Excavator sector hit by fall in Chinese demand

Sales of excavators in Europe, Africa and the Americas have been healthy in early 2022, but China’s huge market has been hit by price pressures and renewed COVID lockdowns across the country
June 30, 2022
By Liam McLoughlin
Reduced demand in China for machines such as excavators has impacted Volvo CE’s results for Q1 2022
Reduced demand in China for machines such as excavators has impacted Volvo CE’s results for Q1 2022

Excavator and loader manufacturer Volvo CE says that net sales of its equipment in the European market grew by 13% in the first two months of 2022, influenced by a large number of investments in infrastructure and housing, while North America increased by 20% thanks to the high levels of housing construction and manufacturing in the region. Due to the strong demand for commodities, Volvo CE says South America has continued its robust rise in market demand with a 45% increase on the same quarter last year.

The manufacturer adds, however, that all of this has been affected by a 33% decline in China (the world’s largest market), primarily due to a spike in COVID-19 cases that has led to restrictions and lockdowns across the country, but also due to a price pressure that remains primarily on excavators. Asia, outside of China, has also been negatively impacted by price increases on machines in India, related to new emission regulations, and has reported an 8% fall.

Hyundai’s new HX180A L excavator
Hyundai’s new HX180A L excavator

Volvo CE says it is “demonstrating a solid performance during challenging times, while also continuing its evolution as a sustainable leader, not just for the company but for the industry and society as a whole”. It adds that Q1 has seen the successful launch of its first fully electric machine in the Asian market – the ECR25 Electric compact excavator – now available for customers to buy in South Korea and the introduction of a tailored CO2 Reduction Program aimed at helping customers realise their own unique goals towards carbon neutrality.

Volvo CE has recently unveiled its Connected Map solution, a positioning service which provides a visualised site overview for all machines - also non-Volvo machines - and vehicles on a site, accessible by personnel in the machines (via Volvo Co-Pilot or Android/iOS device) and in the office (via the Office Portal web platform).

Connected Map will visualise a host of typical jobsite features and landmarks, including roads to assist operators in navigating around the site, load zones, dump zones, speed zones as well as restricted zones. Points of interest such as offices, workshops and fuel stations can also be visualized, especially helpful for new or temporary operators. Single lane (narrow road) sections can be defined, notifying the operator if another machine is approaching within a single lane section helping to avoid traffic congestion.

Azadeh Fazl Mashhadi, service offer owner site solutions at Volvo CE, commented: “With Connected Map, users benefit from complete jobsite visibility. It gives them a visual overview in real time of the position of every machine, every vehicle and every visitor on a site connected to the App, helping to make their operation more efficient and more productive.”

Elsewhere in the excavator and loader sector, Hyundai is adding to its A-series range by introducing a further two compliant crawler excavators, the 16-tonne HX160A L and 18-tonne HX180A L.

The mid-weight machines are powered by the latest Cummins diesel engines, achieving Stage V emissions standards without the need for exhaust gas recirculation (EGR).

Hyundai says the excavators offer improved fuel consumption, deliver improved operating speed and performance, in addition to increased visibility and safety.

Features include the Cummins EU Stage V B4.5 diesel engine that delivers a 13% increase in power and 27% more torque than previous models.

There is an up to 5% improvement in fuel consumption in levelling and truck-loading operations in P mode, plus particulate matter (PM) reduction of 60% with no requirement for EGR.

The new Lifting Mode improves fine hydraulic control, using engine rpm reduction, power boost action and pump flow control, while upgraded Electric Pump Independent Control (EPIC) optimises hydraulic pump flow rate and power to match the machine’s working conditions.

Volvo CE’s Connected Map solution provides a visualised site overview for all machines
Volvo CE’s Connected Map solution provides a visualised site overview for all machines

Hyundai says the HX A Series excavators benefit from a range of state-of-the-art digital connectivity technologies. This includes the proven standard Hi-MATE remote-management system, that delivers high levels of service connectivity and remote diagnostic ability. The Mobile Fleet App has been updated to allow fleet owners easy access to machine operating data, including economical usage, utilisation and fault code recognition.

That Wi-Fi connectivity, using Miracast, allows the operator to use many of the functions of their smartphone, directly through the machine’s 8” infotainment screen. Drivers can operate their phones hands-free, listen to music directly from their smartphone and use a number of internet-based applications through the Miracast system.

