Komatsu PC220 excavator operates like a Swiss Army Knife

With a total of 10 modified or unique attachments, this Komatsu PC220 belonging to arborists Treescape has been dubbed the ‘Swiss Army Knife’
It’s official – Brandon Whiddett’s Komatsu PC220 excavator has been fitted with more than ten uniquely modified attachments for specific purposes that are interchangeable under five minutes

Brandon Whiddett’s Komatsu PC220 excavator has so many extra and modified attachments it has been officially named ‘The Swiss Army Knife.’

Taking this naming a step further, Komatsu New Zealand had a logo made and fixed it to the machine in recognition of innovative modifications made by Brandon, that has made his model the most productive piece of equipment in the arborist industry.

Brandon has designed or modified ten attachments, each with a specific purpose and all interchangeable in the space of just five minutes.

Those ideas have included; the design of a high-speed mulching head, a vertical tree grab sheer, a chainsaw felling head, a high-speed hydraulic stump grinder, a hydraulic tree transplanting spade, a rotating grapple with pusher bar, and a winch bucket.

Komatsu has helped devise a CAN bus system with easily identifiable graphics which allow an operator to switch hydraulic flow from within the cockpit.

The partnership, according to Brandon, has brought exceptional efficiency to every facet of his business, to the benefit of his company, his customers and the environment.

Brandon is a Co-Founder and a Director of Treescape, a green asset management company with branches throughout New Zealand and projects on the eastern coastline of Australia.

Brandon and his business partner Ed Chignell started Treescape as teenagers almost 40 years ago.

Brandon has spent his working lifetime seeking out different ways of making machines work smarter in the service of his clients.

“There isn’t a machine built yet that is so perfect it can’t be made to work better,” Brandon said.

Brandon’s title in the 660 personnel strong business is CEO, but it stands for Chief Engineering Officer, and he works from a small office at the core of a workshop of 14 people whose task it is, to make their equipment more efficient.

Treescape uses 45 Komatsu excavators and wheel loaders across its network. It is one of several exclusive long-term supply arrangements the company has with key business partners.

“The benefits to us and our partners are intertwined – if we don’t live, they don’t live,” Brandon said.

“Practically, the ability to train operators on the systems of one brand has substantial benefits in terms of safety and machine servicing.”

But beyond that, Brandon has sought from his business partners a shared belief in maximising productivity through improvement and innovation.

“I come up with the ideas and Komatsu does the design to my request,” he said.

Komatsu New Zealand’s product support manager Brent Hepple has worked with Brandon for almost 20 years, to help turn his ideas into reality.

Each has been made to work within Komatsu’s operational guidelines to maintain product integrity and retain Treescape’s machinery investment.

“It is the most extraordinary sight,” Brent said. “You can arrive on a Treescape job and find a multitude of attachments all neatly laid out waiting to be used in sequence, with a minimal change over between them.

“Comparatively there are people, especially overseas, who use one machine with one attachment losing so much flexibility and potential profitability.”

Treescape has been at the forefront of innovation in green management in New Zealand.

Co-Founder, Director and Chief Executive Officer of Treescape Ed Chignell pioneered the concept of ecologically sustainable arbo-culture more than 35 years ago, while Brandon concentrated on mechanical improvements to support the concept.

“I’m not an engineer, just someone who thinks about practical improvements,” Brandon said.

The firm’s first innovation was a purpose built 3.5 tonnes trailer to efficiently remove felled material, long before mulchers became available.

“That simple device, built to access difficult areas and to work specifically with a heavy duty 4×4 vehicle, created substantial efficiency by reducing work time.”

Treescape’s purchase of its first Komatsu, a PC130 excavator, more than two decades ago was unusual if not unique in the arboriculture industry which was mainly employing manual labor, according to Brent Hepple.

The tipping point was Brandon’s innovative use of attachments which turned the excavator into a machine purpose-fit for the task.

“The attachments work so well with the machines that they are imposing minimal stress – on both machine and operator,” he said.

The company has recently purchased two new Komatsu PC220 excavators and these are performing above and beyond expectations.

Brandon Whiddett is continually working on projects that require the introduction of further improvements in land management. And he’s doing it with some assistance. “There is a small think tank of us,” Brent Hepple said.