Posted April 19, 2023

Equipment Insight -- Excavators

Industry experts share how advances in excavators are changing the way these units fit into today’s rental centers.

New Holland excavator

The use of 2D precision solutions such as lasers, receivers and depth tools are growing in popularity. They now offer easier set up and use that makes it possible for novice operators to produce expert results.

JCB excavator

Choose models from a manufacturer with a proven track record for delivering purpose-built machines with easy maintenance and are tough enough to tackle any job site.

Bobcat Li-ion excavator

With a compact footprint and zero emissions, Li-ion-powered units can tackle tough jobs in small places indoors and outdoors.

Case wheeled excavator

if you’re the only rental business that offers a wheeled or long-reach excavator, it may establish a market of your own vs. chasing the existing market.

Cat excavator

Newer excavators include technology such as grade control and payload systems to help contractors be more efficient.

Cratos all-electric mini excavator

High-quality machines and proper routine maintenance will help to limit maintenance downtime, ensuring the job site is always running on schedule.

Hitachi excavator

Projects and contracts are increasingly requiring green requirements. Rental centers can differentiate themselves with equipment that meets those needs and be that provider of choice.

Ryan Anderson, New Holland

Ryan Anderson
Product Marketing Manager
New Holland

Excavators: The new precision tools
The biggest advances in mini excavators are not necessarily in the machines but in the precision tools that can be used with the machine. The use of 2D precision solutions such as lasers, receivers and depth tools are growing in popularity. They now offer easier set up and use that makes it possible for novice operators to produce expert results. Precision tools can maximize productivity by reducing under-digging and over-digging, reducing labor and material costs needed for corrective work. Precision tools increase the operator’s ability to do the job right the first time vs. having to fix mistakes.

Alternative fuels such as electric-powered vehicles are entering the market at a rapid rate. New Holland just introduced its first electric-powered mini excavator, the E15X. Electrified mini excavators have much lower maintenance costs due to not having an internal combustion engine and fewer moving parts. Electrified compact construction equipment is easy to start, easy to operate and easy to charge. Electrified vehicles such as mini excavators will be an ideal product for rental businesses that service a large DIY consumer market, landscapers and contractors that need a machine with low noise pollution and that don’t affect air quality.

When contemplating bringing new excavator models into rental fleets, consider whether a zero tail-radius or a conventional swing machine will better meet customers’ needs. If a customer is working in tight, confined areas, zero tail-swing radius units will be more suitable. If a customer is working on a larger job where lift capacity and digging performance are the priority, then a conventional swing machine would be ideal.

Buckets and couplers also play a pivotal role in machine configuration. There are four types of couplers: pin-on, Klac, mechanical pin grabber, and hydraulic pin grabber. Certain buckets only work with certain couplers, so it is important to outfit a machine correctly.

Pin-on couplers are great for infrequent bucket and attachment changes and apply the best breakout force. Klac couplers offer convenience for switching out buckets but result in a mild loss of breakout force. Mechanical pin grabbers work well when there are frequent bucket changes but have reduced bucket breakout force. Hydraulic pin grabbers offer the ultimate in bucket change convenience but also result in the greatest loss of breakout force.

Rental centers can increase demand or increase ROI by following proper preventive maintenance schedules. That can help avoid unexpected parts and service costs. Mini excavators are best known for digging and moving dirt, but they are lso excellent for installing fence lines, planting trees and building retaining walls.

To increase demand, having a wide offering of attachments for the wide variety of applications will increase the usability of a mini excavator. For example, rotary- and drum-style mulchers are becoming a popular attachment for mini excavators.

Javier Marin, JCB

Javier Marin 
Product Manager, Heavy Excavators and Wheel Loaders

Fuel efficiency important
The industry has become very technology heavy with features such as 2D and 3D control systems, telematics, camera systems and other features to make the operator more comfortable and confident in his or her work. With rising fuel costs, customers need a machine that produces more and consumes less fuel.

The 2D and 3D systems help ensure that the work is done correctly and users don’t have to second-guess the operator.

Electrification provides offers a more sustainable, zero emission at point of use and low-noise machine. With rising fuel costs and the potential for time savings, manufacturers now offer economical, tough and safe machines that can work a full day. Electric mini excavators allow customers to work in low-noise and low-emission work zones such as schools, zoos or hospitals. They may allow out-of-hours working to maximize uptime on site and job completion. Customers can also use these machines in municipalities with emission limitations.

Rental houses need to know they are dealing with a manufacturer with a solid performance history. Extreme durability and ease of maintenance are non-negotiable for today’s rental houses.

