Machine focus: SDLG B877 backhoe loader

PMV finds out why after trialling the SDLG B877 for just five days, UAE-based contractor, Delta Emirates, is looking to make the backhoe a permanent member of its fleet

Earlier this year, Delta Emirates trialled the SDLG B877 backhoe loader at the Living Legends development in Dubai, UAE.
Earlier this year, Delta Emirates trialled the SDLG B877 backhoe loader at the Living Legends development in Dubai, UAE.

If you were to ask Middle Eastern construction professionals what they knew about SDLG, their responses would probably include the words ‘wheel’ and ‘loader’.

The Chinese manufacturer is internationally renowned for its twin-boomed earthmovers. With over 40 years’ experience in wheel loader production, SDLG now leads the segment in terms of global export volumes.

Nevertheless, the Shandong-headquartered company hasn’t been resting on its laurels. On the contrary, it has been investing heavily in research and development activities, with the ultimate goal of becoming a full-line manufacturer.

SDLG entered the UAE market in the Q4 2013, in conjunction with its Emirati distributor, Pacific Machinery. The partners started out with a wheel loader-only line-up, but less than a year-and-a-half later, the they have their sights set on a larger slice of the pie. SDLG plans to add backhoe loaders, motor graders, and excavators to its Middle Eastern product offering before the end of 2015.

PMV travelled to Dubai’s Living Legends development to hear from somebody with hands-on experience of the firm’s latest line. Sami Elsisi, logistics manager at Delta Emirates Contracting, became one of the first end users in the region to test the SDLG B877 backhoe loader earlier this year.

“Delta Emirates is the main contractor at the Living Legends site; we are building 500 villas and 12 towers,” Elsisi began.

“We use a lot of machines: Caterpillar, JCB, and various other brands. During our trial of the SDLG B877, we used the machine to dig manholes and to make room for infrastructure, including the site’s water and electricity supplies. At this stage of construction, we tend to need smaller machines.

“We only needed the SDLG backhoe temporarily,” he told PMV.

The trial came at an opportune time for Elsisi and his team. Preliminary infrastructure work offered Delta Emirates the ideal opportunity to test the SDLG B877 in the field. So how did the backhoe loader stack up?

Elsisi said: “It was quite a small trial; just five working days. This is the first time that I have used an SDLG machine and it performed well. We have to bear in mind that this was not the hottest period of the year.
Temperatures tended to be in the 20°C range, so the B877 was working in relatively cool weather. Even so, we encountered no problems.

“I’ll have a better idea of the machine’s reliability when I’ve seen it operate during the summer months. If I try the B877 again during June, July, and August, for example, I’ll be able to tell you more about how the machine performs under high-stress conditions. During our initial trial, it worked exactly as it should. No leakage, no failure, and the hydraulic system functioned effectively,” he added.

Although Elsisi’s first impressions of the B877 were favourable, he’s cautious about passing judgment too early. Even so, the fact that his company is currently in negotiations to buy the demonstration unit suggests that he is confident about the unit’s ability to work in the heat.

During a whistle-stop tour of the region earlier this year, Jan-Erik Eriksson, SDLG’s business manager for the Middle East, visited the Living Legends site to test the waters.

“Eriksson came to see me in January and said that I could buy this machine used,” said Elsisi.

“We’re interested in purchasing the trial unit. Already, I have been in contact with my head office and I have requested that we make an offer for the machine. We’re currently working out the final price with Pacific Machinery,” he added.

Meanwhile, being privy to SDLG’s in-house testing results, Eriksson is supremely confident that the backhoe loader will be able to perform during the Middle Eastern summertime.

“The B877 has already proved itself capable operating in ambient temperatures of up to 50°C during SDLG’s own trials,” he pointed out.

Speaking to PMV about his meeting with Elsisi, Eriksson added: “He told me that the B877 had met his expectations. The machine had actually performed very well on site. Elsisi said that the backhoe loader compared favourably with other brands that he has used.

“We’ve also received positive feedback from other end users in the region who’ve trialled the machine. They have all reported that the unit performs well; that it’s just as good as other backhoe loaders of [the same] size,” he said.

Gasser Gamil, sales engineer at Pacific Machinery, is helping to broker the deal, and he’s confident that terms will be agreed upon soon.

“Up to now, it’s looking very good,” Gamil explained. “Elsisi has been negotiating with his company’s finance manager and machinery manager. Pacific Machinery has come up with a quotation so it’s just a matter of ironing out the final details.”

Encouragingly for Pacific Machinery and SDLG, the trial has also led to the prospect of repeat business with Delta Emirates, as Gamil explained.

“Our sales engineers have been offering quotations for B877s for use at the contractor’s other projects,” he revealed. “We’ve provided Delta Emirates with prices for both SDLG backhoes and wheel loaders.”

Despite their success, the trials that SDLG and Pacific Machinery have been conducting in the GCC are not solely for sales purposes. The partners are gathering customer feedback to optimise the B877 for the region.

“This is the only unit that we have imported so far for demonstration purposes,” said Gamil.

“We’re now in the process of making the changes that might be required for this region. Essentially, we trial the machine with a client, we collect their feedback, and we pass on any requested improvements to the SDLG team. They then tweak the backhoe loader to ensure that it is able to work effectively in this environment,” he added.

