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Erb Equipment, Pierce Pacific Build John Deere Scrap-Handler

Material Handling challenges cause the companies to come up with a 100,000 lb. custom-designed modified excavator.

Fri April 26, 2013 - Midwest Edition
Giles Lambertson

Erb Equipment Company and Pierce Pacific have teamed up to lift John Deere Construction Equipment into the scrap material-handling industry. The John Deere dealer and the specialty fabricator have designed a purpose built machine that is based on the John Deere 350GLC, giving it some exclusive features for prospective customers.

If the conversion is well-received, the machine could become a staple of the John Deere Construction product line-up offering.

The 100,000 lb. (45,400 kg) modified excavator was given a wider stance allowing for 360 degree operational stability, with the track path being widened 42 in. (107 cm). Because that wider footprint made it less transport-friendly, Pierce engineers incorporated a simple decoupling mechanism for easy removal of the tracks for transport. This addressed over-the-highway weight and width concerns without sacrificing the machine’s functional stability.

The new machine also features a two-piece, 50-ft. (15 m) scrap handling boom with dual arm cylinder articulation, an integrated counterweight that allows full boom extension, and a 20 kW hydraulically driven generator that lets the machine pick up material with either a 1.5 cu. yd. (1.37 cu m) capacity scrap grapple or up to a 66-in. (168 cm) magnet.

The JD350G is fitted with a hydraulic elevating cab, a feature that has increased in popularity in the industry in the last few years. The operator can control the scrap handler from an eye level of 9 ft (2.7 m) off the ground, or as high as 16 ft (4.9 m), thereby increasing the operator’s visibility in rail car unloading and other material handling situations.

A principal attraction to the unit is the John Deere logo on the side.

Erb Equipment, a Deere dealership headquartered in Fenton, Mo., started working in the scrap industry, when it partnered with Genesis Attachments in 2008 selling shears and grapples. “Through our years in business we have developed a lot of strong relationships with our customer base, at that time we saw need for a line of material handlers. We partnered with a company that offered a line of material handlers that we thought would be a good fit. When that brand of material handlers was no longer available, we wanted to continue building our relationship with the scrap industry. Erb’s solution was to offer an alternative machine that was going to give our customers productivity, up time, and lower daily operating cost. That is why we chose to build a JD 350GLC-size excavator with the engineering expertise of Pierce Pacific, which has designed and fabricated material handling equipment for many years,” said Gregg Erb.

“Deere is seeing this segment of the scrap industry growing, and is looking for ways to participate in this segment of business in the near future. This purpose-built machine enables Deere dealers to be in a market that they hadn’t thought about entering before,” said Bob DeMeester, a Pierce product specialist. DeMeester previously worked for Deere in Moline, Ill., and is the chief liaison person in the deal.

DeMeester emphasized the purpose-built nature of the new machine. “This is not a warmed-over application of the 350GLC. It was designed and built for a special market with extensive modifications to make the machine work in this market segment.”

Another Pierce product specialist, John Evans, added that Pierce Pacific and John Deere engineering departments have worked together on other equipment development over the last decade. “Without exception, they have turned out to be very successful machines and the customers were very satisfied. We know the Pierce Pacific-John Deere combination is a good marriage and John Deere has a great distribution network.”

The convenient cross-country portability of the 350GLC scrap handler was demonstrated during its development. The machine was transported between Erb’s dealership in Missouri to Pierce’s headquarters in Portland, Ore., and to Phoenix, Ariz. for a spring showing of John Deere equipment. Dealers climbed in the cab of the scrap handler and came away enthused about the prospect of offering it to their local customers.

Erb Equipment has taken delivery of the new machine and has begun to log hours with it through its rental equipment division. The plan is to expose the machine to Erb customers and analyze their feedback. When a long-term rental or sale is achieved, Erb will partner with Pierce Pacific again to have another machine purpose-built for its needs.

“Everyone is watching this machine closely to see what will take place,” said Mitch Herndon, Erb Equipment sales representative. He and Gregg Erb were instrumental in conceiving the project and moving it along to this point. Erb Equipment solely financed the modification.

According to Herndon the 350GLC may not be the only model offered. If demand is there, Herndon said a rubber tired excavator or a larger excavator also lends it to be considered for a purpose-built modification. Developing a range of scrap-handling equipment would help John Deere penetrate a broader sector of the market.

DeMeester said that from his Pierce Pacific viewpoint he sees the machine as a real contender in the scrap-handling market. “In the past, Deere has never come across as a player in this market and I see a lot of interest in this around the country. Every North American dealer saw it at spring training. It is hard to predict, of course, but there’s a good market for it and we are getting a lot of inquiries.”

Erb Equipment has been a John Deere dealer since 1944. Headquartered outside St. Louis, it operates from eight sales and rental locations in Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, and Indiana.

Pierce Pacific Manufacturing Inc. dates from 1931 as a custom manufacturer. Its focus in more recent decades is on engineering and building attachments, work tools, and conversions for small, medium, and large hydraulic excavators.

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