Therefore, choose models from a manufacturer with a proven track record for delivering purpose-built machines with easy maintenance and are tough enough to tackle any job site.

Rental houses should take advantage of telematics to minimize equipment downtime, plan routine maintenance and monitor for critical alerts. It can demonstrate the excavator’s service history which you can use when you decide to resell your machine. By planning maintenance, it ensures excavators are ready for rent and will be at peak operating condition for customers.

Rental centers need to ensure they are purchasing the correct equipment with the correct features from a manufacturer that has a proven track history. Missing a certain feature could mean the excavator might not fit the customer’s needs.

Drew Kolo, Bobcat Company

Drew Colo
Marketing Manager
Bobcat Co.

Li-ion powered units gain attention
Customers are seeing more battery-powered machines than ever before, and that includes compact excavators. Bobcat has introduced three models: the E10e, E19e and E32e that delivering all the benefits of electric power and zero emissions without sacrificing performance.

Featuring state-of-the-art Li-ion battery technology, these excavators perform as well as their diesel-powered equivalents. Under load, power supplied to the hydraulics remains consistent, offering precise workgroup functions.

The battery systems deliver high energy density, long service life and require no routine maintenance. With a compact footprint and zero emissions, the units can tackle tough jobs in small places indoors and outdoors. They are quiet and can operate even in dense, urban areas where noise restrictions can limit work hours. The E10e and E19e feature hydraulically retractable undercarriages for better access to confined areas. 

There’s an excavator to match most every working condition, job site requirement and project task, so consider what size, options and configurations best fit your customers’ needs. Compact excavators offer enhanced maneuverability, attachment versatility and impressive power in a small package, while large excavators offer the power and capacity for heavy-duty digging and lifting.

When evaluating new excavator models to bring into a rental fleet, consider machine durability and ease of maintenance to help reduce operating costs. Look for excavators that provide easy maintenance access to keep machines running at peak performance.

Offering a wide range of attachments can increase utilization and profits. Customers want to maximize every minute on the job site, and attachment variety and versatility helps customers do several projects with the same machine. Make attachment changes easy with use of a quick coupler. Customers will appreciate making the most of their time with rental machines that provide for efficient attachment changes.

Consider customer comfort options. Cabs with heat and air conditioning can keep customers comfortable regardless of the weather or job site conditions.

Diego Butzke
Product Manager
Case Construction Equipment

Consider operating ease
Many of the truths about selecting equipment for rental businesses remain the same: it must be built simple, it must be built to be reliable, and it must be intuitive enough that operators of any skill level can get in that machine and be successful. The more confident they feel in that machine, the more likely they will be a repeat customer. Easy and intuitive pattern switching, workstation ergonomics, flexible power modes and an informative yet unintimidating operator interface can help ensure success for rental centers and customers/end user. 

The most important thing to consider when looking to acquire new units for the rental fleet is the type of excavator the market is demanding. Having a real understanding of what the appetite is in the market will ensure optimal utilization and profitability.

Consider the physical size of the excavator. As excavators get bigger, rental centers need larger trucks, trailers and drivers with credentials to deliver them. Or can the customer pick them up, or will transportation have to be contracted with third-party haulers? 

What about service and support of that machine? Excavators of all sizes have service protocols that can have a big impact on lifetime owning and operating costs and the machine’s residual/retained value. For larger excavators, programs such as Case ProCare covers the warranty, telematics and planned maintenance. It comes with the machine and make owning and operating costs predictable. 

Attachments can drive utilization. They make excavators of all sizes even more attractive to renters and increase the applications and opportunities it can be out on rent and profitable.

There is a trend toward greater standardization of auxiliary packages. New models such as the Case CX42D excavator has standard multi-function one-way/two-way hydraulics and a standard second auxiliary two-way circuit as well as an optional third auxiliary circuit.

Manufacturers are making attachment controls more intuitive to help ensure proper operation. One o Case E Series excavators, operators can adjust hydraulic flow from the display based on specific attachment types.

Take a hard look at your market and determine what type of excavator or machine/attachment combination may give you an edge. For instance, if you’re the only rental business that offers a wheeled or long-reach excavator, it may establish a market of your own vs. chasing the existing market.

Rental is an area where we’re seeing increased demand for electrified equipment and mini excavators are well-suited for these applications. They can work inside, produce zero emissions and considerably less noise. Rental businesses need to assess the demand for electrified equipment in their area and how to best equip the fleet to support it.

Attachments are a key to increasing utilization. Look at the machine as a base asset that will do a core set of functions such as trenching, truck loading or stockpiling may have that machine out on rent 60 percent of the time. By adding attachments such as hammers, claws, compactors, the utilization rate could go up to 80 or 90 percent.

