Geoff Smith, Dealer Manager Construction Department at Kubota UK, shares what considerations operators need to take into account when purchasing or hiring a mini-excavator.
With the government searching for ‘shovel-ready’ projects, and the housing market whirring back to life, we should begin to see restored and increased construction activity that will help significantly in driving the national economic recovery. As a result, careful consideration will need to be made over any new machinery investment, in particular mini-excavators.
Given the current situation, it has rarely been more imperative for builders to understand what factors to consider before committing to a mini-excavator purchase to make sure they are getting the maximum return on investment.
With project demands differing from site to site, having a machine that is versatile and can meet the needs of any application is an absolute must. An excavator is a significant investment, so it should excel in even the toughest environments.
Whilst it is difficult to anticipate future site needs, it’s important to understand what mini-excavator performs best for the work operators will be undertaking, now and in the future.
For example, movement on site can often be restricted when working in and around pedestrian areas or in areas only accessible from indoors. Fortunately, many of the latest mini-excavators can adapt to their environment with ease by utilising a retractable undercarriage.
This impressive feature allows operators to retract the undercarriage for easy manoeuvrability through doorways, gates or alleyways, and then simply extend it when they are ready to begin work. When coupled with a smaller overall machine size and weight profile, a retractable undercarriage means an excavator can truly go anywhere.
Excavators can also be split into two broad categories: conventional or zero tail swing. If your project requires it, zero tail swing excavators provide an even more compact profile as the tail stays within the overall area of the undercarriage when facing forwards, significantly reducing the chance of damage to the rear-end of the machine.
Another major area of focus should be the quick-hitch system. Selecting the right excavator means knowing what attachments are required and if they are compatible with the new machine. This is an important consideration as attachments and quick hitches are one way to accomplish multiple tasks with a single machine, resulting in increased productivity and reduced operating expenses.
Quick hitch systems come in two categories, mechanical or hydraulic. Mechanical quick hitch systems require an operator to dismount from the excavator and secure the bucket with a release lever and a locking pin. They are, however, less expensive and usually require less maintenance.
Hydraulic quick hitch systems on the other hand allow the operator to change buckets without getting off the machine. This means an operator can remain in the cab and attach or detach attachments with the push of a button, enhancing productivity levels. In contrast to mechanical, hydraulic quick hitch systems are more advanced components, which will require a larger investment and may require additional maintenance.
When considering mechanical and hydraulic quick hitch systems, if you have a good maintenance regime in place, you may want to consider hydraulic versions as they provide a better end user experience.
Transportation and security
Ensuring mini-excavators can be transported easily from site-to-site is also a key consideration, and this is another area where they naturally excel. If the excavator needs to be transported by a car and trailer, it’s generally accepted that you should be looking at no more than a 2.5 tonne machine, as adding accessories and attachments to this will quickly see operators above the national 3.5 tonne trailer limit.
Similarly, look out for easy to use tie down points, which Kubota now install, so you can secure the excavator to a trailer or flatbed safely, easily and quickly. It’s crucial not to underestimate the time (and therefore cost) savings for features like these, as over the lifetime of a machine they can result in hundreds of hours extra time on the job.
Unfortunately, a consequence of increased portability can sometimes be an increased risk of theft, so it’s essential to be aware of the necessary safety features. In particular, it is advised that operators utilise a mini-excavator with an alarm, ideally that meets Thatcham Security Certification. For example, all Kubota mini-excavators come with a unique key as standard, unlike many products in this category that use general keys that can unlock several vehicles. If an operator was to try and start the engine with the wrong key and an alarm will sound, which will only stop when the right key is used. Not only does this technology help prevent theft, it can also assist in reducing insurance premiums, which should be factored into the overall cost of the product.
Reliability is perhaps the most important factor. While operators should be on the look out for the CE mark, denoting adherence to European standards and upgrade to more reliable parts where possible, this largely comes down to how much you trust the brand you’re purchasing from, particularly in the current climate.
Reliability is the sum total of the attention to detail taken at every stage of the manufacturing process, from materials to quality control, and through this method Kubota has established itself as the industry leading authority on excavator machinery. In a time where any significant investment will be scrutinised, Kubota is renowned for delivering high performance mini-excavators that are capable of meeting the demands of any task, so operators can maximise the return on their investment.
To learn more about Kubota and its excavator offering visit https://kuk.kubota-eu.com/constructionmachinery/?country=gb