Cat’s new mini hydraulic excavator range is starting to make an impact in the Australian market as Cat dealers get out with national demo days.
Caterpillar dealers in Australia and New Zealand conducted a series of customer demo days for the company’s one- to two-tonne next-generation mini excavators in February and March. The demo days took place in 25 locations with more than 350 operators given the opportunity to trial the machines to see what all the fuss is about.
Cameron Balzat, Asia-Pacific marketing manager for Caterpillar’s compact product range, explained how the demo days shaped up for the company. “Our plan has been to expose this new range of machinery and its game-changing features to as many contractors as possible which has led to our dealers putting on over 40 demo days around the country,” he says.
“We really want as many people as possible to sit in the operator’s seat and experience our next-generation technology and what it can do,” Balzat says.
With many of the demo days having been completed what has been the experience so far?
“The typical feedback I have been hearing has followed two main themes,” Balzat says. “Firstly, it’s ‘Wow, these are impressive machines,’ followed shortly by, ‘I didn’t expect these to be so different. Most mini excavators of this size class you could throw a blanket over.”
So, what has impressed at the demo days?
“It’s quite a long list but we’ll start with what an operator experiences when he gets into the seat,” Balzat says. “First thing to notice is the feeling of space and comfort. The suspension seat provides a nice comfortable feel and there are no foot pedals on the floor, giving more space to operate without feeling restricted. This is due to Cat putting both the auxiliary hydraulics and boom swing functions – typically found as foot pedals – onto the joysticks.
“Then users will notice the control monitor. Most machines of this size have a few basic gauges for fuel, temperature and an hour meter. Cat’s next-generation LCD monitor provides the required gauges but there are also a number of other functions typically found on larger size machinery.
“The keyless start system is something that most people are immediately impressed with,” Balzat says. “Why? Cat has adopted a Bluetooth-enabled key that allows users to start the machine with a push of a button. This is similar to automotive-style starting where the key needs to be near the machine to start. But Cat has gone a step further than automotive as you don’t actually need the key to start the machine. For instance, if you leave the key at home, you can still start the machine by entering a passcode set by the owner. There is space for up to 50 passcodes, so every member of a crew can have their own.”
Once the engine is started, it’s ready for work.
“This where Cat’s exclusive stick-steer system and cruise control comes in,” Balzat says. “By pushing a button on the joystick, you turn the machine from a traditional excavator into one that drives like a skid steer in that the left-hand joystick drives anywhere you want to go – simply point your joystick and the tracks respond.
“Operators have taken to this function with ease and have become comfortable with using stick steer within seconds,” he says. “The beauty of stick steer is that we combine this with a couple of other functions: cruise control (just like a car) so if you are tramming long distances you just push a button and drive stays active so you simply steer
“Then auto two-speed will automatically kick down from rabbit mode when turning, and then kick back when going straight, getting you where you need to go quickly and without hassle.”
After this, an operator then gets to work, which is where the engine comes into its own. Cat have put a C1.1 that delivers over 21hp. This may not sound so impressive but it’s 20 per cent higher than the previous model, which was already the most powerful machine of this size class available in the market.
“The power increase gives us the ability to do some interesting things,” Balzat says. “First, we have the power to offer an airconditioned cab in the below two-tonne size class. This has not been previously done in the industry as it has not been possible to both cool an enclosed cab on a hot day, as well as deliver the required power to dig at the same time.”
“Second, we have the ability to increase or reduce hydraulic response through the control monitor, which the engine power enables. This give operators the flexibility to dig with fast cycle times, or if working in delicate areas, very steady and measured movements but still powerful breakout.”
“There is a whole lot more in these machines that need to be seen to be appreciated,” Balzat says. “However, it’s these key areas that operators have found so impressive at the demo days. Keyless start, stick steer and the ability to customise each machine to the operator’s preference, as a combination, is something people who came to the demonstrations did not expect to see and did not think was even possible in such a small package.”