Review the equipment fleets in your territory to determine if machine control is used extensively. If one solution is predominant, the rental fleet should be equipped with that brand of technology or is equipped to be ready to add it easily, which will it more attractive to potential customers.

Brian Stellbrink
Senior Market Professional

Match units to market demand
Many rental customers are looking to get more done in less time, often with a single machine and fewer personnel. Newer excavators include technology such as grade control and payload systems to help contractors be more efficient. A standard grade control system can help operators stay on grade without over-digging. This helps save time, fuel and labor. A standard payload system helps prevent overloading or underloading trucks and can track productivity.

Safety is very important to customers. Safety features such as multi-camera systems, e-fence technology, cab avoidance and ground-level inspection points are becoming standard. Newer excavator models are more fuel efficient with power modes and engine idle shutdown.    

It’s important to match the excavator fleet to best meet market needs. This includes matching the work tool attachments and configurations for those models. Having the auxiliary hydraulics and configuration options to use the widest range of attachments provides the versatility to exchange attachments across machines in the rental fleet. This maximizes availability to customers and increases fleet utilization.

Consider other key configurations to best to meet the needs of customers. Excavators with rubber track pads or dozer blades and a compact radius may be attractive to customers. These can drive up acquisition costs and may be overkill for some customers, they can be highly valued and needed by other customers.

Size and configure new excavators properly for the rental fleet to appeal to the widest range of local customers. Train the rental staff on the latest features and technologies so they can advise customers on the best model for their application. This differentiates the rental center and its excavator offerings.

Bob McGuire, CRATOS

Bob McGuire

Electric units can offer a differential advantage
When it comes to new excavator models, the advances that are coming in the telematics information on the units’ displays as well as remotely are making a difference. The industry is also seeing advances in battery technology that yields longer battery life and more power.

When rental centers are considering adding new models to the fleet, the first step is to analyze the customer base they are serving or want to serve. Are they catering to interior demolition contractors? Do they have clients that are working in schools, hospitals, office buildings and other inside locations? Do they have contractors who work around food products or in processing plants that can’t have gas and oil around food products? These customers would have a great interest in electric-powered excavators.

Projects and contracts are increasingly requiring green requirements. Rental centers can differentiate themselves with equipment that meets those needs and be that provider of choice.

Thomas Lee, Develon

Thomas Lee
Director of Product Management
Develon (fka Doosan)

Select models that fine-tune performance
The new -7 Series excavators from Develon deliver the fuel efficiency, productivity, comfort, all-around visibility, intelligent controls and smart machine functionality that rental customers need to be the most productive on job sites.

Rental stores can select reduced tail-swing excavators; Develon offers three reduced tail swing excavators, including the DX350LCR-7 with an optional two-piece boom for use in confined spaces.

Selectable power modes for Develon excavators help balance fuel consumption and machine power based on rental customers’ working conditions. Plus, the D-EcoPower system on select models improves productivity and saves fuel.

Improved arm and bucket forces help in digging tough materials or lifting and loading heavy materials. The increased counterweight adds stability with heavier attachments, and a one-touch power boost can amplify hydraulic power for difficult digging tasks. A strong, productive swing torque allows them to swing uphill, improving backfilling performance.

A fine swing function provides greater control and accuracy, and an optional intelligent floating boom offers two settings that allow the boom to move with the contours of the ground.

The optional 360-degree all-around view monitoring (AVM) camera system displays a full view of the machine’s surroundings, giving rental customers greater confidence when operating or in tight work areas. It can be linked with optional ultrasonic sensors for greater awareness of objects behind the machine.

The DX225LC-7X excavator features a fully electro-hydraulic control system that enables advanced machine guidance and machine control systems. For operators, this results in improvements in productivity and efficiency.

Rental centers should consider attachment versatility when adding a new excavator to the rental fleet. Choosing an excavator with a hydraulic quick coupler allows customers to change attachments without leaving the cab.

Theft protection is another consideration. With standard telematics on Develon excavators, rental centers can help prevent theft with a geofencing feature, avoid unauthorized use of the machine, see when maintenance is due, view customize alerts, track oil pressure, operating temperature and more.

Patrick Baker, Hitachi Construction Machinery Americas

Patrick Baker
Product Manager, Large Excavators
Hitachi Construction Machinery Americas

Versatile units key to high utilization
Hitachi Construction Machinery Americas (HCMA) continues to develop productive, high performing, and efficient excavators to meet the high standards set by our customers and dealers. The new ZX-7 generation of mid- to large-sized excavators (13 to 90 ton) offer an array of features and benefits that add value to rental centers’ bottom lines.

