Kobelco: Where performance meets design
Written by: Roads & Infrastructure Magazine
THE NEW SHORT RADIUS ‘DASH SEVEN’ SERIES EXCAVATOR RANGE FROM KOBELCO HAS MANAGED TO IMPRESS SOME OF THE INDUSTRY’S MOST SEASONED OPERATORS. CHRIS WOLF FROM KOBELCO AUSTRALIA DISCUSSES THE SERIES’ KEY DIFFERENTIATORS.
As a seasoned operator, Dale Haycock has sat behind the controls of almost every excavator brand in Australia. For the past three years, he has exclusively operated Kobelco machines, and yet when his company, Carmark, acquired a new 14 tonne short radius Kobelco SK135SR-7 recently, he was impressed with the upgraded features.
One key improvement he has noticed in the new ‘dash seven’ model from Kobelco, he notes, is the enhanced operational power.
“Cycle times in the new Kobelco machine are shorter compared to its predecessor,” he observes. “Bucket movements are quicker when you do a full slew, and the machine has more power.”
Fuel efficiency is another key differentiator from Haycock’s perspective, where he has noticed significant savings on fuel costs compared to the machine’s predecessor.
But, perhaps most notable for Haycock, are the improvements in the operator station.
As an earthmoving equipment operator for Carmark, a Queensland-based civil construction and equipment hire company, he spends an average of eight to 12 hours per day on various infrastructure projects, from road and residential subdivision to bulk earthworks in ports and airports.
“The new cabin design has more leg room, it’s a good cabin size and the seats are really comfortable. I also like the Bluetooth radio and hands-free system. The reversing cameras are a big step change in the new model. They can show different views around the machine, not just the rear view. Also, the air conditioning is quite powerful, which helps when we work in hot regions in central Queensland,” Haycock shares.
A DELIBERATE IMPROVEMENT
For Chris Wolf, General Manager of Marketing and Direct Sales for Kobelco Australia, Haycock’s comments echo with similar feedback he has been receiving from other Kobelco operators.
“The reality is that the ‘dash seven’ is probably the biggest machine launch we’ve ever had in Australia,” he says. “We started with a clean sheet of paper and re-designed the entire machine effectively, so it’s a whole new generation of short radius excavators.”
The significant performance improvements in the SK135SR-7 machine and the other models in the SR-7 (short radius dash seven) series, including the SK85MSR-7, the SK75SR-7 and the SK140SRLC-7, are deliberate, Wolf says.
“The ‘dash seven’ series is the first generation of machines that Kobelco developed under a new design philosophy called ‘Performance Meets Design’. The term is used to describe our ambition to deliver class leading performance and a modern machine design that puts operator comfort front and centre,” he says.
“We wanted to have a machine that’s class leading in all key performance specs, including in engine performance, bucket break-out force, slew torque and tractive force. On top of that, we took the opportunity to re-launch the platform and re-imagine a new machine that delivered performance benefits that the operator would really appreciate.”
This focus on user experience has translated into an excavator with a significantly more comfortable operator station, Wolf says.
“All of our machines are complimented by operators on their quiet and comfortable operator stations. But the ‘dash seven’ series takes this a step further with the introduction of a bird’s eye view camera that enhances operator’s visibility. In this system, images from three cameras are combined to offer a surround view of the machine, which helps improve safety.
“Part of this improved visibility is also due to a 10-inch high-resolution colour display screen installed at the front console, which is the largest of its type,” he explains.
Also, when it comes to cabin comfort, little things can go a long way, Wolf observes.
“All of Kobelco’s SR-7 series excavators are equipped with premium air suspension seats made by Grammer. The seat provides flexible adjustments of control and body position, along with very good lumbar support and a heat switch for cooler months.
“The design is also mindful of little things that make a big difference for operators. For example, a slot for holding mobile phones in front of the joysticks and a purpose-built charging cable routing means operators can use the machine’s hands-free Bluetooth wireless system and stay connected throughout the day while they continue the job.”
CLASS-LEADING IN EVERY ASPECT
So how does the SK135SR-7 deliver on Kobelco’s ambitious new design philosophy?
Wolf says the excavator carries on Kobelco’s legacy of fuel-efficient excavators, while taking performance to a new level.
