors.co.uk

New CAT D6T takes the highway to St. Modwen’s Longbridge scheme

Civil engineering and groundworks company provides earthworks, groundworks and infrastructure services at Morgan Sindall’s regeneration of Longbridge town centre in Birmingham, West Midlands

We’ve recently strengthened our earthworks service and plant hire division with the acquisition of a new GPS controlled CAT D6T dozer.

The new D6T will be put to the test at St. Modwen’s £100 million town centre masterplan at the former MG Rover site. This development will feature the Midlands’ largest Marks & Spencer store comprising 150,000 sq ft, a six floor multi storey, 500 space car park and an additional 45,000sq ft of retail, restaurant and café space.

We have been appointed by principal contractor, Morgan Sindall, to deliver a highways package – including earthworks, 1606m of drainage up to 6m deep and 4500m of kerbs and edgings.

The new CAT D6T takes our investment in state-of-the-art equipment and machinery up to an impressive £2.2m during the last 12 months, including: two new Volvo A25G articulated haulers, three Volvo EC140DL excavators and a CAT D6N GPS controlled dozer.

Mick O’Brien our Director, said: “Throughout the years, our expertise has grown but our aims remain much the same – to work with our clients as an expert partner and provide industry-leading staff, technology and skills to deliver end results that exceed expectations.”

“To achieve our goals, we believe we must continue to invest in our people, software and machinery to ensure we continually improve the quality of our work and the speed of installation, saving our clients both time and money.”

This latest investment is part of an ongoing diversification strategy that is transforming our business and seen us win countless awards in recognition of our innovation, including ‘Tomorrow’s Company’ and ‘Specialist Contractor of the Year’ by Construction News and ‘Contractor of the Year up to £300 million by Building Magazine.

As the industry prepares for its annual celebration at the Construction News Awards on 30 June 2015, the recognition we’ve received at previous awards has prompted us to proudly sponsor this year’s event.