Fanning the flames

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Looking at the Fenix system – Volvo’s futuristic answer to road laying – I cannot help thinking that while the system is quite novel, the name certainly is not. One does not have to look too far into the road-paving business (particularly if you are heading west in the British Isles) to come across an extremely long established company that manufactures a wide range of road laying equipment (and incidentally chipping spreaders) going by the name of ‘Phoenix’ (both pronounced the same way).

Although Phoenix was probably not around when the first tar was laid on a MacAdam surface in the 19th century, the company has long had its foundation in road surfacing equipment and a history that goes way back in the mists of time. Seems to me that an unsuspecting potential customer may well mistake the Volvo product as having its roots in the designs of the British company of seemingly the same name.

The concept of setting out specialised bins full of the required spreading medium in the path of the oncoming Fenix vehicle so that it can mount the bin and spread the medium in one process, has in my opinion many drawbacks for the company operating the vehicle. Conventionally, the role played by the Fenix bins is undertaken quite simply with a conventional tipper truck full of suitable aggregate. The truck is simply towed behind the spreader as it feeds the medium into the spreader. And it can be really any type of tipper truck. If the job needs a more frequent aggregate supply (for instance in work sites which are a distance from the aggregate source) it is a simple matter to contract in more trucks.

With the Volvo system, more of the Fenix special bins are needed and, likewise, the dedicated trucks to handle the Fenix bins. Implementing the concept on a computer screen or working the machines in an exhibition environment may be all very well but the investment in specialised logistics to support this vehicle and the limits that would therefore impose would bring a great deal of inflexibility. This I fear would make the make the system unattractive to many operators and, in particular, those who would look for tenders in the developing world.

I recognise that developments must start with concepts and that not all concepts lead to a marketable product, but in my opinion this is development without a real advantage to the customer. My opinion is that it needs to start with a fresh idea. An original name would be a nice start!

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