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When it comes to heavy machinery, not all vehicles are built alike. Some applications require specially designed vehicles for specific purposes.
That’s where Volvo comes into play. The Swedish vehicle manufacturer specializes in creating customized vehicles for companies with specialized applications — including such things as long reach excavators with additional counterweights, railroad excavators, wheeled excavators with a hydraulic elevating and tilting cab, and a crawler excavator with a drilling rig that can only be controlled remotely.
Vehicle Used to Defuse Explosives
Another type of crawler excavator can be controlled remotely from nearly two miles away from the machine via a connection with telematics. Operators view screens displaying images from cameras attached to the vehicle, which was designed to work around unexploded devices.
Another specialized wheeled excavator made by Volvo is used as a recycling machine used on railroads. The vehicle is equipped with a trailer brake kit so operator can safely move around from one site to another while towing a trailer carrying attachments and other equipment.
Many Uses in Norway Right Now
That vehicle is currently in use in Norway, where the government recently invested heavily in improving its transportation infrastructure, especially its railroad system, said Knut Grepperud, manager of Volvo’s Maskin unit, which manufactures the specialized machines.
“We have been very successful this year with railroad machines following state investment in railway repair and maintenance work,” Grepperud told the materials handling news website Hub. “Next year, the special demands could be something completely different.”
Construction projects in Norway often result in specialized applications because of the area’s natural geographic diversity. There is a great need for drilling rigs in rocky areas and long reach machines for loading and dredging around coastal areas.
Volvo Adapts to Improve Response Time
Volvo has adapted to these specialized needs by changing its paradigm so that it can respond more quickly to special requests from customers.
“We have a flat, less hierarchical organization here in Norway and this speeds up our response time, allowing us to make decisions quickly,” Grepperud said. “Involving the customer from the beginning of the project makes them feel secure and listened to.”
The specialized machines are mostly manufactured in conjunction with Volvo’s partner, the CeDe Group, located in Malmo, Sweden. This allow company officials to make sure the correct options are ordered for the base machine before any specialized modifications are made.
The typical turnaround time on a customized vehicle is about three weeks, but some vehicles can be built in as little as one week if the customization is something the company has already done before.
All the information about customized machines is held in a central database that can be accessed by Volvo representatives from anywhere. In some cases, CeDe can supply pre-made kits so that the customizations can be made on existing machines at the client’s home base.
The key to Volvo’s entire specialization operation is making sure everybody is always talking to each other, according to Grepperud.
“You need to have a good supplier and technical support, and everyone needs to be involved, from service, the order desk to parts,” he said. “That’s the key to success.”