“Kobelco is well established in the market as a fuel efficiency leader. It’s a given with all of our models and our customers have repeatedly testified to the more economical performance of our excavators in all classes.”
While multiple factors contribute to the efficiency of Kobelco machines, Wolf says the latest generation of Kobelco machines are exceptional in how they marry fuel efficiency with class leading operational performance.
“Fuel efficiency is based on a number of factors. It starts with powering the machine with a high-performance, high efficiency Japanese engine. Our large excavators use a Hino engine, while the smaller machines utilise Isuzu and Yanmar engines.
“The other aspect that sets us apart from the competition is our hydraulic control system – referred to as the Intelligent Total Control System or ITCS. It’s an advanced pump control system, which contributes to fuel efficiency. The ITCS system constantly takes inputs from the machine systems alongside operator inputs, and balances that with the available engine power, instantaneously controlling pump flow. This allows the hydraulic system to precisely deliver the amount of flow required for the job to whatever hydraulic circuit requires it – no more and no less. In this way, we save fuel without compromising performance.”
What this translates into is a machine that can handle heavy excavation work as well as precise fine control operations with proportionate power, delivering better fuel efficiency and fine controllability, Wolf says. It also means faster operations in the field.
“Kobelco has designed the SK135SR-7 to provide 10 percent faster cycle times than the previous generation. It also features 17 percent more bucket break-out force than the previous model. Together, this leads to substantially improved digging performance,” Wolf says.
“One other thing that factors into machine performance is the drawbar force, which translates to pushing power. Most machines in the 14 tonne plus range are equipped with a dozer blade, so it’s important to have strong drawbar force and we are happy to report that we are best-in-class on that as well,” he adds.
LOW-MAINTENANCE AND RELIABLE
Even before acquiring the SK135SR-7, Carmark’s fleet included Kobelco excavators in a range of capacities, from the 5 tonne mini excavator to the 23 tonne short radius heavy excavator.
Carmark was recently engaged for a major 12-month project to help upgrade Brisbane Airport’s taxiway. The company’s fleet of Kobelco machines has helped deliver the majority of bulk earthworks for the project.
Sam McLachlan, the Manager of Carmark, says he is satisfied with his Kobelco fleet, particularly for their comfort, reliability and compact design.
“As a plant hire business, repeat customers make up a big part of our business, so we need reliable machines to turn around the jobs in minimum time and with a high quality. That’s where our reputation comes from,” McLachlan tells Roads & Infrastructure.
“The Kobelco machines are compact, so they are perfect for doing close proximity work on roads and highways. Another benefit with Kobelco’s excavators is that they are very low-maintenance machines, which is why we keep choosing Kobelco as we grow our fleet.”
QUALITY CUSTOMER SERVICE
The quality service from Kobelco’s authorised dealership is another reason Carmark is comfortable purchasing from Kobelco, McLachlan says.
“We have great relationships with our Kobelco dealer in Brisbane, which is BrisVegas Machinery. They do the majority of our servicing and they have shown tremendous customer support for the Kobelco machines,” he comments.
According to Wolf, Kobelco has ensured its customers get a uniform experience across its national authorised dealer network.
“Similar to Kobelco, our dealers and representatives in every state and territory are focused on customer service. Kobelco Australia supports its dealership network with regular technical training and parts supply. Our distribution warehouse in Sydney has over 10,000 line items on the shelf at any time, which supports our excavators Australia-wide,” he says.
In October, Infrastructure Australia’s first ‘Market Capacity Report’ predicted a 125 per cent growth in demand for construction equipment in Australia over the next three years. Combined with global supply chain disruptions, this poses to impact equipment supply in the coming years. But, as Wolf explains, Kobelco’s position remains strong as the only major construction equipment supplier with a single item on offer – hydraulic excavators.
“We’ve been fortunate in Australia that the earthmoving industry has remained buoyant through the pandemic, and 2021 is shaping up to be the biggest year on record in Australia in terms of industry equipment sales,” he notes.
Asked what sets Kobelco apart from other excavator suppliers, Chris concludes, “Kobelco is unique as a supplier of excavators in Australia, in that we are the only single line manufacturer in the market, which means we are laser focused on building the best excavators available. We believe in ‘doing one thing, and doing it right,’ and we will continue to deliver on that promise for our customers.”