Compact growth…..excavators

Despite poor sales figures there is no shortage of new developments in the compact sector

Statistics for the UK construction machinery market make grim reading. After the boom years of 2003 to 2007, sales are expected to fall by 30 per cent in 2009, according to industry specialists Off-Highway Research, with the earliest signs of recovery unlikely before 2011. Only France and Spain – where the building industry is in free-fall – are likely to fare worse. One reason for this, apart from the withdrawal of credit facilities for the housebuilders and local authorities, is the large population of machines less than six years old in Britain, which was already starting to affect the market in 2008, leading to a 25 per cent drop in sales compared to the previous year.

Like other compact equipment, mini excavators have been a success story because of their versatility which sees them sold into a wide range of industries. But even this will not protect them from the impact of the crash – sales fell in Europe by 27 per cent from 2007 to 2008, and the market is expected to drop further from 9835 units last year to 6250 machines in 2009.

However, manufacturers are finding that the market is patchy, rather than total ‘doom and gloom’. Doosan’s Kim Dudley comments. “We are still selling machines – while in general housebuilding is down, which will obviously affect landscapers, local authorities remain committed to social housing projects, and civil engineering is still strong, with roadbuilding contracts offering work for our landscaping customers.”

Kim reports that small manufacturers such as Doosan are in a relatively good position as they have not relied on the major plant hirers and large construction companies for trade, being more popular with small to medium sized businesses, which are still buying equipment.

A new product range always helps, and Kim comments that the new DX zero and reduced radius tail swing models introduced in 2008 have been well received.
“Attention to detail is always popular, from the spacious cabs, which are designed for the larger European physique and good service access to ample lift capacity and stability. We have converted many customers who were unhappy with the ‘nodding’ experienced in other manufacturers’ zero tail swing models.”

Adrian Hyde, Global Product Manager at Terex, suggests that essential features for landscapers offered by the company’s mini excavator range are compact dimensions and the ability to be towed behind a 4×4.

He adds, “Other important factors to consider are the ability to use additional attachments, the total lifetime cost of ownership, and operator comfort.

“All Terex mini and midi excavators come as standard with hammer pipework and a third auxiliary line, enabling the fitment of grabs, augers, tilting buckets etc. This significantly increases the utilisation rate of the digger, and enables the landscaper to do more work with the one machine. Terex machines also come as standard with a manual quick-hitch, enabling fast and easy changing between buckets and other attachments.”

Adrian points out that low lifetime cost of ownership is offered on Terex machines by using only the best components including Mitsubishi engines, Rexroth hydraulic valves, and Kayaba swing motors and track motors.

He adds: ”All Terex models also have the Knickmatik boom slew design, which enables the operator to excavate close up to a wall without the slew ram projecting beyond the width of the tracks. The advantage of this is that it reduces the total cost of ownership as it reduces damage to the machine, and it increases productivity as it enables the operator to dig closer to a wall.”

And despite the downturn, there are still plenty of new machines being launched onto the market for this year.

Ammann-Yanmar is presenting its fourth semi-ViO mini-excavator. The
SV20 is built on the modular principle that makes it easier for the operator to dismantle and exchange major components. Direct access to the battery and to electrical and hydraulic elements facilitate maintenance and daily operations.

Powered by a Yanmar 3TNV76-PBVA engine and with a transport weight of 2050kg the SV20 mini-excavator is said to combine a compact frame with high performance output. Digging force reaches 1,900 kgf (bucket) and 1,200 kgf (arm).
The SV20 is equipped with a long arm as standard giving a digging depth of 2.48m and dumping height of 4m. A flow sharing load sensing hydraulic circuit allows for high precision device during
simultaneous movements.

Hyundai will be revealing the prototype of a new zero tail swing mini excavator at SED 2009. With an overall width of 1.55m and tails swing radius of 77.5cm, this new mini excavator is designed to offer more stability and flexibility when working in confined spaces. With an operating weight of 2730kg (canopy version) the R27Z-9 is based on its older 3.5 tonne brother and has the same equipment levels. It is powered by a Mitsubishi S3L2 engine developing 17.2 kW at 2300rpm.

Targeting small contractors, landscapers and grounds maintenance professionals, JCB recently introduced its largest mini excavator which can legally be towed behind a pick-up or 4×4. A reduced rather than zero tailswing model, the JCB 8020 will compete in the 1.9-2.3 tonne operating weight class. JCB points to its spacious, quiet cab featuring ergonomic, easy to operate controls and good service access as features which will appeal to landscapers.

