What do you want from a modern excavator?

Projects are growing in complexity demanding more efficient and dynamic solutions but what do users need from their equipment to meet these goals?

Hitachi ZX135W-7 (Photo: Hitachi)

Excavators are a common sight on modern construction sites due to their versatility. However, operators and users have specific requirements and expectations from their machines.

We’ve all seen sustainability and technology trending across the industry. However, users also look for various other requirements when upgrading or purchasing a new machine. Interestingly, these requirements differ depending on the company supplying the machine.

Stephane Dieu, excavator product manager for Europe at Develon (formerly Doosan Construction Equipment), said that the most important feature for users is the stability of the bucket size as well as the lifting performance.

In addition to this, Dieu adds that efficiency is of course a high priority. When looking to buy or rent an excavator, users are keen for the machine to work as efficiently as possible to ensure that the job is completed on time and within budget.

Egidio Galano, construction equipment product manager for Europe, Middle East, and Africa (EMEA) at Case Construction Equipment, agrees with Dieu that efficiency is important for users. In addition to this, Galano says that when speaking with owners and fleet managers, fuel consumption and the total cost of ownership are also some of the main purchase drivers.

Galano highlights that Case Construction Equipment worked alongside the needs of its users to develop the most recent of the E-Series midi and heavy excavators.

Input from users

For Olivier Rasmont, general manager for product engineering and marketing at Kobelco Construction Machinery Europe, researching what the user needs is part of Kobelco’s philosophy. He says, “Spending a lot of time with customers to understand what new features and benefits they are interested in is important.”

Rasmont points out that Kobelco seeks input from users to make improvements to their excavator portfolio.

He adds, “We take quite a lot of the feedback into account, especially in the development phase. This is critical. We are doing that together with our dealers.”

Rasmont believes that users need to have reliable machines and that it is important for users to have “a good match between the machine and the tools that they are using.”

Kobelco’s stand at Intermat highlighted the all-new SK520LC-11E excavator, making its European debut and replacing the SK500-11 model.

Like Kobelco, Komatsu knows the importance of user feedback and used this for the development of their PC950LC-11 crawler excavator.

Komatsu’s PC950LC-11 crawler excavator Komatsu’s PC950LC-11 crawler excavator (Photo: Komatsu)

In this excavator class, the company says that users had said that safety is their number one priority, followed by productivity and total cost per tonne. The development teams at Kobelco took this on board and delivered increased power, larger dig forces, as well as easy safe access.

Electric avenue

The majority of companies are entering electric machines into their portfolio – but is there a demand across Europe?

Dieu from Develon says that there is but only from select regions. “The demand for electric machines today comes from just three countries where you have a subsidy from the government. This is in Sweden and Norway.

“In fact, today there are few users interested because the machine electric will cost two to three times more expensive than other types of machines. There is not always an opportunity to recharge the machine which then constrains the machine’s operation.”

Case Construction Equipment’s Galano says that they are anticipating the trend and decided to develop their complete range of fully electric compact excavators based on this.

He adds that they are seeing fast attention to the environment and equipment sustainability.

Agreeing with Case Construction Equipment is Volvo Construction Equipment. The Sweden-based company recently conducted a multi-partner study, named ‘Electric Worksite’, to map out the infrastructure needs of electric equipment on a real-life work site.

The ‘Electric Worksite’ project aimed to bring together multiple stakeholders in the supply chain to gain a better understanding of the opportunities and requirements for using electric equipment in urban settings. The project recently presented its final results, with a strong emphasis on the system perspective.

It involved testing electric machines, energy storage, and charging infrastructure in various urban sites to identify the diverse needs across interconnected technical and organizational systems.

The tests were carried out in real-life construction sites with electric-powered wheeled and crawler excavators, as well as other machines, weighing between 3.5-30 tons. Some of which were both battery-powered and others cable-connected.

Not everyone’s ready

Also seeing a demand is Andreas Gstoettenbauer, head of product management at Wacker Neuson Linz. He says that they are seeing an increasing demand for electrically powered machines but not all users are ready for electrically powered construction equipment so far.

Gstoettenbauer says, “That’s why we maintain and further develop our full range of machines with all types of drives.

“In order to support our customers in reducing their CO2 footprint, particularly in machine classes in which the electrification is not feasible from a technical or economic point of view, all our Stage 5 engine machines are HVO ready, and we will start with HVO factory fill mid of this year.”

Gstoettenbauer adds that sustainability is generally getting more important, especially to larger companies facing the Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD) requirements for 2025.