For example, the unit was previously tested by Al Hijaz Mechanical Equipment, one of the subcontractors working in conjunction with Delta Emirates at the Living Legends construction site.

“Al Hijaz passed on some recommendations for the hydraulics system,” explained Gamil.

“It was a little slower than they had anticipated. They wanted the boom to work faster in order to increase productivity. We sent the machine back to SDLG after the demonstration so that it could be adjusted in accordance with the Al Hijaz’s recommendations. The modifications were completed locally at the SDLG workshop,” he said.

By the time Delta Emirates received the backhoe loader for its five-day trial, the machine’s hydraulics system had been tweaked. Consequently, the only comments that Elsisi and his team had concerned the in-cab cooling system.
“There was a small issue with the air conditioning,” recounted Gamil.

“Delta Emirates said it needed to be stronger. This is a minor problem in winter, but in summer, it would be a bigger issue for the operator. Our maintenance team has already ordered the spare parts required to solve this issue. In fact, it might have been fixed already. Aside from the air conditioning system, everything worked perfectly for Delta Emirates,” he added.

Eriksson is also satisfied with the extent to which customer feedback is helping to shape the B877 for the Middle East market. Moreover, he is pleased with the fact that all of the requests have been minor.

“Feedback has generally resulted in very small adjustments,” he told PMV.

“A few brackets here and there, the locking mechanism on the rear windscreen, a footstep, a rail; that sort of thing, but not much else. We have also enlisted our dealers from the Middle East and Africa to trial the machine, and we’ve optimised the backhoe loader based on their experiences,” Eriksson revealed.

The B877 represents SDLG’s sole backhoe loader offering for the Middle East market. As such, the manufacturer and its regional partners have ploughed significant time and resources into ensuring that the model exceeds the expectations of their customers. Of course, in order to succeed, the backhoe loader will also have to deliver value for money.

“I often buy equipment second hand; not from Pacific Machinery, but from other suppliers,” Elsisi told PMV.

“Shovels, skid-steer loaders, boom loaders; I have bought a range of second-hand machines over the past 12 months. Mainly, I have purchased 2012 models. Buying used equipment is all about striking the right balance between quality and price,” he explained.

In this respect, the SDLG B877 is well placed to become popular amongst end users like Delta Emirates. With a base price of $45,000 for a single, new unit, the B877 offers a potent combination of value and reliability.

Indeed, this pricing structure already seems to have found a receptive audience. Elsisi revealed that he is open to the possibility of purchasing new SDLG machines from Pacific Machinery, should demand warrant such acquisitions. As he explained, the Living Legends development is due to complete in late 2015, but the contractor has plenty of other prospects on the horizon.

“Our equipment acquisition strategy will depend on whether or not we win more projects,” explained Elsisi.

“If we do, we will need more machines. Already, I have an Akoya project in Motor City. This is a 318-villa development due to start in March. We also have a 15-storey hotel in Al Habab, and the two-tower Al Fattan project.

“These are all new projects for us, so we are currently finalising the details of their respective mobilisation periods. If projects start on time, we’ll need more machines. It all depends on how things turn out,” he explained.

SDLG’s backhoe loader might have a way to go before it becomes a mainstay of the Gulf’s construction sector, but conditions seem favourable for the machine to make a name for itself in the region.

As projects continue to be announced, even contractors that remain cautious about investing in new equipment are likely to have their heads turned by the model’s attractive price tag.

For now, the B877 remains a plucky underdog in a segment dominated by more established brands. Nevertheless, if the model continues to impress end users during trials – and if SDLG remains committed to its region-specific design approach – this backhoe loader could well be a legend in the making.

Full range roll-out
SDLG plans to bring its full range of equipment to the GCC during 2015. The Chinese manufacturer aims to supplement its existing wheel loader line-up with backhoe loaders, motor graders, and excavators.

The firm is also in the process of strengthening and expanding its distribution network across the Gulf.

“2014 ended up being a very good year for SDLG in this region; we made significant deliveries in the latter part of the year,” said Jan-Erik Eriksson, SDLG’s regional business manager.

“Our forecast for 2015 reflects this fact. We believe that this year, SDLG and its partners will achieve double-digit growth compared to 2014’s Middle East sales figures.

“We want to enlarge our dealer network here in the Middle East. However, in order to do that, we cannot focus solely on wheel loaders. We have to make our full range of equipment available to the region,”he added.

With the support of his existing GCC distribution network, Eriksson is confident that the 2015 roll-out of SDLG’s full line-up is an achievable goal.

“I am convinced that our upcoming product introductions will be successful because I have complete trust in our dealer network,” he said.

“[For] a decade, we have had an excellent affiliate in the form of Volvo. Even so, we would not have been able to grow without the support of effective local partners,” Eriksson concluded.

Operating weight: 8,400kg
Bucket capacity: 1m3
Lift capacity: 1,800kg
Maximum digging force: 50kN
Maximum breakout force: 60kN
Engine: Weichai WP4G95
Rated power: 70kW at 2,200 rpm
Base price (single unit): $45,000

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