Hanix’s new H09D focuses on operator comfort as the seat is designed to keep the operator’s back fully supported for longer, whilst the strategically positioned hand console sticks mean greater legroom. A Kubota super mini range engine developing 7.8kW at 2400rpm and variable pump is said to maximise the power whilst reducing fuel consumption. With an operating weight of 980kg and maximum dig depth of 1.6m, the H09D can be used on the tightest sites as it has a minimum width of 75cm.

Kubota has announced that all its new machines, in the UK and Ireland, now carry a full three year warranty as standard. Typically most other manufacturers currently offer a maximum two-year standard warranty period.

Latest addition to the range is the U17-3, a 1.65 tonne zero tail swing machine that supersedes the existing U15-3 model. The U17-3 sits between the 990kg U10-3 and the 2.1 tonne U20-3

A key feature is its adjustable track gauge. To further increase stability, the U17-3’s tracks can be expanded to a maximum of 1.24m. When retracted to 99cm it can pass through narrow doorways and operate in tight work areas.

The U17-3 is powered by the same Kubota engine that is used in the 1.5 tonne KX41-3 model. It generates 15.2kN of maximum digging force at the bucket and has a reach of 3.9m at ground level with a digging depth of 2.31m.

Short-pitched rubber crawlers are said to help minimise vibration during travel for improved operator comfort. At 1.65 tonnes the U17-3 can be legally towed between sites by a standard 4×4 unit or other suitable vehicle.

Takeuchi has introduced new three and five tonne mini excavators, the TB228 AND TB250 which join the TB235 launched last year and seen at Saltex. The new TB228 is restyled with a spacious cab, MP3 socket, more mirrors, adjustable seat and armrests along with extra foot room and well positioned controls. Now offering ROPS TOPS and FOPS. the cab also features 360deg visibility with a full glass door and roof window. Ground level service access and easy refuelling point makes life easier on site.

Powered by a new tier three Yanmar engine developing 17.5kW at 2400rpm, the TB228’s performance improvements include reach increased to 4.72m and dig depth to 2.87m, a larger 53 litre fuel tank and improved travel speeds up to 4.9kph.

A new styled dozer blade is designed to improve grading – with added height and greater curve the new dozer blade reduces overflow of material and adds to a good finished area.

Replacing the TB145, Takeuchi reckons the new TB250 is one of the most compact five-tonne minis available, bringing a powerful yet compact alternative for plant hire.
The TB250 features a Yanmar 4TNV88 engine delivering 28.4kW at 2400rpm engine and offers bucket breakout capacity of 37.2kN, 5.99m ground reach and 3.78m dig depth. fleet.

Marubeni Komatsu recently added the MR-3 ‘business class’ range of mini tracked excavators which spans the 0.8 to 5 tonne sector.

Features include 10 per cent faster hydraulics, extended dipper arm working range and improved lifting capabilities. A new wider shape undercarriage with road liner available as an option.

Service access has been eased with a tilt-up operator’s compartment, wider-opening engine door and side cover, side-by-side radiator and oil cooler for easier inspection and cleaning while lubrication and engine oil replacement intervals have been extended. A new cab is said to offer better operator safety and comfort.

Marubeni Komastu has added Maintenance Plus; a five-year programme including full machine warranty coverage and scheduled preventative maintenance to its offering. The contract is also transferable should you sell the machine on.

At the larger end of the scale JCB launches its latest six-tonne midi excavator – the new 8065 RTS (reduced tailswing) which replaces the 8060.

Powering the 8065 is a new, 40.5 kW Tier III Isuzu Turbo engine. This, along with a 1.17m reduction of the machine’s tailswing, is said to make it more productive when operating in confined spaces.

The new excavator also features a heavy-duty dipper to give improved bucket and dipper tearout forces with a maximum dig depth of 4.35m and dump height of 4.27m. The single-piece wraparound dipper design reduces the need for weld points, increasing durability and the easily accessible dig-end hoses are routed through the kingpost to protect against damage.

The 8065 incorporates an improved undercarriage structure with upgraded track motors. To maximise the machine’s earning potential, the 8065 is compatible with all existing JCB 3CX buckets and many attachments.

The range of Bobcat excavators has been extended with the launch of the E60, a new six-tonne crawler excavator model.

Powered by a 37.6 kW Yanmar liquid-cooled diesel engine running at a maximum governed speed of 2200 rpm, the low noise and emission levels of the E60 are said to make it suitable for operation in noise sensitive areas and at night.

With a zero tail swing design and the boom swing function, the E60 is able to work well in narrow areas. The dipperstick cylinder is sized to provide enhanced excavating force and a long dipperstick option is also available for this machine.

