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Coffey Australia - equipment automation and standardisation

Coffey Australia - equipment automation and standardisation

Dec 04 2013

Coffey is a geosciences, international development and project management consultancy based in Australia but with offices around the world. They have materials testing laboratories across Australia and New Zealand, providing soil, concrete, rock and aggregate testing services.

The problem

In early 2011 Graeme Duske, Specialty Testing Manager at Coffey, contacted our agent Civilab Australia regarding updating their triaxial testing equipment.

Graeme explained to Civilab’s MD, Richard Pilgrim, that that they were currently using a variety of equipment in their labs, most of which was old and labour intensive to use. In addition, the data collection software they were using was not user-friendly and some of the results yielded had proved unreliable.

The initial requirement was for nine triaxial testing systems to be installed across three labs on the east coast of Australia. However over the next year they would be looking to roll out updated equipment and software to their other labs in Australia and New Zealand.

The solution

Coffey had already purchased VJ Tech triaxial equipment through Civilab for their materials testing lab in Adelaide, however they were also considering two other suppliers. So to maximise our chances of success we arranged a demonstration at Civilab’s premises in Sydney. Our MD, Nathan Vimalan, flew out from the UK show the potential of our triaxial testing equipment in person.

“Nathan was the only person to do a live demonstration,” commented Graeme Duske. “The concept of automation he presented was very attractive, changing the available testing time from around eight hours per day to 24. The ability to automate an email to advise of a testing milestone particularly stuck in my mind.”

In August 2011 Coffey placed an order for nine sets of triaxial testing equipment for their labs in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, including:

  • Triscan 50 triaxial load frames with built-in data loggers (50kN)
  • automatic pressure/volume controllers (30 bar / 250cc)
  • triaxial cells and accessories.

We delivered the new systems that December and Richard Pilgrim worked alongside Graeme Duske to supervise the logistics and set up the equipment. We also ran a theoretical and practical course for Coffey’s technicians to help them make the most of it.

Afterwards Coffey Technology Manager – Operations Excellence, Alan Cocks, commented, “This is one of the best courses of this type I have ever seen. The people taking part were totally absorbed. I believe this week is the basis of a new era and greatly expanded expertise in specialised soil testing for Coffey.”


The new equipment and software proved very successful in the first three labs to benefit. It has now been rolled out to two more east coast labs, one in Western Australia and one in New Zealand. Some of the labs have also invested in our sheer, consolidation and permeability testing equipment.

“The decision to use VJ Tech has proved to be a good one,” confirmed Graeme Duske. “Getting to grips with the equipment and software has been an enjoyable learning curve. I’m also satisfied that I have a good working relationship with Richard Pilgrim of Civilab – any difficulties or concerns are treated promptly and with respect.”

Our systems have given Coffey’s labs the ability to automate their triaxial testing needs, freeing up staff to work on other tasks.

Alan Cocks commented, “Over the years we’d purchased new triaxial equipment one unit at a time. Each lab had a variety of machines and a variety of ways to control and monitor the tests. We now have 22 identical triaxial frames and 12 Acons (automatic consolidation systems). Technicians from different locations are now constantly in touch with each other, exchanging advice and ideas on using the equipment. For the first time they are all singing from the same hymn book!”

Being able to remotely control some aspects of the testing and keep track of progress while off site has enabled Coffey’s staff to run testing efficiently out of office hours. This has improved their work/life balance as well as increasing throughput.

“In the past Garry, the manager/technician at our Artarmon lab, often had to go in late at night and at weekends to check on tests and move them on to the next stage,” recalled Alan. “He can now do everything remotely from his laptop. This has enabled him to attend functions at his kids’ school, Scouts etc during the week and still continue the testing.

“In the past our biggest problem was inability to deliver test results within the required time frame. Our waiting times have now been dramatically reduced.”

The future

Coffey have recently ordered triaxial, consolidation and shear testing systems from VJ Tech for an additional west coast laboratory. They are currently working on improving their internal processes and procedures to make even more efficient use of the new technology.

“We have a great team at Coffey, now involved in fine tuning and getting the very best out of the VJ Tech equipment,” said Alan Cocks. “Our founder, David Coffey, now retired, recently visited our Artarmon lab and was blown away by what he saw. Our clients are now beginning to appreciate our fast turnaround times – something we have not been renowned for in the past.

“It’s one step at a time but each step appears to open up more possibilities.”

About VJ Tech

We manufacture and supply soil, concrete, cement, rock and asphalt testing equipment for laboratories around the world from our base in Reading, UK.

VJ Tech equipment has helped to ensure the longevity and safety of major constructions including:

  • London’s Canary Wharf, Millennium Dome and Jubilee Line tube extension
  • Malaysia’s iconic Petronas Twin Towers
  • and Dubai’s Palm Islands.

We also provide associated services including specialist software consultancy and training.

To find out how we could help you, call us on +44 (0)118 945 3737+44 (0)118 945 3737 or email us at

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