VIDEO EXCLUSIVE: Demlone high reaches on show at bauma - Cat's new approach
By Lindsay Gale12 April 2010
Lindsay Gale talked about Caterpillar's new Demlone high reaches with Richard Bliss, the company's regional industry manager for Europe, Africa and the Middle East.
It is fair to say that where demolition is concerned, Caterpillar has had a relatively lower profile than it is used to in recent years - it did offer demolition solutions but did not push them hard in the market. Having recognised that fact, the company has resolved to address the situation.
Richard Bliss was the man tasked with pushing forward developments in Caterpillar's activities in the demolition and waste sectors, and he has overseen a major strategic initiative that has led to the introduction of the Demlone line of high reach excavators.
He said: "Everybody knows Cat in the demolition market but the problem goes back to our past product specific mentality. Following a reorganisation carried out 18 months ago, we now have an industry specific organisation."
In a major departure, after a detailed partner selection process, Caterpillar has teamed up with French hydraulics and boom specialist Vensys Group (which features the brands Hydrokit and Soerma among its subsidiary companies). The result is a new Vensys subsidiary, Demlone, established 18 months ago, which will produce demolition excavators exclusively for Caterpillar based on the latter's carriers for the Africa, Europe and Middle East (AEME) marketplace.
These machines will not be available in North America, but D&Ri understands that a similar arrangement may be put in place to provide demolition solutions in a similar manner for the American market.
According to Richard: "The machines will not carry Cat designations [although they will carry the Cat logo]. The Demlone name and designations will be used, so we will have the DEM 50, DEM 70 and DEM 100 by the end of this year, but there is obviously a very close relationship between Demlone and Caterpillar. Initially, therefore, I think the market will take these machines as being Caterpillar with a DEM designation. As we evolve, however, I think that the Demlone name will be more recognised. It is a new business model for Cat."
Development of the Demlone machines began in October 2008, when Caterpillar convened a meeting in Geneva with a number of the main contractors and trade associations from around Europe. Richard went on: "We told them that we wanted to grow our business in the sector but then asked them what we needed to do differently, not just in terms of product but also in the way we did business."
This input drove Cat down the path it subsequently followed to develop the Demlone partnership.
The first job was to identify the correct partner and to do this Cat put together a rigorous set of selection criteria that potential candidate companies had to meet, covering all aspects of their business, including manufacturing procedures, quality standards, work practices and so forth. Several potential partners were assessed against this framework.
The result is simple: "This really is a strategic alliance with a company that was extremely carefully considered - a conscious decision made under very strict criteria and a very full assessment. The result is, we believe, that we now have a product that fully meets market requirements and in addition we have a business model, a strategic alliance, with a partner that will be seamless to our customers."
Richard said that once the partnership had been established: "After detailed examination, we determined that we could meet most market requirements using three carriers as a base by offering flexibility in terms of working heights on these three carriers. A lot of the features and the benefits they offer were entirely driven by customer and dealer input as well as by input from Demlone, incorporating Hydrokit and Soerma's substantial practical experience."
But of course demolition is not just about high reach. Richard continued: "Cat will continue to offer the other demolition products but what you will see is a greater visibility in terms of application identifiers on these machines. Many of our non-high reach demolition machines feature a heavy duty undercarriage, slew ring protection, in fact all of the things you would expect. We need to improve our marketing approach to clearly indicate that these machines have in fact been designed specifically for the application and are not just standard machines - we almost are the best kept secret. We make the R&D spend, we work with partners like Demlone, but we have not got the message out clearly enough."
In his view, customers have to see a seamless transition between Cat standard demolition machines and the Demlone high reaches, and it is the Cat dealer network that will provide this. "The Demlone machines will be one part of the Cat dealer network product portfolio and the customer will retain all the benefits of dealing only with his local dealer. Customers will just gain all the benefits of having a machine that has now taken a quantum leap forward in terms of features and benefits, designed specifically for their market," said Richard.
Keeping them working
Support is a major issue, especially where high reaches are concerned, since downtime can be expensive. In the past, such modification of Cat carriers by a third party has at times created issues where warranties and/or support in the field are concerned, so how will Demlone address this issue?
Richard responded by saying: "The new business model means that dealers will go either direct to Cat or to Demlone, depending on the issues involved. However, as far as the individual customer is concerned, it is the dealer that will address the issue and this internal process is something the customer does not see. At the end of the day, he just wants his machine to be up and running, which is precisely what we want as well."
The Demlone partnership also offers other benefits to Cat. According to Richard: "Working with Demlone the way we plan to, and the past track record and expertise Demlone offers, in principle gives a flexibility previously unavailable to us. The customer input we have had suggests to us that the three machine line/three boom options we have developed with Demlone should meet most, if not almost all, the demands of our customers. However, it should be perfectly possible for Demlone to develop special one-off boom formats to meet a specific need, although having said that, this is not something we would actively encourage, especially in the initial phase."
So what will contractors have to look at from the Demlone line of machines?
Three machines will come to the market during the course of 2010. The 50 tonne DEM 50 will be the first and will be on show at bauma. This machine offers three working heights of 18, 21 and 23 m (59, 69 and 75.5 ft) through the availability of 3 m (9.9 ft) and 5 m (16.4 ft) boom sections and can carry a 3 tonne tool (including coupler).
This will be followed by the 70 tonne DEM 70 in the summer. This will also provide three possible working heights of 28, 31 and 33 m (92 ft, 102 ft and 109 ft) and also offer a tool capacity of 3 tonnes.
The final machine, which will arrive towards the end of the year, will be based on the 385C and will carry the DEM 100 designation. It will offer working heights of 38, 41 and 43 m (125 ft, 135 ft and 141 ft)
Built on the expertise of Hydrokit and Soerma, the three DEM models will offer a range of options, including tilting cabs, dust suppression capability, extending undercarriage, an electronic range monitoring safety system, a hydraulic quick boom change system that allows changes to be made in less than 30 minutes and a dust protection system for the cab.
But it is not just features that sell machines - timely delivery can also be a major factor. The new business model that has been adopted for the Demlone machines includes an eight week availability target - base carriers will be shipped to Demlone from Cat, the necessary modifications carried out, the new front end fabricated and married to the machine, and the machine then shipped to the dealer. The dealer will than carry out normal pre-delivery inspections prior to delivery to customers. All in no more than 12 weeks from order placement during the ramping up of production to the final target of eight weeks in the future.