Equipped with a ROPS cab and standard dipperstick, the E60 has an operating weight of 6025kg in its standard configuration. The digging force over the bucket is 39.9 kN, and the digging force over the dipperstick is 26 kN. The maximum digging depth of the E60 is 3725 mm, the maximum dump height is 3.94m and the maximum reach at ground level is 6.0m.

Another innovation which may be of interest to the landscaping sector is the T100 compact tracked loader – at just 1.2 m wide and less than 2.3 m long without attachment, it can be transported on a light trailer towed by mid-sized vehicles. Driven by a four cylinder, 43hp Kubota V2403 naturally aspirated diesel engine running at 2200 rpm, the T110 offers a rated operating capacity of 505 kg and a tipping load of 1443kg.

Equipped with 250 mm wide rubber tracks, the T110 has a ground pressure of only 0.32 kg/cm² for improved traction and flotation as well as stability for work on slopes, maximising pushing force and lifting capacity. The T110 can also travel easily over roads, pavements, and pedestrian walkways without causing damage.
Hydraulic flow of 52.2l/min on the T110 enables fast bucket rollback/dump and permits use with 20 different attachments.

Avant Tecno (UK)’s loader range has proved popular with landscapers and the new 700 Series loaders offer new levels of power. The 745 and 750 models are both powered by four-cylinder Kubota diesel engines developing 36 kW and both can handle loads of up to 1.4 tonne. The 750 has a two-range hydrostatic transmission which provides a maximum speed of 25kph, compared with the 745’s 15kph.

The machines weigh in at 1700 and 1720kg respectively but the 745 has slightly smaller overall dimensions and a minimum width of 1.05m when riding on 27 x 8.50 -15 wheels. With the controls positioned on the front portion of the articulated chassis and an off-set boom position, the driver has an unrestricted view of the front end equipment.

Avant Tecno articulated loaders can handle a wide range of attachments and the two new models are no exception, being equipped with an auxiliary hydraulic system offering an oil flow of up to 70 l/min, ideal for many power hungry implements.

Both models feature a telescopic self-levelling lift arm, heated suspension seat with arm rests and seat belt, ROPS safety frame with plexiglass canopy, a choice of grass or tractor profile tyres, multifunction joystick and a bucket. In addition the 750 is supplied with a boom float system as standard.

Optional extras include a range of cabs, side and rear counterweights, foam-filled tyres, a road traffic kit and double acting rear hydraulics.

Take- A- Break finance

Finance to make sense of purchases
Despite the fact that several major players have withdrawn from the machinery financing market, it is generally still possible to get finance for construction equipment purchases, suggests Nigel Greenaway of JCB Finance.
“Most of the finance on offer tends to be manufacturer led, either through branded products or a joint venture,” he explains. “JCB for example is offering 0 per cent on mini excavators at the moment.”

Nigel points out that contractors will need to demonstrate that they have up and coming business, but the ability to show future income streams has always been a legal requirement of lending.

One option that could be particularly advantageous in the current environment is to go the hire purchase route.
“This allows businesses to take advantages of the tax benefit of capital allowances. The tax rules changed last year to make the first £50,000 of any capital spend 100 per cent allowable against taxable profit – so a purchase could be written off against tax in the first year,” Nigel explains.

“Hire purchase still gives the opportunity to claim the same allowances against tas just as if cash had been paid but the actual outlay in the first year will be far less than £50,000. How much businesses will benefit depends on the tax rate paid, but the saving could be extremely useful.”

For contractors with existing loans, there is always the option to reschedule finance to give more time to pay, and at today’s more favourable interest rates, payments could be reduced considerably. But Nigel points out that finance companies which are looking to withdraw from the sector will be less keen to offer this facility. Those who are looking to downsize could consider part exchanging four machines for two newer models, cutting payments and gaining the advantage of warranty, reduced downtime and maintenance.

And when financing new purchases, a contingency plan for difficult trading conditions could be a good idea – JCB Finance offers a Take A Break package which gives the option to take two-month ‘payment holidays’ each year at short notice.
“This gives purchasers a safety net if a contract falls through or a customer unexpectedly goes out of business. You don’t have to use the ‘holiday’ but it is there if you need it,” says Nigel.

He comments that finance could be particularly useful to businesses this year. “Cashflow will be vital and financing purchases can release working capital for when it is needed. If tax breaks are available it makes sense to take advantage of them and finance allows this without tying up cash unnecessarily.”

*Nigel Greenaway is presenting a series of seminars on machinery financing in the Blue Pavilion at SED. Visit for details.

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