Great Excavations can extend the work season and provide increased versatility with its unmanned, amphibious equipment

While John Skierka, manager of Great Excavations Inc. in Alberta, is excited about the new unmanned equipment his company is using, he’s more passionate about the type of machines the technology is being used on – they’re amphibious.

“Right now, amphibious equipment is not that widely used in Canada, but we’re looking to change that,” he says. “We’re hoping by making it unmanned that more people will get interested. The challenge is to get the industry to think differently.”

Skierka founded Great Excavations in 2010 to offer a variety of excavators to meet customers’ needs. It has amphibious trucks that can handle payloads up to 80 tons and amphibious excavators that can haul up to 45 tons. Both come with various boom and attachment options.

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“To me, the remote control thing is exciting, but it’s the icing on the cake,” Skierka says. “The groundbreaking work we’re doing and our vision for the Canadian sector is around amphibious equipment.”

By using the amphibious equipment, companies don’t have to worry about a swamp mat or ice road becoming compromised since it can work on land and water, Skierka says.

“Our equipment works well in wet conditions so crews are able to work longer,” he says. “Our clients can work six to eight months of the year in northern Alberta instead of the usual six to eight weeks. I think we’ll see more people look to amphibious equipment as our winters become shorter and the window to get an ice road built and use it becomes shorter and shorter.”

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Amphibious equipment is used all over the world, but isn’t popular in Canada for some reason, Skierka says. He says industries there are “fixated” on building ice roads and using swamp mats, despite the cost to the environment, man hours and turnaround time.

“If you look at the logistics of moving an amphibious machine, it’s just moving one piece. It’s not like doing 10 km of matting to get to the pipeline repair,” he says. “There are a lot more logistics involved doing it the old-fashioned way. You need to inspect the matting, worry about contamination – those issues are simply resolved using amphibious equipment.”

Great Excavations’ trucks can be outfitted with standard equipment including dump boxes, hydrovacs, flat decks and cement mixers. Skierka says pipe carriers and cranes can also be placed on them.

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“The only difference between our equipment and other people’s is that ours floats,” he says.

Amphibious equipment can be used anywhere a company would use a traditional excavator, he adds.

“The ability to provide unmanned equipment takes us to the next level of increasing safety while meeting the industry’s unique needs,” Skierka says. “Both amphibious equipment and unmanned technologies provide alternatives to traditional methods, thereby reducing costs and risks while providing a lower environmental impact.”

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