The one-size-fits-all approach is about as far removed from the general excavator market today as the use of cables.
As hydraulic excavators inch up in size, new models are added to fill in any gaps created in a particular company's product line. Indeed, one size does not fit all.
Neither does one shape anymore.
The establishment of reduced-tail-swing or compact-tail-swing machines as members of the crawler-excavator product family is no more evident than in the class of machines weighing 40,000 to 60,000 pounds. One leading manufacturer even offers two slimmer-bodied models in essentially the same size; another goes so far as to describe the market for reduced-tail-swing machines in this range as being "mature."
The ability to swing a machine and not have the counterweight extend into an additional lane of traffic or bang into a tree is an equipment trait North American construction equipment users are increasingly cognizant of when considering their product choices. To that end, says Caterpillar's Kent Pellegrini, his company offers both the reduced-radius 320D LRR and "true-compact-radius" 321D LCR in the 52,000- to 54,000-pound range, beyond the standard 320D L, which runs up from about 47,500 pounds.
"Our normal 320 working in a single lane will have a counterweight that extends over," says Pellegrini, Caterpillar excavator industry manager. "With the 320D LRR, we have reduced that counterweight down to where we can load pipe, we can load a truck, without closing down two lanes of traffic.
"No one wants to shut down traffic for 10 months. If you can reduce that by having a machine with a reduced tail swing that lets them work in a range where they can work efficiently and get the job done, and not cause a lot of problems to the public, it makes life a lot easier. It just makes the job go smoother."
Also among the established providers of a short-radius machine in the 40,000- to 60,000-pound class is Case, which has offered its largest minimum-swing-radius machine, the 53,000-pound CX225SR, for the past five-plus years. Retail sales for it and the smaller CX135SR are reflecting increased popularity of short-radius machines among medium-sized excavator users, says Dave Wolf, marketing manager.
"The convenience of not having to worry about that back side sure makes a big difference," says Wolf. "They can work in a lot more confined spaces."
A new player in the compact swing machine market in North America is Liebherr, which introduced the 924C Compact at the World of Concrete show in 2007. The appeal for this configuration is here to stay, because "more or less wherever you can drive the thing into, you can work there," says Bret Jacobson, Liebherr product specialist. "You can work on a road and only take up one lane; you can work in the woods and cut a narrower swath."
Thanks to concerted demo and marketing efforts, says Wolf, any skepticism about machine instability and weaker performance has lessened, if not dissipated.
"We had to get through all that," he says, "because there was a concern where people were thinking, 'Hey, this machine doesn't lift as much, or it won't perform as well.'
"I think once you get customers in those machines, they find out right away that they do have the performance."
The Case CX225SR boasts a lift capacity of 15,000-plus pounds — or still more than the standard-configured CX210B, which, although smaller, does benefit from the double-digit production and fuel-efficiency enhancements of the CX B Series introduction at World of Concrete 2007. The CX225SR has a scheduled engine tier change in the first quarter this year; a machine series upgrade will follow, probably next year.
For John Deere and Hitachi, from whom North American excavator introductions are in lock step, the reduced-tail-swing machines are "definitely a significant part" of the alliance's excavator offering.
"We've had a lot of growth in this area," says Trevor Pool, engineering supervisor for excavators, based at Deere's Dubuque Works, "and it seems like, at this point, it's really become a mature market for us."
The latest generation of the established machines, the Hitachi Zaxis 225USLC-3 and corresponding Deere 225D LC, hit market in mid-2007. Partnering with Hitachi "absolutely" provides Deere an access to legacy and experience in this product area. With the exception of machine fronts from the plant in Kernersville, N.C., the Deere and Hitachi excavators are manufactured in Asia.
"Hitachi obviously has its excavators in Japan, where space is at a premium. I actually just came back from four years over there with Hitachi, and space is definitely at a premium," Pool says with a laugh. "They have definitely tailored these machines to work in those tight areas and have the distinct experience at it. They offer a significant number of additional models over in Japan, and we have picked up the ones that fit our market the best."
In the case of Liebherr, the one and only compact-swing excavator offered in North America, the 924C Compact was introduced in Europe only about a year before its 2007 rollout at World of Concrete.
"That machine was designed completely from scratch as a compact-swing excavator. It wasn't a modification of a standard machine," says Jacobson. "To do that obviously takes longer in design and prototyping than trying to chop five feet off the back of an existing product.
"We actually did something else that a lot of the other machines don't have: We have a full-sized cab on there, which in America was important for us to have . . . that we didn't have some little shrunken-down cab that we would fit on there."
At Deere/Hitachi, "the cab on a 225 is slightly smaller overall" than a standard-configured excavator, says Pool. "However, what we've done is try to maintain the space that the operator actually uses — keep that the same. All of the D-Series and the Zaxis Dash-3 machines have those shorter pilot levers. You're not going to see a difference in the feel in the operations."
A 47-percent increase in window area for the new-generation Deere and Hitachi excavators extends to the reduced-tail-swing machines, says Pool.
While the reduced-tail-swing excavators are in the 40,000- to 60,000-pound weight class to stay, it seems the move upward won't stop there.
"For this specific model, we might see a little more growth, but it's been out there for a number of years now," says Pool at Deere/Hitachi. "The model mix between say, a standard 200 and a reduced-tail-swing 225, we don't anticipate that changing much.
"We do see a demand for this type of machine in other size classes."
At Liebherr, "there's more to come" beyond the 924C Compact, but not in the immediate future, says Jacobson.
"There's growth," says Case's Wolf, "and there seems to be more demand even to try to get it in bigger sizes."