ZX-7 excavators feature a much larger cab. The new 8-inch LCD monitor allows operators to preset up to 16 attachments with different flow ratings and pressures. They have next-generation hydraulic systems paired with the reliable Isuzu or Yanmar (ZX160/ZX190) engine, providing increased productivity and reduced fuel consumption. Strengthened undercarriage components and idlers, rollers and improved seals carry long-term reliability. Lastly, ConSite Air, HCMA’s telematics system allows rental centers to reduce downtime and keep an eye on service schedules.

Rental centers regularly have customers using excavators in several different applications. Hitachi designs, engineers and develops excavators to be simple, effective and productive.

Rental centers need excavators that perform in an array of applications and will not break down. The new ZX-7 excavators are reliable, fuel efficient and built to perform in the toughest working conditions. The -7 Hitachi excavators have heavy-duty boom and stick configurations for tough working conditions.

Rental centers can increase demand and ROI by offering a customer-focused, reliable, and productive excavators and ZX-7 excavators are all of the above. They feature extremely reliable, top-tier components to handle the wear and tear of the rental industry, meaning less shop time and parts repairs. The features and benefits of the Hitachi excavators will keep rental customers coming back specifically asking for the Hitachi on their next job and future projects for years to come.

Justin Steger, John Deere

Justin Steger
Solutions Marketing Manager
John Deere

Select models that match customer needs
John Deere’s current generation of excavators recently went from G-Series to Performance Tiering (P-Tier). The P-Tier models offer exceptional performance and features that customers expect, while the 200 G-Tier is a more economical machine that is rugged and reliable in the 20 metric-ton size class.

Some of the P-Tier compact models offer optional telematics and are simple to operate, solid-performing machines. They help rental companies maximize ROI with the ability to track their assets.

John Deere mid-size excavators have updates centered around maximizing uptime and fuel efficiency. Most models received improved front joint durability via central lubrication points at the arm tip and improved boom foot bushings. The 350/380/470 models feature a hardened pin and top hat bushing design that increases life and improves serviceability. Undercarriage durability improvements on the 130/300/350/380 P-Tier models include improved track chain tension that reduces track frame and component wear and reduces debris accumulation. Finally, the 210/250/300/350/380 models use electronic cooling fans that save up to seven percent in fuel consumption.

When thinking about adding new excavators into a rental fleet, understanding what size machines to put in a rental fleet is important. Smaller machines need to be easy to transport and larger machines need to be economical, solid performers. From past experience, these machines have been great rental machines based on popularity of size class: Deere models 30-85 P, 130 P, 200 G, and 210 P. Newer machines will attract customers and likely capture a higher rental rate as well.

Deere typically offers models in popular size classes to offer different price points and ROI based on what works for the rental company. For example, the 30 P offers the same power and performance as the 35 P at a lower price and is a slightly smaller machine that’s easier to transport. The 75 P is a conventional tailswing, offset boom machine that performs well and is a lower price than the 85 P with reduced tailswing and swing boom. The 200 G-Tier is a 20-ton machine with a 4.5L engine compared to the 210 P-Tier with 6.8L engine with grade control options.

Rental centers can improve versatility and ROI with couplers that can work with an existing line of buckets and attachments. For example, the John Deere 130-470 hydraulic coupler includes factory-installed hydraulic plumbing at the end of the arm. with coupler controls integrated into an in-cab switch. Compatible with multiple coupler brands, rental centers can quickly and efficiently install what they need.

Charles Baldwin, KATO CES

Charles Baldwin
Sales Representative

Consider repairability
With a push to go green and more jobs requiring contractors to use electric/battery-powered machines, the market for these types of machines is growing exponentially. Similarly, customers are asking for more efficient fuel consumption on engine-powered machines.

The newer machines run quieter and produce less vibration. Combine that with advances in attachments, different buckets and technology that provides cameras that cover blind spots, these machines are more efficient, serve more than one purpose and create a safer working environment.

As rental centers plan to add or replace excavators in the rental fleet, they need to consider serviceability. How easily can the machines be fixed and maintained to ensure they stay running on the job? Consider the simplicity of the machines and replacement parts availability.

Once the new machines are in the fleet, use daily maintenance checks. If the machine is out for rent, make sure the customer goes through the daily checklist before using the machine. Staff also needs to go through the checklist before sending a machine out on rent.

Every month, rental center managers should look at the utilization rates of each machine. Look at which machines are staying consistent, growing, or taking a downturn. Good rental center managers are open to changing fleet makeup based on what the market demands. 

