Saints and spinners
Published: 31 May, 2013
The winter maintenance machinery market in the UK is set to become more competitive since Scarab swept up the opportunity for the distributorship of the Danish brand of Epoke spreaders. Ann-Marie Knegt visited Scarab's premises in Kent where she met the newly appointed sales manager for Epoke, John Saint.
Newly appointed to drive the sales strategy for the Danish brand in the UK is John Saint, a well-known face in the industry – formerly employed by Econ. Even though Epoke has been available on the UK market for quite a few years now, it has never really made any inroads with UK customers before, despite its reputation of high quality components and top class engineering. John's stewardship of the brand is set to change this, and he doesn't just put it down to price, but also to good back-up and support. ‘Scarab has the right engineering base to support Epoke in the UK, while also having an excellent track record when it comes to after-sales. You need to have the right team of people onboard to make the whole cycle work and that is what we have here at Scarab.
The effectiveness of a salt spreader is down to having a good control system that provides the operator with spreading accuracy. Over the last four years there has been a desire in the UK to achieve salt savings, by reducing spreading rates and increased accuracy in calibration of the machines.
‘I believe that dry spreading the six millimetre grain size of salt will remain the standard choice in the UK, although there are a fair few organisations here that have adopted pre-wetting of salt – as is the main practice on the continent. In addition to this, full liquid applications are beginning to be trialled in the UK too. At the moment we deposit salt in the UK in a varied manner, and I believe with the correct equipment we can reduce our spread rates. I have been on the NWSRG (National Winter Service Research Group) for the last eight years, and have been working on several projects to see how we can improve salt spreading practice. Epoke has the available technology to bring down spread rates considerably. Whereas 5 grammes of salt are required to effectively treat cover 1 m2, operators still deposit 10-15 grammes per m2 to ensure that the whole area is covered. Epoke has developed new technologies such as GPS-based spreading that enable accurate coverage of the whole network with significantly reduced spread rates Meaning that guaranteed savings can be made over the whole route and even further with multiple routes,' explains John.
The salt dosing system on the Epoke range is also very different to what is conventional in the UK, and the machine is also very quick and easy to calibrate at the same time. The salt lies in the hopper and is agitated through an agitator shaft to prevent bridging. The delivery of the salt is processed along the length of the hopper, via Epoke's accurate delivery roller system.
John adds: ‘As opposed to many salt spreading machines, where the salt lies on the belt and is forced through a back door, the Epoke system actually drops the salt through its dosing mechanism onto the belt. The belt then simply conveys the salt to the spinner.'
John believes that this is a key difference between the Epoke spreader and any other product currently on the market, with another added benefit being that the numerous tonnes of the salt do not constantly rest on the belt, making the whole weight distribution of the machine more balanced and reducing wear and tear.
At the same time as when Scarab took over the distributorship – January 2013 – Epoke launched a completely new control system called Epomaster X1, which was developed in close cooperation between users and designers to create a device that ensures easy and logical operation. The new panel features a user-friendly interface, allowing individual settings according to driver preference. The remote controller can create optimum traffic safety for the driver because it is based on hotkeys and easy-to-operate turn knobs with haptic feedback so the driver does not have to take his eyes off the road. In addition EpoMaster X1 supports features such as simple adjustment of the spreading width, symmetry and quantity with clear visual feedback as well as a number of help functions; including side wind correction, click and save for personalised settings, and variable blast facility.
All serviceable tasks are accessible by push buttons or turn knobs, while data transfer functions have been simplified with more options such as GPRS, RS232 or USB.
John explains that the new demonstration vehicle showcases this new technology for the first time in the UK. ‘It is a very ergonomic control system and it is very easy to use. Our control system is Windows-based which makes it very easy to transfer data by GPRS. It is connected to the electronic control units around the body, so operators have access to data such as how much salt has left the hopper, distance spread and distance driven, etc GPS-based spreading is not new, and manufacturers all over have systems that collect a whole gambit of data, including road surface temperature; whatever a control system has the ability to do these days. However, the fact that it is Windows-based makes EpoMaster X1 very easy to upgrade and adjust to individual preferences, while increasing safety for the driver and road users and by providing an extremely accurate distribution of salt by which savings will be made.'
As corrosion is every winter maintenance operator's nightmare, the Epoke body is produced from mild steel. The company also produces bodies from stainless steel, but John doesn't see the benefits of that material for the UK market. ‘Mainly because it would be too costly, and secondly because the quality of the mild steel bodies is very high anyway due to an advanced paint treatment process that the company subjects the spreaders to, while also providing a 10-year anti-perforation warranty at the same time.
‘Everyone in the UK is being scrutinised on cost, and every organisation has to create economies of scale. Scarab as the UK dealer for Epoke is in the privileged position to offer Epoke equipment to a good specification at the right price, since we have an established company, with a sound-back up infrastructure and an excellent proven after sales record. The Epoke spreader is a prime product, which is at the top end of the scale. However, you don't just get a spreader from us, you also get a personable service with the best sales back-up you can imagine. The team have already been to Denmark for training, and we are continuously working on developing our knowledge about the machines further.
‘It's a complete departure for me, we are all working hard here to make this a great success, but it is fun all along the way with the team of characters we have here at Scarab, and that is reflected in the products and service we provide. I want our customers to know that with buying Scarab and Epoke you become part of this big fun but hard working family,' concludes John.