Robotic arms and automation: STG Global

Robotic arms and automation: STG Global

By modernising the humble waste truck, STG Global is set to shake-up Australia’s waste management sector. Regan Yendle, STG Global Director, explains.

It’s been said that when Athens required waste to be disposed of at least one mile for city walls in 500 b.c., that the Ancient Greek city established the western world’s first municipal landfill.

Organised solid waste management is often traced back to 18th century London, however, with waste moved around the city with wagons and horse-drawn carriages.

Waste haulage was motorised in the early 20th century, with the first closed body trucks and dumping lever mechanisms introduced in the 1920s.

Hopper mechanisms came about shortly thereafter, before the first hydraulic compactor was introduced in 1938.

While modern waste trucks are now equipped with cameras, telematics, onboard diagnostics and automated arms, their development has stagnated somewhat in recent years, with waste management companies and local councils looking for new technologies to enhance their operations.

Enter STG Global, which in late 2020 announced its entrance into the waste market with the release of a tech-savvy line of waste trucks, as well as exclusive rights to bring world-class Aebi Schmidt sweepers to Australia.

The range, which includes The Bandit side loader, The Claw rear loader and The Tusks front loader, brings added safety, automation and efficiency to waste collection, and are already being trialled by one of Australia’s largest municipal waste collection providers.

Features within the range include iPad technology controls, record collection arm reach, fully automated bin-scanning and pick-up technology, and a patented modular design to reduce maintenance and repair downtime.

FROM HUMBLE BEGINNINGS

Now a leading manufacturer of trucks for the waste, construction and mining industries, Regan Yendle, STG Director, explains that the company’s history can be traced back to the small country town of Mansfield, Victoria.

“Over 30 years ago, a young bunch of entrepreneurial guys hit by drought and hard times were looking for a way to keep the income coming into the family farm,” he says.

“With the banks pressuring the family to sell, the entrepreneurial gents started tinkering away in the shed, chugging VBs and thinking of ways to save the family farm.”

On one dusty afternoon, the boys noticed a huge amount of dust coming off a construction site in town.

Eager to make some money, Yendle says the boys approached the site foreman looking for work. He replied, “nothing here mate, but if you know anyone with a water truck, let me know.”

Desperate and quick witted, the boys replied, “we have a water truck at the farm ready to work.”

After negotiations on the rate, a deal was struck and the ‘water truck’ was due to start work the following day.

“The only problem was that there was no water truck, and the boys knew nothing about water trucks,” Yendle says.

“Within 24 hours, with spare parts lying around the farm, a water truck was born resembling more like a walking disaster with items falling off and more water leaking out than was kept in.

“Needless to say, the next couple of days was a huge learning curve but the boys kept that contract and saved the family farm.”

For the next 30 years, these “entrepreneurial spirits” saw a hole in the market when it came to manufacturing and producing water tanks and other truck bodies, so they directed all energies and attention to this market.

Yendle explains that the STG product line has expanded significantly since then, with models now available across the company’s range of water, vacuum excavation, tilt tray, service, waste and sweeper trucks.

ROBOTIC ENGINEERING

Before officially entering the waste market, Yendle says STG had been observing the sector for some time.

“We used to purchase old waste trucks and turn them into water trucks, so we’d spoken to a lot of people in the industry who had gripes with the products and backup availability,” he says.

“It’s a huge market but there’s only two real players, so we thought it was a good sector to tackle.”

STG’s historically entrepreneurial spirit was another factor, Yendle says, with the company always looking for a challenge.

“Any engineering shop can build a tipper body for a truck, but waste trucks are more complex,” he explains.

“We wanted to apply our ingenuity to a product that’s not particularly easy to manufacture.

“We’re happy to bring automation, reliability and customer-first after-sales service and support that will benefit everyone in the industry, right down to the ratepayer putting their bins out on the curb.”

To deliver on its promise, STG teamed up with a team of highly specialised robotics engineers from Corematic Engineering.

Corematic Engineering Director Scott Hansen, who led development of the new waste truck range, says early-stage feedback from operators had been incredibly positive and encouraging.

“Existing waste collection trucks do the job, but the technology is quite old, and we wanted to bring new life into the industry,” he says.

“Waste collection is a critical part of our daily lives, and things haven’t changed a lot over the last ten or so years, so we wanted to be able to act on feedback from within the industry to build a better truck.

“Our focus is on the end-user, and because of that, STG Global’s new range of garbage trucks will set the standard of what people will be asking for in waste collection.”

According to Yendle, the result is a line of waste trucks equip with automated bin detection software that sounds off an alarm if a bin is missed.

“Missed bins are a big problem for local councils. In Brisbane City Council, they can miss bins 40-80 times every day,” he says.

The software also automates the pickup process, scanning bins and unloading them without operators having to manually input via a hand control.

“The driver doesn’t have to use a joystick to pick up the bin, which is important as one of the biggest injuries in the industry is RSI in the hand. This feature works to eliminate that risk,” Yendle says.

“The trucks will also detect if there is someone within 10 metres of the truck, which stops the lift process and cannot be overwritten by the operator.

“The design is all about making it safer for the operator and safer for the public.”

Additionally, the trucks feature an integrated control system, which runs on an iPad and provides operational and performance insights across a fleet.

“This enables city councils, waste operators and collection companies to increase their productivity,” Yendle says.

Another key feature of the range is the ability for fleet managers to upload their own software and applications to the trucks, meaning less screens in the cabin to reduce operator clutter.

The control system app is suitable for ‘split screen’ operation, so a second app can run in parallel on the same screen.

The trucks also benefit from STG’s patented modular design, which allows operators to attach and detach multiple hooper and packer systems and configure the trucks to individual collection requirements.

“With our modulated design the compactor and arms both separate from the body,” Yendle says.

“This means that if the compactor wears out halfway through the life of the machine, the operator can bring the truck in and swap the compactor out.”

EXPERIENCE AND INNOVATION

While STG’s waste trucks are a new innovation, they build on over 30 years’ experience in manufacturing and design for related industries, such as the soil remediation, non-destructive digging and drilling mud recovery sectors.

Yendle adds that the remediation industry is changing.

“Years ago, you could dig near the curb with an excavator, but now with the presence of fibre optics, you’re not allowed to dig within five metres of the curb,” he says.

“We saw a market opportunity there, building of our background with water trucks, and began designing our own units.”

STG Global vacuum trucks feature state-of-the-art vacuum technology that helps to load and unload liquid slurry rapidly.

“Their compact, heavy-duty vacuum system design makes them highly-coveted in the industry,” Yendle says.

“Our vacuum trucks are easy to operate, require minimum maintenance and boasts a longer life cycle while consuming less power.”

Yendle also points to a recent innovation in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, whereby STG pivoted its manufacturing towards new services and equipment through the introduction of a range of disinfectant spray trucks.

Originally designed for the plant and equipment market as a dust suppression powerhouse, the Suppressor COVID-19 Destroyer works to support businesses working on COVID-19 impact cleaning projects.

“The Suppressor Truck is the only Australian-made truck capable of deploying disinfectants over a large outdoor expanse,” Yendle says.

“Going forward, The Suppressor Truck could be used in containment efforts where an outbreak occurs in a condensed geographic area, as the Australian government seeks to suppress clustered outbreaks while we wait for the vaccine rollout.”

Looking forward, Yendle says STG hopes to acquire a 30 per cent waste market share.

“Australia’s population continues to grow, bringing greater demand on collection services, and the market has been looking for someone new to modernise and streamline the industry processes,” he says.

“That’s our goal, and it’s one we’ve achieved in the past with other industries.”

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