Porter Press Extra: Phil Harbeck Excavations

By: Cameron Officer, Photography by: Randall Johnston

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  • Earthmovers & Excavators

Wheel excavators might not be common on worksites in our part of the world yet, but when researching what his next compact excavator would be, Melbourne-based contractor Phil Harbeck couldn’t deny the potential efficiencies Hyundai’s R60W-9S looked to offer his operation.

With over 12 bucket changes a day, the tilt hitch bucket with double latch system has saved a lot of time

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Twenty-eight years in the industry have taught Melbourne contractor Phil Harbeck that versatility is the key to success in the dirt-shifting game; fit in with what the client wants, not the other way around.

In order to meet such expectations, having versatile equipment at your disposal is crucial, he says, firmly believing that the measure of a good machine is how well it has proven itself in the market over time.

"Machines come and machines go, but it’s the ones that stick around and become ‘go to’ hardware for the industry that you end up taking notice of," he says.

"That’s why I have chosen Hyundai. It represents really good value and you don’t hear a bad word about it. In this industry, if a machine isn’t worth the investment, you’ll certainly hear about it in a hurry. But that’s not the case with Hyundai excavators, which seem to be getting more and more popular as time goes on."


As far as Harbeck’s investment in Hyundai’s rugged excavator technology – supplied and supported throughout Australia by Porter Equipment – is concerned, he hasn’t opted for a traditional tracked crawler excavator. Rather, Phil Harbeck Excavations’ newest fleet purchase is a Hyundai R60W-9S wheel excavator.

The decision to go for a wheeled machine still turns heads in our part of the world, suggests Phil. But he also says that the benefits to his small operation the new machine brings are many and varied.

"I guess when it comes to new machinery and equipment, I really like to do my research before purchasing. I really want to know that what I’m getting is going to work best for me," he says.

"It’s easy to look at what your competitors down the road are doing, but I actually looked to Europe and Asia and noted how popular wheel excavators are in those markets. I could see that, especially for contractors working in the large congested cities that are common in those regions, wheel excavators appear to work very well."

This new Hyundai R60W-9S wheel excavator is realising significant efficiencies for Phil Harbeck Excavations


With the majority of Harbeck’s work taking place either in metropolitan Melbourne or in busy subdivisions on the periphery of the city, he realised there were plenty of efficiencies to be gained both in and around the worksite.

"One of the biggest problems contractors can face is having to manoeuvre a machine out onto a public road, whether it be for a short time to allow another truck or machine access to the work site, or for longer periods of downtime between tasks.

"On a busy urban work site surrounded by city streets, this can really pose issues, especially if you’re in a larger tracked excavator. But having a wheeled undercarriage helps make this sort of task a lot quicker; you’re that much more mobile."

Harbeck says that the chances of parking right alongside the worksite to offload an excavator from the back of his transporter is never a given either, so having a wheel excavator that can be driven at legal road speed to the next job means the machine is already working for him before he’s even dug the bucket into the dirt.

This is the smallest of Hyundai’s excavators, but still comes with a full suite of safety features

And it isn’t just on urban worksites in the CBD where he says his Hyundai R60W-9S comes into its own. He is now engaged on some of the largest subdivision projects in Victoria, where approximately 80 per cent of his day involves levelling work.

"It used to be a case of working on a subdivision where you might have to trek across the equivalent of three blocks from one side to the other. But now the scale is that much bigger," he says.

"Take the subdivision where I am working at present, for example. It’ll take you 15 minutes to get from one end to the other; there are something like 30-odd streets.

"You realise pretty quickly that there’s no such thing as a fixed spot to work on any given day; as a sub-contractor, you go where you’re needed. Getting there that much faster in a wheeled excavator means you can keep the pace the project has set. It’s good for your reputation as well as your bottom line."



The move to a brand-new excavator also made sense to Harbeck from another perspective; safety. With compulsory rollover protection (ROPS) and burst valves now required under federal workplace safety legislation, he says having a machine that ticks those sorts of boxes is crucial.

"You wouldn’t even get on a work site without ROPS these days. When you weigh up the costs of modifying an older machine to meet the safety prerequisites, it doesn’t take long before you realise opting for a new machine that has these sorts of features as standard is a better option."

The Hyundai R60W-9S might be the smallest wheeled excavator the Korean manufacturer currently makes, but it still arrives with a loaded feature set, including a strengthened ISO standard all-weather cab with integrated safety glass, a grader blade, hard-wearing 12.0 x 16.5 12.PR tyres, front working lights, and centralised monitoring of machine performance via a full array of gauges in the dashboard.

Harbeck says his model features a tilt hitch bucket, which is fantastic to work with and incorporates a double latch system as required by law.

Harbeck says Hyundai excavators are getting more and more popular in the earthmoving industry

With upwards of 12 bucket changes to complete in an average day, Phil says the system has revolutionised the way he works, adding to the idea of Hyundai’s wheeled excavator as a positive for on-the-job efficiency.

The path to purchasing his first Hyundai excavator was a smooth one, he says, with the brand’s Australian distributor, Porter Equipment, providing him with what he readily describes as "true first-class service".

"Porter Equipment were very good to me and really seemed to understand what I was wanting to achieve by purchasing the new excavator," he says.

"I’ve always been careful to look after my gear, and I expect to get thousands of hours’ work out of it. So, I don’t take a new purchase like this lightly.

"Between the machine itself and the back-up that Porter Equipment can provide, I’m very happy with my decision to invest in Hyundai, and in wheel excavator technology."


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