Optional Engine Connect Diagnostics (ECD), which is an integrated resource between Cummins and Hyundai, allows technicians and dealers to support customers with diagnostic reports and engine performance data. HCE-DT Air also allows the customer to connect wirelessly through a smartphone or laptop on site.

Hitachi has unveiled the largest model in its new Zaxis-7 wheeled excavator range, the ZX220W-7.

It features the HIOS III hydraulic system which is said to achieve higher levels of productivity with better fuel consumption than previous models, reducing running costs. Operators can also control the fuel efficiency and costs with the all-new ECO gauge, which is clearly visible on the large LCD monitor.

Owners can further boost their profits by working on a wider variety of projects thanks to the excellent versatility of the Zaxis-7 wheeled excavator. It can be used with a broad range of Hitachi attachments, such as tilt rotators and buckets, breakers and sorting grabs, to suit the application. These are easily changed using the enhanced attachment support system and can be conveniently transported using the optional trailer support package. The new model can also be fine-tuned to suit the operator’s preference and jobsite requirements – for optimum productivity, while reducing fuel consumption.

The redesigned Zaxis-7 cab is designed to be ultra-spacious and comfortable, offering low noise levels and less vibration than the previous generation.
Hitachi says that operators will feel less tired at the end of their shift thanks to the synchronised motion of the seat and console. Easy operation also comes from: the new ergonomic design of the console and switches; convenient access to the controls; and features such as cruise control, automatic transmission and the optional ride control system that suppresses vibrations from the front attachment.

Added functionality to the easy-to-view screen and joysticks, and the auto working brake, has also been incorporated into the cab. The cab also offers a superior view of the jobsite to protect operators and the machine from potential hazards. Visibility is boosted by a 270-degree bird’s-eye view with the Aerial Angle camera system. Operators can choose from six image options on the monitor to view the immediate environment. Their vision through the cab’s front window is also improved by the slim steering column (with wider adjustment angle) and smaller steering wheel.

Hitachi says that, to enable operators to work more confidently and productively, even in challenging conditions, the Zaxis-7 wheeled excavators are fitted with new features such as LED work lights, a windscreen wiper with an increased sweeping area, and larger mirrors. Heated mirrors are also available as an option. For additional safety, the upper structure and front attachment will lock in place when the machine is in the correct position, for driving on public roads.

engcon is introducing a third-generation tiltrotator system for excavators
engcon is introducing a third-generation tiltrotator system for excavators

A new innovation continuously monitors the quality of engine and hydraulic oil, 24/7. Data is transmitted daily via two oil sensors to Global e-Service. These detect if the oil quality has deteriorated, due to contamination or low viscosity. It reduces maintenance and unscheduled downtime, and gives owners peace of mind thanks to scheduled servicing and a higher resale value.

HCME excavator product manager Wilbert Blom commented on the new ZX220W-7: “It offers outstanding versatility for a wide range of applications when used with Hitachi attachments, and delivers an exceptional performance – allowing our customers to create their vision.”

Swedish manufacturer engcon is adding two new products to its range. The company is introducing a third-generation tiltrotator system for excavators, featuring technology based on a newly developed type of valve in combination with smart software that collaborates with the excavator's load-sensing hydraulic system. This optimises both the tiltrotator's functions and the excavator's movements, which engcon says leads to smoother digging with higher precision. At the same time, the excavator's wear and need for maintenance also decreases.

"To meet increased demands for electrification, digitalisation, security and sustainability, we have developed a solution adapted for the future of digging," says Stig Enöström, founder and owner of engcon and the leader of the company's product development. “Our new tiltrotator system shows that engcon is at the forefront of innovative solutions that drive the development forward to reduce dependence on fossil fuels and thus the climate impact of excavators.”

With an app, the third-generation tiltrotator system also enables a higher degree of individual customisation in the form of improved possibilities for, amongst other things, connected remote diagnostics and mobile support.

