John Deere 35D and 50D models also increase productivity via faster operating speeds and more drawbar pull. Specifically, drawbar pull has been increased by almost 35% on the larger model, and faster cycle times allow operators to dig more each hour, Wall says.
Carl Kleeman is profit center vice president of the Savannah, GA, location of TIC-The Industrial Co., which specializes in marine and civil construction. He agrees that his two 35Ds and one 50D are pretty quick machines. But it's the compact, lighter weight that he appreciates most.
Kleeman rented the machines prior to purchasing the first one two years ago."They kept us from having to have loader-backhoes," he says."A loader-backhoe is much longer and heavier, and those factors are critical in the way we use the machine."
On a current jobsite that entails excavating a 6,100-ft.-long drainage system, Kleeman is able to lower the compact excavators 20 ft. down into a 32-ft.-wide by 400-ft.-long trench via a crane."With the compact size and zero tailswing, these machines are so much more versatile for us than a loader-backhoe," he continues."We can maneuver all the way around the hole. And since we have cranes at most of our jobsites, we can set the machines in and take them out of the hole pretty much at will and without much effort."
Equipped with attachments such as a vibratory compactor on one end and a blade on the other, the compact excavators can also simplify tasks previously done by hand or with additional pieces of equipment."Before these mini-excavators we didn't really have a good plan for tasks such as tamping, which we used to do by hand with vibratory plate compactors," says Kleeman. And with the blade, he can eliminate the need for a skid steer previously used for spreading fill and rock.
Less hand labor
A new feature offered by both Gehl Co. and Mustang is house leveling. It allows the superstructure of the machine to be tilted from 0° to 15° in order to dig a vertical hole or trench on a slope. This saves time because an operator can dig without first needing to level the slope, says Brian Rabe, product specialist at Gehl Co.
For Ben Saenz, B-C Construction, the ability to tilt his Mustang 3705 compact excavator significantly improves the efficiency of digging basements, footings and even swimming pools in the hilly terrain near his Rogers, AR, location.
"The 15° tilt is more than I could achieve with a backhoe and outriggers," he states."In some areas here in northwest Arkansas, there's nothing but hills, so a machine with this option works pretty good for me."
Prior to purchasing the compact excavator about five months ago, Saenz admits he didn't have an efficient approach to digging footings in hilly areas."Footings were really difficult to get level. We'd have to turn the machine a bunch of times to get it to come out right," he says."And when you dig off level, you end up doing a lot more hand work. When you bring the bucket up, the ditch ends up being wider than it has to be, so there's more erosion that the workers have to shovel out. Plus, workers had to use a shovel and flatten the trench by hand. With this house leveling feature, we just tilt the machine to whatever degree is necessary to level the bucket, then dig.
"I'm amazed at how quickly the job goes with the house leveling feature," he adds."It's just so much more efficient. I can't imagine how I got along without it. It saves us time and money."
The larger models in the John Deere D-Series incorporate an auto-idle feature, which is designed to reduce noise and fuel consumption. When the auto-idle switch is engaged and the operator does not move a pilot function lever for four seconds, the machine will automatically reduce the engine rpms to low idle. Once the operator activates the function, the machine automatically returns to the preset engine rpm.
In addition, John Deere, Gehl and JCB all offer automatic shifting on their larger compact excavators. In this case, when the travel switch is engaged in the fast (rabbit) position, the excavator will travel in high-speed propel. When a load is applied, going up a hill or turning, the machine will automatically shift to low-speed, high-power propel. This enables the machine to continue traveling without the operator taking any action. When the load is removed, the machine will automatically shift back to high-speed travel.