Jim Joy, LiuGong

Jim Joy
Product Manager, Excavators
LiuGong North America

Availability drive selection
LiuGong is taking several steps to advance its excavator models to fit customer needs. The F-Series line of excavators provide more value through greater efficiency, enhanced features and better usability for the operator.

For example, the 9051FZTS and 6-ton class 9057FZTS compact excavators have rearview cameras with side mirrors as standard. This enhances job site safety and reduces the chance for collision. LiuGong medium excavators, such as the 922F and 936F, come with Cummins engines with increased torque at low torque and greater fuel efficiency.

Some of the best aspects of LiuGong excavators are the hydraulics. The factory has produced versatile configurations such as auxiliary 1 and 2 and hydraulic quick-coupler lines.

On the new 9051FZTS, 9057FZTS, 915FCR, 922F and 936F, the engines have three operating modes: power, standard and economy, so speed and engine power are adjusted to suit the operator.

LiuGong works to stay on top of what rental centers desire as they’re looking to bring new models into their fleets. With the F-Series, LiuGong made maintenance easier with large access areas for service. On the compact 9051FZTS and 9057FZTS, the flip-seat in the cab provides easier access for maintenance.

The second consideration is providing a tried-and-true product to ensure peace of mind for rental centers. With the key vendor relationships LiuGong has, such as Cummins for engines, ZF for transmissions and others in the works, LiuGong has regional tie-ins to key manufacturers. LiuGong’s relationships with suppliers and its growing dealer network means that LiuGong hasn’t been as impacted to supply chain issues as much as other manufacturers.

Dong Yuzhong, XCMG Excavating Machinery Division

Dong Yuzhong
Vice President, Research Institute
XCMG Excavating Machinery Div.

Green gains attention
XCMG has successfully launched and applied several new technologies for excavators. Its larger than 15-ton excavators are equipped with an electronically controlled hydraulic system that enables intelligent, unmanned use as well as high-precision micro-operations while increasing fuel efficiency up to 9 percent.

XCMG has developed several auxiliary construction systems that have reduced skill requirements and labor intensity for operators, including a grader and a one-touch automatic slope-adjustment system. XCMG has also made breakthroughs in intelligent environment perception, autonomous task planning and bucket trajectory tracking technology. XCMG’s unmanned solutions, with the XE75 as a prime example, have been commercially applied in solid-waste treatment plants with uninterrupted 24/7 operations.

XCMG has made progress in electrification of excavators. Earlier this year, the company launched four electric excavator models (XE27/35/215/270) that meet customer expectations for zero-emissions, low noise equipment. 

To increase demand and/or return on investment (ROI), rental companies prefer to purchase multi-use equipment with parts that can be replaced quickly. It’s best to have different sizes of buckets, thumbs, augers and hydraulic shears to address the needs of different users.

Kent Somerville, Volvo

Kent Somerville
Director, National Rental Accounts
Volvo Construction Equipment

Sustainability gains traction
Equipment that is more environmentally friendly is popular today. Volvo now offers three electric compact excavators and three large hybrid excavators plus a mid-sized electric excavator in the pilot testing stage. Sustainable power is a major focus at Volvo CE. Developing machine features and technology that support productivity and operator learning is another big focus. From 2D technology to advanced field design and even remote control or automation, excavator technology is entering its prime.

Volvo wants to expand access to its Operator Coaching app, a new version of Dig Assist, which is a radar device for improved safety.

Volvo’s Co-Pilot in-cab tablet became standard in 2019 with the goal of fully connecting machines in the future. Volvo now has Connected Maps, which allows any equipped vehicle to share its location, map out points or zones of interest and help maintain the flow of a job site, which also supports a safer site.

Volvo is also launching Performance Indicator, which ties into onboard weighing, helping operators and site managers track how much is being moved and spot opportunities for improvement. Finally, Volvo’s ActiveCare Direct monitors machine health and utilization trends. These technological tools can help save time and money in the long run for renters because they can pinpoint the sizes and number of machines needed for a job. Telematics will help prevent or shorten downtime.

With the current labor shortage, some owners or fleet managers also view these tools as recruiting and training advantages. Less experienced operators can learn directly from the machine and become more confident in their skills.

When bringing new excavator models into a rental fleet, work with customers to determine the right machine(s) and attachment(s) for them. Right sizing the excavator for the job will improve productivity, fuel efficiency and machine health, leading to a happier customer and better margins. Perks like helpful technology, comfortable cabs and easy-to-learn features are also essential.

This article originally appeared in the May-June 2023 issue of Pro Contractor Rentals magazine. ©2023 Urbain Communications LLC. All rights reserved.