A specialist company delivering drainage services to the utility sector is forecasting a 30 per cent increase in turnover in 2024 after enjoying the benefits of the latest in trenching technology.
Anker Utility Services Ltd (AUS) undertakes liability surveys, land drainage investigations, drainage solutions, plan development and installation for National Gas Transmissions alongside trenching services for civils work, private projects, and agricultural contracting drainage services.
With 25 years of experience working on major infrastructure projects throughout the UK, managing land teams, Agricultural Liaison Officers and drainage contractors, Ronnie Anker established AUS in January 2013 to undertake drainage surveys along many of the Main Feeder Pipelines throughout the UK, with one of the largest being the Feeder 28 a 48-inch gas main installed from Milford Haven to Gloucester.
After delivering many projects on behalf of National Grid Gas with several subcontractors, Ronnie went on to work on the Feeder 28 Drainage Project from 2012 to 2016. From then on, AUS completed many surveys, investigations, remedial solutions, and installations for their clients across the UK. In 2017, AUS Ltd was awarded a place on the National Gas Transmission's Agricultural Land Drainage Framework, which has become the company's predominant area of work.
As part of the company's growth strategy, Ronnie decided to move away from sub-contracting some of the trenching element of AUS's work and invested in a large mounted trencher and John Deere 6190r tractor, a six-ton gravel cart and a 6130r John Deere tractor with power shift gearboxes. The set-up worked for all but the largest drainage schemes, which continued to be outsourced to larger drainage contractors.
"What we eventually learnt from that set-up was there was no certainty," explains Ronnie. "After conducting surveys, we would arrive at the field with our tractor-pulled trencher, and we were always thinking, can we do it? Will it work? So, after a couple of years, we decided to take the bull by the horns. Firstly, we sold our six-ton gravel cart and purchased another one with extended sides, which holds 12 tons. We then contacted Chris at Mastenbroek and asked if he had a nearly new or second-hand 20/15 trencher available. He didn't, but he did have one in build. We said we'd have it. That was at the beginning of this year (2023), and we haven't looked back since!"
With a transport width of 2.9m and weighing less than 19 tonnes, the 20/15 is a versatile, compact and powerful drainage trencher designed specifically for agricultural and cross-country applications. Equipped with Trimble precision GPS grade control, the 20/15 offers trench depths between 0.4 to 2m and widths from 125 to 450mm with spoil discharge to either side. In the latest version, Mastenbroek has equipped the 20/15 with a Volvo EU Stage 5 235kw (320hp) engine and ensured operator comfort in a heated and air conditioned, elevated, ROPS-certified cabin with ergonomic controls.
Ronnie is delighted with the 20/15. "We're really pleased it is a fully spec'd machine. It's fully auto steer GPS and is giving us what we were lacking before - certainty. Now, when we go to a field, we know our set-up will work. There's no element of doubt. We also know that we will be working much more quickly than before. In fact, I'd say our productivity has probably increased by 30% by having the Mastenbroek. In addition, we have now ordered another gravel cart with extended sides, which will now give us two working at the same time to keep the 20/15 trencher going throughout the day.
"The way that the Trimble system is embedded in the Mastenbroek is far superior to anything else on the market. It offers features that other GPS systems don't.
"Before the GPS system, we used one based on lasers. After three or four installation jobs, I said, we're not doing this. We're going to GPS because laser means more stone, and you've got to recalibrate it often. If you're going over a brow, you don't want to be going through the hill; you want to follow the hill as much as possible with your grade because the stone cost is one of the highest costs. It's not just purchasing it. It's actually loading it, unloading it, dealing with it, and it's time-consuming. It's working out how you'll get the lorries into the site. Where are you going to tip your stone? On so many jobs, we have to actually widen gateways or have four or six-wheelers in to get stone in. It's not like big fields out in the fens. In a lot of the places we are working in, such as Cumbria, Scotland, Wales or Devon, the access is horrendous in lots of places.
"And that's another reason why we picked Mastenbroek. The 20/15 isn't a large machine, and we can get it to where we need it to be easily."
In 2023, despite dreadful weather for the first six months of the year, AUS Ltd undertook 26 installation projects across the UK, from Devon to Norfolk, Wales to Carlisle and as far north as Edinburgh and Aberdeenshire.
Thanks to the increased capacity made possible by the Mastenbroek 20/15, AUS has already committed to many more drainage scheme installations for the forthcoming year, both for our utility clients and agricultural.
"We were lucky to get that machine this year. We were lucky that it happened to be in build when I called. I'm so pleased we got it. It has made a real difference to our business in 2023 and will certainly play its part in 2024. I just wish we had had one sooner!"
To find out more about AUS Ltd, visit www.aus-ltd.co.uk, and if you're interested in Mastenbroek's 20/15, visit https://mastenbroek.com/products/land-drainage-trenchers/20-15/