Compact excavators are one of the most versatile pieces of equipment on any jobsite – and in any rental inventory – and they continue to evolve to serve the changing needs of equipment owners. While innovations of the past included such revolutionary advancements as zero tail swing, today’s improvements center more on incremental changes that help make operators more comfortable and service techs more effective.
Comfort at any price
While equipment features that increase the comfort level of operators might seem like luxuries in the face of a struggling economy, compact excavator manufacturers know better. In fact, many believe features that improve the operator’s experience are more important than ever as they increase the long-term "rentability" of machines.
“Sure there are some buyers who are still looking for the most basic, lowest-cost machine available in order to accomplish their immediate task," notes David Steger, product manager with Takeuchi. "But many are opting to rent, lease or purchase a machine with a higher level of features to allow more productive operation and greater versatility when operating attachments. They also have their eye on maintaining value over the long haul with a full-featured machine.”
Mike Boyle, product sales consultant with Hitachi agrees, noting that as more and more contractors discover the benefits of compacts, they are expecting them to have the same features and benefits they're used to having on large machines. “They’re looking for things like smooth hydraulics, enclosed cab with heat and A/C, comfortable seat, auto idle, durable construction and shifting from high to low speed,” he says.
According to Steger, some rental companies have also begun putting some of these full-featured machines into their fleet, hoping to capture more of the rent-to-sell market. "Everyone has felt the credit pinch in one way or another -- and credit is certainly harder to come by for people in the construction trades -- but what happens when a contractor can justify the machine, has the means to make the payments, but just can’t qualify for prime rate financing? Renting certainly becomes a viable option and in this case, the customer may choose a long-term rental of a fully optioned machine with the intent of purchasing the machine at a later time when their cash flow or credit situation allows.”
For rental companies, machine uptime is tantamount to success, so equipment that is simple to service is top on the list of concerns. Jay Badhuin, compact equipment product manager with Wacker Neuson, states that many of their models have a tilting cab, offering easier serviceability to key components. “This provides the service technician easy access to items such as the swivel joint, the main control block and the swivel motor,” he explains. “All of this will help ensure the daily maintenance gets done on these units, as well as reducing the downtime. It also provides the service technician with a safer servicing environment because they will not need to lift or remove anything in order to access the key components of the machine.”
Serviceability is also important to keep things moving efficiently in the shop. “It's more than comparing if one machine takes 20 minutes to change the oil vs. another that may take 30 minutes," Steger says. "Serviceability is the relationship between the overall design and construction of the machine and how easily it can be maintained over the entire life of the machine, from routine service and hose replacements, to servicing coolers and repairing components.”
Lower cost, higher value
Cost of operation and machine efficiency are important considerations in today’s economy and fuel efficiency directly relates to that. “Contractors are analyzing every dollar being spent and the fuel bill is certainly one area that easily stands out,” Steger says. “Higher-horsepower engines result in higher fuel consumption, so if you can do the same work with an optimized power train, why would you choose a model that is louder, less productive and uses more fuel?”