The European Commission has announced the adoption of the CSRD in alignment with the commitments made under the European Green Deal. This is part of the Commission’s efforts to enhance sustainability information for users.

The industry has often been regarded as ‘traditional’ and it is no surprise to hear that much of user demands have stayed the same over the past decade.

Upon asking Dieu if he thinks that users wants and needs are changing, he responded that he doesn’t think so but highlights that it depends on the size and scope of the company.

Develon DX165 WR Develon DX165 WR (Photo: Develon)

For big companies it’s about fuel consumption. “It might surprise you how much fuel the machine will consume. Also, companies will need to factor in changes in rental fees as they might increase due to the high fuel consumption.”

Like Develon’s Dieu, Rasmont from Kobelco says that efficient fuel consumption is a priority for many companies when looking for an excavator.

“[Fuel consumption] is extremely important now when it comes to zero emissions. At Kobelco, we are actively working on the development of some machines and also assessing the markets because we understand that current technologies are still very expensive.”

Rasmont says that whilst sustainability is important, it is still key to ensure that you have a good ratio between the purchasing price of the machine and the total cost of ownership. It still needs to make sense for the customer.

Different sizes, different needs

The requirements are not the same for every size company, emphasises Develon’s Dieu. Smaller companies have differing needs from those of larger companies.

“I would say a small or medium company will look mainly for the quality of service and the level of service they will receive.

“It’s not as important to have the best machine but to have the best dealer with the best service.”

Elsewhere in the industry, Rasmont is hearing that users want more technology. “We are developing new technologies to assist experienced operators in optimising the performance of their machines. These technologies are designed to provide users with a comfortable and efficient work experience.”

Rasmont couldn’t go into details about the technologies that Kobelco are currently working on but highlighted that the potential for technology was getting more and more sophisticated.

Push towards digitisation

With the sophistication of technology, there has been a significant push towards digitisation by excavator users and governments. Technology is not only improving the efficiency of excavators but also aiding in increasing safety, says Richard Clement, Deputy General Manager at Smart Construction.

“The earthmoving industry as a whole understands the benefits of technology,” says Clement.

“In Europe, some regions were initially priced out of being early adopters of new innovations. However, with hardware solutions becoming more cost-efficient, adoption rates are on the rise. Smart Construction has seen this firsthand, as 38% of its 3D Machine Guidance system sales are taking place in East and South Europe.”

It is likely that we will see new technologies released every few years, but what will be next for excavators?

Clement believes that due to the growth in digital twin technologies, excavators and other earth movement equipment will take a pivotal role in capturing survey-grade data. He says that having every bucket or blade move represented in a highly accurate model, which all members of the workforce can access remotely, adds significant productivity gains.

Keeping in touch
Case Construction Equipment’s CX100E Case Construction Equipment’s CX100E (Photo: Case Construction Equipment)

Hitachi Construction Machinery (Europe) NV (HCME) says that are regularly in touch with owners and operators across the continent and responses suggest that innovative features are highly valued.

In Switzerland, authorised Hitachi dealer Probst Maveg consulted its sales team on what they consider to be important for today’s excavators and how user needs have changed in line with demand and environmental factors.

“Technology, such as 3D system pre-installation and weighing systems, which can be made available with Leica Geosystems and Trimble, are the some of the most important features for our customers.

“Quality is also important, as well as the reliability of both the dealer and the machine to provide a good price-to-performance ratio. Our customers value innovations such as several hydraulic circuits so their attachments can all be operated using joysticks.”

Authorised dealer Rotator, based in Finland, also shared their thoughts, including the role of the operator in the purchasing decision of a modern excavator and the importance of comfort.

“Of course, the machine’s technical features emphasise equipment and features suitable for the job site. For example, in excavators, many job sites require a 3D system installed on the machine, features like this that make work easier are valued.

“In addition to this, the number of different additional devices is also greater than before and new technological solutions help to perform tasks more economically.”

It appears that users’ basic needs have remained consistent over the years, but there is now a greater emphasis on safety, the environment, and the overall economy.

In addition to advancements in technology and other tools to enhance efficiency it appears that improved working conditions for operators and increased productivity will also continue to be important factors when purchasing or renting equipment.

Latest News
WATCH: Gordie Howe Bridge project connects main span
The Gordie Howe Bridge main span was connected earlier this week
Leica Geosystems launches GKP100 Captivate Keypad for surveying
The GKP100 is compatible with all current and future tablets
Bechtel wins EPC contract for multi-billion-dollar LNG export terminal expansion
US-based contractor Bechtel has signed a deal with liquefied natural gas (LNG) exporter Sempra to build the second phase of the Port Arthur LNG export project in Texas