The biggest excavator players discuss GCC demand

John Bambridge quizzes the Middle East's excavator suppliers about the product and market trends currently affecting their segment

The excavators segment  performed poorly in the  first half of 2016.
The excavators segment performed poorly in the first half of 2016.

There are few better bellwethers of the overall state of the construction industry than the fate of the excavators segment – the machine being the mainstay of almost every project and aggregates site.

However, the poor performance of the industry in the first part of this year is no secret. It is thus with candour that Steve Ryder, MENA field marketing manager for Case Construction Equipment, says: “The trading conditions for all construction equipment is very difficult at the moment across the Middle East region. The whole excavator market has been hit very hard, with a significant reduction in the number of units retailed, year-to-date. To be honest, all markets have shrunk significantly in the region with limited liquidity in the market.”

Ryder points to the UAE as the market that stands out as the most robust, with continuing projects in Dubai supporting the country at large. He adds that Case is holding its position despite the tough conditions.

For his brand, Takao Morito, group manager for Komatsu Middle East, notes: “We are doing extremely well in some markets, but we are still struggling in the price-oriented markets to gain a reasonable share. The UAE and Turkey are the most interesting markets for us, especially for 40-tonne class excavators and above.”

Piet van Bakergem, GM for Hitachi Construction Machinery Middle East, says: “The reputation of the Hitachi excavators is excellent in the market and we are increasing our market share. Customers decide to go for Hitachi for the total cost of ownership. High productivity, low fuel consumption, and maintenance cost are the key to our success.”

Getting into specifics, Case’s Ryder notes: “Case excavators range from 8t to 80t. These excavators are designed for high performance and durability. Whatever the job is, Case has an excavator that is right for this task, from bulk earthmoving and demolition, to scrap and materials handling. Our mainstream products for the region are our 20t-class CX210B, 40t-class CX370B, and 48t-class CX470B.”

For Komatsu, Morito says that excavators are still doing well, with the 40t- to 85t-class excavators the most commonly enquired about.

For Laurent Sarignac, product marketing consultant for excavation for Caterpillar in the MEA region, the roll-out of the D2 Series in 2014 has clearly turned out to be a success.

He says: “The 340D2L is already well established in the region. With its high, wide, and heavy-duty undercarriage, a 2.36m3 bucket, and the capability to carry hydraulic hammers up to 4t, it delivers the durability, quality, and performance our customers expect together with improvements, particularly reduced fuel consumption and fuel filtration to ensure optimum performance and reliability in areas where fuel quality is less than premium. For quarries, the 374F L and 390F L are the most fuel-efficient solutions.”

Bobcat has also more recently launched a new range of 1t to 2t compact excavators: the E17, E19, and E20. The new models are towable on trailers for up to 2,000kg, with the transport further enhanced by new tie-down points.

An expandable undercarriage, automatic slew brake, and advanced diagnostics and instrumentation, are just some of the many standard features included on all three excavators.

But Bobcat is not the only manufacturer eyeing the segment, as Case’s Ryder explains: “The mini-excavator market is a small market, but a growth opportunity for Case. We will be developing our product offering in the region to improve our coverage for this market.”

Komatsu’s Morito concurs that the segment is interesting and likely to grow in the future.

Hitachi’s Van Bakergem says: “Minis have our attention, since there is a growing demand from public works in the city to operate with rubber city pads to protect the pavement. Our minis are multifunctional and designed to fit many different attachments.”

Dave Wood, Caterpillar product application specialist for mini-excavators, says: “Over the last few years, there has been a steady growth within the Middle East of mini-excavators being used on building and landscaping jobs. The Cat range offers no fewer than six models of mini-excavators below 3t to suit a variety of different customer needs.

“Their compact size hides a very productive and powerful package. A swing boom allows the machines to dig right up to a wall, and the ability to rotate the excavator through 360° extends the working range and makes truck loading easy. The need for high productivity in confined sites, coupled with a growing need for more fuel-efficient machines, makes these excavators the ideal tool for demolition, landscaping, and work in confined areas.”

The E20 2t model in Bobcat’s new range is a so-called Zero Housing Swing (ZHS) excavator, which means that, despite featuring a full-sized cab, it still provides 320° of free rotation when working close to structures, without sacrificing operator comfort or performance.

And Bobcat isn’t the only manufacturer going big.

Case’s Ryder highlights the B Series, which, with one of the largest cabs on the market, provides the operator with plenty of space to move around and to get comfortable.

At the same time, exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) helps the B Series engine to meet Tier III emissions regulations, resulting in lower fuel consumption, while a super-fine synthetic filter gives 5,000-hour hydraulic oil change intervals, reducing downtime and operating costs. The redesigned boom and dipper arm have increased strength and durability, and the electronics are now waterproofed for ultimate reliability.

GETTING ATTACHED

On the attack with attachments, Morito highlights: “Komatsu is always keen to listen to [customers]and provide the most cost-effective solution. Therefore, we recently launched our PC500-8R1 excavators, our JTHB-3 rock breaker, and our specular Xcentric Ripper.”

Certainly an interesting departure from the popular South Korean hydraulic breaker design, the Spanish manufactured Xcentric Ripper claims efficiencies of between two and five times that of conventional hydraulic breakers, and even functions underwater.

Ryder says the use of attachments in the region is still fairly limited, and focussed on hydraulic breakers, but slowly evolving.

Hitachi’s Van Bakergem says: “A lot of our end-users are using breakers in their daily operation, but if you look to the extension of the canal in Dubai [...], you will see a lot of EX 1200s with long booms finalising the waterworks. You would recognise them by their swing-speed.”

Hydraulic hammers are in high demand in the Middle East, adds Caterpillar’s Sarignac, who says: “In addition to our best-in-class E Series hammers, we introduced three models from 1.8t to 3t: the B20, B30, and B35 – designed for performance, ease of use, and serviceability.”

Also pushing its attachments in the region is MB Crusher, which has recently expanded its selection of products to include the MB-R hydraulic drum cutters, which are available in three models for excavators from 6t to 35t.

Particularly suitable levelling concrete in quarry excavation, tunnelling, demolition, and road works, the drum cutters MB have won the trust of even the more demanding operators with their high performance. Accuracy and reduced size makes them ideal for applications in urban areas and confined construction sites that are generally difficult to manage with larger machines.

THE WIDER MARKET

Looking to the near future, Case’s Ryder and Komatsu’s Morito view the market as subdued, and don’t anticipate any immediate signs of recovery, even with the recovery of oil prices.

Van Bakergem adds: “Obviously for Hitachi, like with all our colleagues representing other brands, the low oil price is leaving its mark. Setting that aside, with pro-active behaviour in combination with product development, we are attracting customers and growing our customer base by expanding into other markets.”

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