Compact utilities

By Murray Pollok22 April 2008

Komatsu Utility makes equipment in the 0.5 to 11 t range, including mini- and midi-excavators, telehandlers, skid steer loaders and backhoe loaders, which means that it has been well placed to exploit the growing demand for equipment from Europe's rental companies. It has also been benefiting from increased sales to eastern Europe, with demand in particular for backhoe loaders. As a result, the Italian-based manufacturer has been investing in production capacity at its Este facility in Northern Italy (see box story).

Alongside this investment, Komatsu Utility will this year fill out its already wide range of equipment, with the focus in the first half of the year on new mini- and midi-excavators. Alongside upgrades to ‘dash 3' status for many of its existing models - including 1.4 t, 1.6 t, 2.2 t, 3.0 t, 3,5 t and 5.5 t models - there are new 2.6 t, 4.5 t and 8.0 t class machines to come out soon.

For rental companies, however, of great interest will be the new 1.4 and 1.6 t models, which alone account for around 40% of all minis sold to rental companies by Komatsu Utility. The PC 14R-3 and PC 16R-3 are upgrades of the PC14R-2 and PC16R-2 models.

Although main digging specifications and dimensions are largely unchanged from the previous ‘dash 2' models, there have been some significant alterations to the machines, some made in particular response to requests from rental companies.

For example, the cabin versions now use straight glass windows, which makes it cheaper and easier to replace broken windows. The cab now uses a hinged door rather than a sliding door. The canopy versions, meanwhile, now have a four pole canopy rather than the two pole version before, and the machine can only be entered and exited from one side, which saves money on the duel-opening dash 2 models.

In addition to the new Stage IV engine, the latest versions have new Rexroth cab controls that use smaller levers with a reduced stroke, making them easier to use, says the company. The track movement controls, meanwhile, have also been modified to producer a smoother ride.

Another change is the hydraulic lines for attachments: these lines are now integrated into the boom providing a greater degree of protection and making the machines less susceptible to damage: another plus point for rental customers (and everyone else). A travel alarm is also now standard on the models, as it is with all other Komatsu mini-excavators.

Routine maintenance points are accessed through the chassis openings, with fuller maintenance and repair access achieved by tilting the cab forward - a one-man job. Komatsu says the service intervals for things like engine oil replacement and pin greasing have been increased to 500 hours.

Completely new machines being added to the range, meanwhile, include the 2.6 t class PC26MR-3, which is a new model between the existing (and retained) PC20 and PC27 models. Komatsu says the big feature of this model is a weight that, in combination with a basic transport trailer, will have a combined transport weight of under 3.5 t, making it easy to transport on a non-specialist driving licence. (This 3.5 t towing weight includes a 700 kg allowance for the trailer, plus weight allowances for the quick coupler plus two buckets.)

The machine is described as ‘Minimum Radius' - hence the MR designation - rather than zero tailswing, with an 80 mm overhang on the tracks. Digging depth, with the long arm, is up to 2.72 m, maximum digging reach is 4.53 m, and the maximum bucket breakout force is 2244 kg.

The Komtrax satellite tracking system will now be a standard feature on all mini-and midi-excavators - with the exception of its 0.9 and 1.5 t class machines, where it will be an option.

The PC26 shares the forward tilting cab and 500 hour service interval of the new 14 and 16 models, and the compact cab fits inside the dimensions of the counterweight, even with the door open.

Finally, on the midi-excavator range, there will be a new 7.5-8 t class model, the PC80MR-3, which will replace the existing PC75R-2 model. To be shown at the Samoter show (alongside the 14/16, 26, 30 and 35 dash 3 models), the PC80 will have a width of just 2.25 m and overhang of 145 mm beyond the tracks, making it another ‘minimum radius' model.

Bucket capacity on the new PC80 will be between 0.09 m3 and 0.27 m3; maximum digging depth will be 4447 mm (long arm) and maximum digging reach is 7049 mm. Bucket breakout force will be 5970 kg and maximum arm breakout force is 3990 kg.

Less details are available on the other machines that will fill-out the mini-excavator range, although Komatsu is promising an all new 4.5 t class machine, the PC45MR-3 and also a dash 3 replacement for the PC35R-2, which will be a slimmed down model. All will be clear at Samoter.

Komatsu Utility
ups Este capacity

Komatsu Utility Europe has reorganised its Este production plant in Italy to cope with the growing European demand for its skid steer loaders, mini and midi excavators, backhoe loaders and telehandlers.

Separate lines for backhoes and telehandlers have been created to allow expanded production of both ranges. The plant is now an assembly operation, using components either from external suppliers or from Komatsu Utility's Stavmek fabrication facility in the Czech Republic near Prague.

Mr Enrico Tonetti, managing director of Komatsu Utility Europe, said the Este plant was now nearing its full capacity at around 13500 units a year. "We are now making too many products in a single place", said Mr Tonetti, "This is not the ideal situation."
Production of the facility has almost doubled to 13500 units in 2007 from 7200 machines in 2003, with production of mini-excavators having doubled to 6000 units in the same period.

The company has benefited from a rapid growth in backhoe loader sales. Mr Tonetti said; "The backhoe was considered a declining product in western Europe, but it is the perfect machine in new developing countries. While the market in western Europe is gradually declining, in the rest of the world and eastern Europe it is growing very strongly and remains a core product for us."

The company expects the European market for its compact ranges to maintain its current high level at least until 2010. It said the total market for its machines was 114000 units in 2007 and would rise to 121000 machines in 2009 before possibly declining slightly to 117000 in 2010.

Este will now be capable of producing 25 backhoes loaders a day, 5 telehandlers/day, 26 mini excavators/day and 10 midi-excavators/day.

Mr Armando Di Pace, general manager sales and marketing at Komatsu Utility Europe, said the company was forecasting a 10-15% growth in its sales for its 2008 financial year (to the end of March 2009), although he said there was some uncertainty about the market.

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