In the not-too-distant past, compact excavators were usually simple and practical machines, only made to enter the narrow spaces where larger similar products could not enter. no longer. Driven by operators' higher requirements for small excavators, the functions that once belonged to medium or large machines have migrated to the small excavator market.
"Compact structure or practical structure models were previously the streamlined versions provided by all manufacturers. They are cheaper, don't have so many bells and whistles, and reliability does not exist," said Jonathan Tolomeo, product manager of Komatsu Construction. However, today, he said that the company's stance on continuous improvement has permeated the smallest excavators. Operators from larger Komatsu excavators to practical Komatsu excavators have the same comfort and confidence throughout the working day.
"For many people today, this is their office," he said. Under normal circumstances, operators want a quiet, climate-controlled and comfortable cab, and contractors are eager to help due to the tight labor supply.
Takeuchi compact excavator product manager David Caldwell said that comfort is included, and compact excavators are constantly evolving for many different reasons.
"The popularity of these machines continues to increase, partly because manufacturers design them for far more than basic excavation and excavation tasks," he said. "Compact excavators now have increased hydraulic flow and can use a wider range of accessories. Therefore, customers are aware of the versatility of these machines and are looking for more ways to use them."
In fact, they have even begun to replace other devices. Mike Fuller, senior product manager of Hyundai Construction Equipment Americas, said that as the housing and broader construction market continues to prosper, compact excavators are one of the most important tools contractors have in their fleets.
"Excavators have also replaced skid steer in many applications," Fuller said, noting that excavators' ability to dig deeper without attachments makes them unique. He said that the advantages of compact excavators for work such as breaking stones and rocks, drilling augers, and grading in small spaces are that projects that admit that large job sites that require more travel time may cause the scale to re-tilt and turn.
What is considered compact, mini, micro or other, depends on the OEM, but usually they are between 1 and 10 metric tons.
In order for the mini to function in a narrow environment, it is inevitable that engineers need to compress a series of systems into a small package when designing a compact excavator. In a few places, this will be as obvious as in the cab.
Justin Steger, Solutions Marketing Manager of John Deere Construction & Forestry, said the equipment manufacturer has made significant improvements in the operator comfort of its G series, providing more headroom, legroom and foldable travel pedals . Nevertheless, space is limited.
"Due to the small footprint of the excavator, the space for the operator station is limited," he said.
Aaron Kleingartner, marketing manager of Doosan Infracore North America, agrees.
“Compared with large crawler excavators, one of the challenges of making small excavators more operator-friendly is the smaller working space,” he said.
Doosan has made the operator more comfortable through improved seats, joysticks, larger displays and more glass to improve visibility, but the machine still needs to meet some parameters. "This requires the physical design of the superstructure (house), that is, the width, to remain relatively similar to the previous iteration," Kleingartner said.
Despite the challenges, OEMs still focus on comfort and operator retention.
"Because the machine is so small, we don't take anything away from the operator environment," Tolomeo said, noting the special challenges of ultra-short radius machines. "We are still working hard to make and provide a larger cab to make the operator feel comfortable."
"When you have to work on a machine for more than eight hours a day, it must be comfortable," Fuller added. Drawing inspiration from the automotive industry, Hyundai mini cars are equipped with heating, waist seats and touch screen displays. "This not only makes the operator happy, but also makes the operator safer."
In addition to providing more space for the operator, the shift from the canopy to the enclosed cab is another key trend for compact excavators.
Darren Ashton, product manager of Volvo Construction Equipment North America's compact excavator, said: "Compared to the past, the more compact excavator is equipped with a closed cab, which is useful for reducing noise, controlling temperature and protecting operators from flying debris. very useful."
Similarly, Kleingartner stated that Doosan’s small excavators come standard with a closed cab, which includes heating and air conditioning.
"One of the main drivers of cab improvement is hiring and retaining operators," he said. "In recent years, the field of qualified equipment operators has become smaller and smaller. In order to retain excellent operators, small excavator manufacturers have expanded their products from large models to small and small excavators."
Also in the Bobcats, functions such as an enclosed cab with HVAC and heated high-back seats with headrests have satisfied many operators. Others choose a more traditional route.
"Some operators may prefer a closed cab with automatic HVAC, while other operators may want a simpler machine with a canopy, so it is very important to provide each customer with the right solution," Bobcat's Said Luke Hill, an excavator product expert.
Adding features that can improve machine efficiency and operator comfort while reducing costs is another cross-industry focus. In this regard, technology can be both an extra cost and a cost saving.
Hill pointed out the new features in the cab of the Bobcat R2 series-such as the 7-inch touch screen and Bluetooth-these features are very attractive to operators and make them more focused on their work by raising awareness of machine issues and service requirements. And hands-free calling and noise cancellation.
The cabs of other original equipment manufacturers are also equipped with multi-function displays, in the case of Takeuchi, up to 8 inches.
"These monitors allow the operator to set multiple accessory presets, while also allowing them to adjust the auxiliary flow and, on some models, the pressure," Caldwell said. "The monitor also allows the operator to fully understand the health of the machine and provide operational data."
Telematics and machine control systems are also looking for growth in the compact market.
"The next generation is proposing such a technology, so they tend to rely on it, and secondly, it becomes like the GPS we use every day because it is almost second nature because it can work and make life easier," Fuller Say, machine control system. He predicts that as the 2020s pass, they will become more and more common on compact excavators. Similarly, Hyundai provides HiMATE remote monitoring system, allowing car owners to monitor their machines via GPS anytime and anywhere.
Consistent with the less practical trend of making mini cars, Caldwell pointed out the Takeuchi Fleet Management (TFM) telematics system, which can provide remote diagnosis, machine utilization, and Location and working hours. He also predicts that machine control of small machines will continue to make progress.
"The demand for using these machines in smaller and smaller urban workspaces and congested roads is increasing, so including machine/slope control on these smaller excavators allows more operators and owners to enjoy the technology. Good," he said.
For its part, the Bobcat's in-depth inspection system has helped operators perform classification for more than five years. Hill said that in recent years, depth perception systems have also attracted more and more interest.
"This is because in-depth inspection can help operators improve efficiency and help prevent operators from under-digging and over-digging, which can lead to costly material waste and unnecessary increase in work completion time," he said.
At Volvo, Ashton has also seen an upward trend in machine control, but it is not the only compact car driver the company has focused on.
Although still an emerging market segment, Volvo said its new electric compact ECR25 "opens the door for working in a low-noise and zero-emission environment."
"The market is also evolving, with more and more emphasis on sustainability, so motors are a good choice," Ashton said. "Moreover, depending on the jurisdiction, early adopters will be able to take advantage of some or all levels of government subsidies and grants."
Ashton said that going to electrification requires contractors to spend more upfront, but in the long run, they will save fuel and maintenance costs.
Doosan is also advancing electrification. Kleingartner said that the company showed off a prototype of its upcoming electric small excavator in Las Vegas last year, and plans to launch the DX17Z-5 in North America as early as next year.
"The electric motor enables the excavator operator to use the machine they are familiar with to complete their work without being affected by diesel exhaust," Kleingartner said. "The 1.7 metric ton class was chosen for the first model because the customer needed a small excavator that could work in a narrow space, and a narrower width machine was needed to enter the site."
These two new models are not alone. As regulations become stricter, sustainability becomes more important, and as technology advances, many other electric models may follow suit.
This article first appeared in the June 2021 edition of On-Site. Click here to read the entire question.
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