In addition to the energy-efficient technology, the new series EC-Oil, the automatic quick-hitch system can easily and smoothly connect the tiltrotator and hydraulic gear automatically, without the driver having to leave the cab. engcon is also launching a newly developed compactor plate for 12-24-tonne excavators, that it says is a further step forward in making the excavator an effective tool carrier. The company adds that the new PC6000 compactor plate has been adapted for use under a tiltrotator, increasing the excavator's efficiency whilst reducing risk of personal injury. engcon says that combining a compactor plate with an excavator is becoming more common for soil compaction, reducing the number of machines or tools required for the task. Personal safety has also been increased by removing the need to have a person with a hand-operator compactor in a shaft with the risk of walls collapsing because of vibrations or a chain or strap breaking whilst lifting equipment. engcon says that all of this significantly increases workplace safety and, in addition, the working area becomes larger as it is possible to rotate and angle the compactor plate so that it follows the lines of the ground.

Johan Johansson, engcon designer and project manager for the new compactor plate, says that it has increased the flexibility of the excavators so that the excavator operator can tilt and rotate the compactor plate. “Among other things it’s possible to compress around slopes and wells, without constantly having to change the position of the machine. This means that the excavator can perform more types of work,” he adds.

A production run of the PC6000 compactor plate is planned for autumn 2022.

An L975F wheeled loader from Chinese manufacturer SDLG is showing its efficiency in demanding conditions at a gravel quarry in the Oman desert.

An SDLG L975F wheeled loader is excelling at a gravel quarry in the Oman desert
An SDLG L975F wheeled loader is excelling at a gravel quarry in the Oman desert

High temperatures and dust make the working conditions in the area extremely tough. However, Volvo-owned SDLG says the harsh working environment is the best test ground to verify the performance of its equipment. The loader is mainly used for ore handling, site preparation, civil engineering and aggregate loading at the quarry, and has earned a good reputation for its overall performance, productivity and fuel efficiency.

The owner of the unnamed quarry said: "The SDLG machine works 14-15 hours a day. Its loading efficiency is pretty high. It saves me a lot of time, compared with other brands I used before.”

The owner adds that the L975F’s centralised lubrication system has been impressive, making it very convenient to perform maintenance.

SDLG says the efficiency of the L975F stems from its reliable configurations. It features a Volvo box-type chassis with 5.5m³ bucket capacity as standard, and is powered by a Weichai WP10 engine with a maximum traction force that reaches 229kN.

The loader has a HT200 heavy-duty automatic transmission, and the lifetime can reach more than 15,000 hours. Its 3550mm wheelbase is claimed to be longer than that of most competitors and makes the machine more stable.

HCME strikes Ukraine deal with MHM

Hitachi Construction Machinery (Europe) has appointed Mobile Heavy Machinery Ltd (MHM) – part of the Alwark Group – as its authorised dealer in Ukraine.

Based in the port city of Odessa on the Black Sea in the south of the country, MHM will offer a wide range of Hitachi machinery to the market.

The new Ukrainian Hitachi (HCME) dealer will be authorised to sell medium (from the ZX70LC-5 to ZX400LCH-5), large (ZX470LC-5 to ZX870H-3) and wheeled (ZX170W-5 to the ZX210W-5) excavators, and medium (ZW180-5 to the ZW310-5) wheeled loaders.

As a consequence of the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February, the construction and related markets changed overnight and this has naturally had a huge impact on MHM’s strategy for the country.

Before the conflict, the construction industry had registered an annual growth of 23.9% in 2019 and 5.2% in 2020, and despite the pandemic this figure was also expected to increase in 2021 and beyond. This was scheduled to be supported by the government’s investment in the development of transport infrastructure, energy and utilities, and industrial construction projects (due to be completed by 2030) with additional financial assistance from the EU.

MHM’s regional director Ukraine, Raivis Veckagans, says: “It is of course currently difficult to make any forecast on the future of the market, but we remain as optimistic as possible despite the war. There has been incredible damage to Ukraine’s infrastructure and one day there will be a huge requirement to rebuild it with the supply and support of Hitachi construction machinery.”

Furthermore, MHM says it will embrace HCME’s value chain strategy to become the country’s first-choice solutions provider and help to build a better future. This will be achieved by providing the Ukrainian market with access to the Hitachi Premium Rental and Premium Used programmes, as well as remanufactured parts and the wide range of connective technologies available under the ConSite and Solutions Linkage banner.

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