The latest in breakers reviewed
By Lindsay Gale13 October 2011
The response from breaker manufacturers last year to the question concerning the state of the breaker market was decidedly mixed. Some reported signs of an upturn while others were still decidedly pessimistic over the short term future. Atlas Copco's marketing manager - hydraulic products Torsten Ahr, who last year reported a slight increase in demand, was more positive when asked the question again, said: "The level is on the up, especially in Asia and South America, but also on a lower level in North America. We see a clear increase of demand in the medium and large breaker ranges."
This guarded optimism was echoed by Chicago Pneumatic's Olaf Seiffert, business manager construction tools when he told D&Ri: "We've seen an uptick in demand for light breakers in North Europe, Central Europe and North America. Sales of medium breakers are increasing in both North Europe and the Middle East. Though sales of heavy breakers remain flat in some regions, Asia is one of Chicago Pneumatic's strongest-performing markets, with sales of light, medium and heavy breakers all on the rise."
As last year, however, the message is a mixed one. For example, Korean supplier Everdigm was less optimistic when a spokesperson said of market demand: "We have gathered information from dealers in each country to figure out the current market trend, and the results say there are not any significant signals for improvement in this business sector for the time being, although it is slightly better than last year in some countries such as Germany, France and others."
"And mostly, any increase in sales in terms of number is identified in the small and medium ranges, and we suppose this trend will continue for the foreseeable future as the job sites that need the big range have slowed down at the moment."
"Also, we are concerned about the possibility of a downturn in demand again due to the financial turmoil in some countries such as Greece, Portugal, and especially the current negative economic forecasts concerning Italy are one of our concerns for the future."
Meeting user needs
Customer demands also have not really changed, with low cost of ownership being identified as being key criteria when new product is being selected. Torsten said; "The total cost of ownership came back into the mind of our customers during the financial crisis. Investment cost for hydraulic breakers only represent a minor portion of the total cost involved. In many countries the cost for operator, spares and energy sum up to more than 80 % of the total cost of ownership, which consist in all costs generated by a piece of equipment throughout its lifetime. This may of course vary depending on breaker model, excavator and all local conditions."
"Atlas Copco faces these costs and offers a full range of hydraulic breakers with less weight and more power. Due to this lower weight and higher efficiency, less hydraulic input power is required from the carrier while maintaining maximum impact performance. This allows smaller carriers to be used which results in lower investment cost for the carrier."
"By demanding less input from the hydraulic system to operate the breaker, less fuel is consumed by the carrier and thus lower operating cost. As both investment and operating cost decrease, the total cost of ownership will be significantly reduced."
Olaf echoed this when he said: "When considering a purchase, customers tend to first consider the low cost of owning a hydraulic breaker. Then the conversations tend to shift to power of impact. Power and productivity are important, and impact energy is a major selling point. We also help customers run more efficiently by calculating which breakers match up best with any given excavator, which typically leads to reduced fuel consumption. Education plays a pivotal role in the sales process."
Everdigm continued this when the spokesperson said: "It is certain most customers are looking for all those advantages together, and we have tried to meet their requirement with strong R&D force and a well-organised manufacturing system.
And this is why we have been identified as one of the strongest players in this business field by providing outstanding job effectiveness with trustable durability, and it has been boosted up with competitive pricing."
Sounds of silence
Almost without exception, the major European players now only offer silenced breakers to the market. According to Torsten: "We do only provide silenced versions. Atlas Copco's Vibrosilenced Plus system reduces strain on breaker, carrier and operator as well as the neighbourhood nearby the jobsite. The breaker box guiding system, the isolation from guiding system and percussion mechanism by elastic damping elements and the closing of all openings by sealing plugs on the breaker box make Atlas Copco breakers one of the quietest on the market."
Olaf went on: "Each of Chicago Pneumatic's hydraulic breakers is silenced. In countries such as Europe, contractors have switched exclusively to silenced breaker models. Our RX line of construction equipment includes polyurethane insulated breaker box systems and guide plate stands for noise reduction. The machines already comply with outdoor equipment directive 2000/14/EU, which sets noise requirements for equipment operating outdoors in Europe."
Some take a different approach, however, and Everdigm is one. "We supply both versions to the market, and it is decided what their requirement is. For instance, we have supplied silenced version to Europe and America, and non-silence version to Asia & Middle East market because that is what they need to meet their customers' requirements and we need to follow it up accordingly."
Breaker technology is unquestionably an established one, with further developments likely to be small refinements rather than technological leaps forward. With a mix of customer demands acting as developmental drivers - low cost of ownership, productivity, performance, quiet operation etc. - breaker manufacturers' R&D efforts cannot slacken even in troubled economic times and we will likely see the fruits of their latest labours at the major trade shows around the world.