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New machine turns heads

A Gisborne concrete contractor is turning heads, after investing in a new high-tech piece of kit.

Ritchie Civil director Derek Watson said when the company turned up to a concreting job with a new concrete laser screeding machine, cars stopped to take pictures.

“Then drones started flying overhead — it was out of control,” he said.

“It has got a telescopic screed that’s controlled by lasers — the same sort of lasers a builder would use. It’s run by remote control, similar to a remote control for a hired crane, and one guy can operate it.”

Imported from Australia, the US-manufactured machine has a 3.6m wide screed; it can reach out four metres and level concrete in one pass.

“It saves a significant amount of time.”

The machine was able to finish a 500 square metre concrete carpark recently in just four hours. To do that normally would have taken most of the day and required more staff.

Mr Watson said the machine involved a substantial investment.

“The main thing everyone is experiencing is having enough quality labour. There is a shortage of that sort of labour and guys who can do that type of work.

“The other reason was around health and safety. Having staff bent over a concrete screed for hours and days is quite physical.

“The other benefit is it really improved the quality of the concrete. You can do building foundations, you can do warehouse slabs, tennis courts, carparks. So really, it’s operating at a much higher tolerance than doing it by hand — up to about 2mm of tolerance.”

It’s also fitted with 3D machine control similar to what’s seen on a bulldozer or digger, so if required it can lay concrete in three dimensions, meaning it can lay concrete at three different heights at the same time.

“It’s really utilising the technology that’s out there. I think it’s the first one in New Zealand that has that 3D ability.”

With Gisborne experiencing a growth phase, Mr Watson said the company was confident to go ahead with the investment.

“There’s quite a bit happening in that commercial building space and really the main thing for us is we will be able to do larger concrete pours with our current staff.

He also expected the company would be able to branch out to undertake out-of-town contracts.

“Once we get it fully operational we’ll definitely look into expanding out either north of Gisborne, or further south.”

Mr Watson and his wife Rebecca took over the business four years ago and now employ 12 staff.

“We’ve seen or experienced good solid growth and we can definitely see there is a good strong workload in the region, which is encouraging. Since we’ve taken over the business, we’ve been reinvesting part of our profit back into the business for development, and that goes back into the region.”

EASY-PEASY: Ritchie Civil workers lay down a new 500 square metre? carpark in just four hours with a new telescopic, remote-controlled and laser-guided concrete screed machine. Picture supplied