Beyond the 321D LCR, Caterpillar already offers the 72,500-pound 328D LCR and, points out Pellegrini, product development in this area is not a matter of shape or size, but rather what customers need.
"It all depends on the job they want to get done," he says. "It's all job-driven: 'Can that machine pick up that pipe and place it on the trailer, without overhanging into the second lane?'
"They're faced with issues on a dailybasis. We're providing a solution to fix the problem."
|The Cost of Ownership|
|Weight (lb.)*||List Price||Hourly Rate**|
|* Operating weights are converted into pounds from metric-ton ranges.|
|** Hourly rate is the monthly ownership costs divided by 176, plusoperating costs. Unit rates used are diesel fuel at $3.38 per gallon, mechanic's wage at $44.79 per hour, and money costs at 4.75 percent.|
|Source: EquipmentWatch.com, phone 800/669-3282|
|Crawler-Excavator Specifications (40,000 to 60,000 pounds)|
|Model||Operating Weight (lb.)||Arm Length||Dig Depth||Lift Capacity (lb.)*||Net Engine Output (hp)||Tail-Swing Radius|
|* Lift over the end, at a 20-foot radius, at ground level.|
|Source: Spec-Check.com Xpanded Specs (as of January / 08)|
|Gradall XL4200 II||42,050||n/a||21′9″||8,095||146||9′0″|
|Caterpillar 318C LN||42,440||8′10″||20′10″||11,870||125||8′4″|
|Caterpillar 318C L||43,320||10′6″||22′6″||12,140||125||8′4″|
|Kobelco ED190 Blade Runner||43,700||10′2″||21′5″||10,880||112||8′2″|
|Hitachi Zaxis 200LC-3||47,015||9′7″||21′11″||14,248||159||9′0″|
|Case CX210B N||47,200||9′8″||21′9″||14,903||157||9′3.4″|
|Terex TXC 225LC-2||47,400||9′6″||21′9″||15,160||148||9′0″|
|Link-Belt 210 X2||47,400||9′8″||21′10″||14,500||157||8′11.1″|
|Caterpillar 320D L||47,554||9′7″||22′1″||14,700||148||9′0″|
|Kobelco SK210LC Acera Mark 8||47,800||9′8″||22′0″||14,940||150||9′0″|
|New Holland E215B||47,800||9′8″||22′0″||14,940||150||9′0″|
|Caterpillar 320D L Mass Boom||47,989||7′10″||19′4″||14,150||148||9′0″|
|John Deere 200D LC Super Long Front||48,502||20′9″||39′4″||11,260||159||9′0″|
|Volvo EC210C L||48,520||9′6″||22′1″||16,090||147||9′2.2″|
|JCB JS220 Long Reach||49,187||21′0″||39′4″||13,206||138||9′3″|
|JCB JS220 LC Tier III||49,470||9′10″||21′8″||17,725||172||9′3.2″|
|John Deere 200D LC||49,940||9′7″||21′11″||14,248||159||9′0″|
|Case CX210B LR||50,660||21′0″||39′5″||11,565||157||9′0″|
|Kobelco SK210LC Long Reach||50,700||20′10″||39′5″||12,330||148||9′0″|
|Link-Belt 210 X2 Long Front||50,710||21′0″||39′5″||11,550||157||8′11″|
|Volvo EC210C LR||51,200||20′6″||39′8″||n/a||147||9′2.2″|
|Link-Belt 225 MSR Spin Ace||51,376||9′10″||20′0″||14,450||138||5′6″|
|Caterpillar 320D LRR||52,249||9′7″||22′1″||15,650||148||6′7″|
|Caterpillar 320D L Super Long Reach||52,606||20′7″||38′6″||11,900||148||9′0″|
|Caterpillar 321D LCR||53,308||9′7″||22′0″||15,200||148||5′6″|
|John Deere 225D LC||53,936||9′7″||22′0″||15,484||159||5′6″|
|Hitachi Zaxis 225US LC-3||53,936||9′7″||22′0″||15,484||159||5′6″|
|Hyundai R210LC-7 Long Reach||54,000||20′8″||38′7″||9,550||143||9′3.4″|
|Liebherr R924 Compact||54,013||9′8″||22′4″||15,653||164||5′7″|
|Terex TXC 255LC-2||54,200||9′10″||22′4″||18,780||162||9′10″|
|John Deere 240D LC||54,434||9′9″||22′5″||17,721||177||9′7.8″|
|Hitachi Zaxis 240LC-3||54,434||9′9″||22′5″||17,721||177||9′7.8″|
|Caterpillar 324D L||54,660||9′8″||22′6″||18,750||188||9′10″|
|Link-Belt 240 X2||54,895||9′10″||22′8″||18,350||177||9′7.7″|
|Volvo EC240C L||57,110||9′9″||22′11″||20,540||168||9′8.5″|
|John Deere 240D LC Super Long Front||57,320||25′10″||47′1″||11,640||177||9′8″|
|Kobelco SK260LC Acera Mark 8||57,320||9′9″||23′0″||19,120||181||9′9″|
|JCB JS260 LC||57,450||8′0″||20′2″||19,246||160||9′10″|
|Caterpillar 324D L Mass Boom||57,871||8′2″||21′3″||17,850||188||9′10″|
|Link-Belt 240LX Long Front||58,900||26′3″||48′0″||12,140||162||9′6″|
|JCB JS260 Long Reach||59,648||26′1″||50′7″||10,040||160||9′10″|
|Kobelco SK250LC Long Reach||59,966||27′1″||48′6″||11,810||176||9′9″|