Eira should actually have been somewhere completely different, replacing culverts, but on this day her contribution was instead required in the forests of Lycksele, in the interior of Västerbotten.
Prior to the winter, the ground had to be broken for a forest road on behalf of the landowner – it had turned cold very quickly, and so it was now necessary to complete the road.
“That’s what I like about the job: one day I’m out on an assignment and the next day I’m doing something completely different,” says Eira.
She is the test host for a Rototilt RC8, the second largest tiltrotator model, and today it’s mounted on a 30-tonne excavator with Eira at the controls.
“I’ve mostly been using it for trenching work lately. It’s so incredibly strong that picking up rocks or replacing culverts is a piece of cake. At times I have no idea how big the rock is going to be, and in this case it’s important that the tiltrotator can take a lot of punishment – it might turn out to be a rock measuring five cubic metres, which the excavator is barely able to hold up, but the tiltrotator can still cope with it. And when you are going to smooth off the slope, it’s fantastic of course. I think you can use it for most jobs,” says Eira.
Eira was actually supposed to be sitting at a desk, working as an engineer, but at the end of the second year of her technology course at high school, she just felt it was wrong. She wasn’t going to be an engineer.
“I still finished high school and started dreaming about driving a truck, but instead I joined an adult training course to become an excavator operator. The more I thought about it, the more it attracted me, and it felt great when I was doing the training,” she says.
Following an internship at Hägglunds Last & Schakt in Lycksele, Eira was offered a permanent job. Now, two and a half years later, she has no regrets about her choice of path.
“I think it all turned out really well, and I can’t imagine changing jobs, now that I’ve found the right one. I get to decide what my working days are going to be like, to a large extent, and I appreciate that freedom. There can be long days, of course, when I also have to do snow ploughing duties in Lycksele in the winter, but I like working,” she says.
“In addition, I still feel quite a sense of power when I get to drive these big machines, especially the 60-tonner that is able to move such enormous amounts of soil. And if I use a tiltrotator for trenching work, it’s so easy to smooth things off and build things, it makes everything a lot easier.
As a 22-year-old woman, there’s no doubt that she stands out among her colleagues in the sector, most of whom are men. However, she notes that more and more women are getting behind the controls.
“If you look on social media, it’s certainly seems to be the case that there are more of us, and it feels like a natural development. I don’t believe I’ve encountered any bad behaviour or preconceived notions – on the contrary, being a girl can be fairly easy. In addition, the industry is displaying greater awareness of the fact that not all operators are cast in the same mould – the fact that Rototilt wanted to develop its latest joystick so that it would also fit smaller hands was an important step in the right direction, in my opinion,” says Eira.
She was one of the test hosts for the RC Joystick from Rototilt, which has received awards for its well-thought-out design.
“I definitely had the smallest hands out of all the test hosts, so hopefully the feedback I’ve provided will make things easier for more excavator operators. I like the ‘lever’ and how it felt in my hand. It may look big, but it was still comfortable and I appreciated the wrist rest. When I’m creating a slope with the bucket, I normally use the left lever, but now I could let go of the grip and just move my arm out to the left. This is very helpful when it comes to ergonomics, I believe.
So the little things mean a lot?
“Yes, god yes, it’s really important for you to find the right operating position and grip, otherwise it can affect how your body feels at the end of the working day. The excavators are not designed for someone of my height, for example, so I have to slide the seat all the way forward. I hope that this is where the next change will be,” she states.
Niklas Bjuhr is responsible for the test host programme, and is in contact with the excavator operators who are testing Rototilt’s prototypes in their daily work. Their feedback is worth its weight in gold, he declares.
“The operators principally have to evaluate the product on the basis of operability and usability. They also report deviations and other observations to us. This is incredibly useful for us in our development work, as we may receive a pattern of views from several different excavator operators which mean that we need to change something. Field testing is incredibly important,” says Bjuhr.
At this stage, the products have already gone through the internal test lab, where they have been subjected to a number of different assessments. Together with the field tests, in which they are tested under the harshest possible conditions, Rototilt produces a newly developed product that is finally ready for the market.
“The important thing is for you to report what you genuinely think and not sugarcoat things, but over the years we have developed a positive collaboration with our test hosts and have mutual trust in each other,” says Niklas Bjuhr.