Through an emphasis on zero tailswing and the advent of GPS technology, compact excavator manufacturers aim to increase productivity and lower operating costs. Following is a look at some of the latest high-tech features available.
Zero tailswing (ZTS) is a popular feature on many of today's compact excavators. ZTS describes the ability of the excavator to rotate the upper structure within the width of the undercarriage. When the machine rotates, the rear of the machine will not extend beyond the edge of the track. This allows the machine to operate very closely to vertical objects, such as a wall or tree, without damaging the object or the machine.
"One of the reasons this is popular right now is that at the jobsites, you're getting much smaller, more confined, more restricted areas," says Dan Rafferty, compact products manager at JCB Inc.
Mark Wall, product marketing manager, John Deere Construction & Forestry Co., adds that ZTS allows operators to concentrate on the front of the machine without worrying about the tail of the machine, which makes them more productive.
ZTS also helps eliminate damage to the rear of the excavator, which keeps the machine looking good and reduces repair costs, says Wall. In turn, you will also have a higher resale value.
Raymond Vest, owner of MK & R Excavating in Waldorf, MD, appreciates the ability to work in tight areas without damaging his equipment. Vest purchased a Gehl 753Z zero tailswing model at the beginning of the year. He uses it for site maintenance jobs and minor grading, in addition to building bio-retention ponds and retaining walls. He also occasionally finds himself in remote wooded areas where the ZTS is especially beneficial.
"With the zero tolerance, the machine can swing on top of itself and not cause any problems in close-knit areas, such as when I'm in the woods," he says."It allows me to swing without hitting trees. And with the knuckle boom, I can get right on top of it."
The 753Z is also equipped with a blade. According to Vest, this eliminates the need to bring in additional machines for backfilling.
Instead of the traditional ZTS, Bobcat Co. offers two"Zero House Swing" models, the 430 and 435. These models enable operators to slew or turn the house up to 320° without extending beyond the width of the track. Traditional ZTS models usually do not reach this degree before extending beyond the tracks, says Tom Connor, Bobcat compact excavator product specialist.
Some compact excavators are not equipped with ZTS, but do offer minimum tailswing, where the rear of the machine extends from 10 to 14 in. This is still an advantage over a conventional tailswing, which extends between 22 to 30 in. beyond the track.
Security and GPS
GPS is an up-and-coming technology for compact excavators. In March, Bobcat introduced a global positioning system, theft recovery and equipment management package. Other companies are contemplating GPS as a full-time option.
Bobcat's GlobalTRACS system collects, manages and transmits equipment operating status and location data, which is accessed via an easy-to-use Web-based application or integrated into existing software. The system reports engine hours on-demand or at automated intervals, giving you a complete record of when equipment is being used.
Security management is another key feature. You can create virtual boundaries, or geo-fences, with entry and exit alerts. You can prevent theft of a machine at a publicly accessible jobsite, for example, and control the areas of operation.
By having theft protection, you can benefit from lower insurance premiums. The GlobalTRACS equipment management system also offers fleet management and cost savings.
Do more with less
Bobcat also offers a FastTrack drive system on its 430 and 435 compact excavators. The units are equipped with an all-hydrostatic drive system, which provides improved maneuverability, grading capabilities and a travel speed of 5 mph or more.