On-Site Magazine

Big growth in smaller machines


Construction Equipment Equipment Technology

The compact construction equipment segment continues to grow.


Demographics, economics, environmental concerns, and technological advances are behind the surging popularity of compact construction equipment, say industry experts.

“Growth drivers include urbanization, upgrading and expansion of infrastructure, commercial and residential development,” says David Caldwell, national product manager with Takeuchi-U.S. “As the world’s population continues to grow, there’s an ongoing need to expand existing infrastructure and create new infrastructure, primarily in urban locations. Compact equipment can work in these confined spaces due to its smaller size and better maneuverability.”

“Yesterday’s compact equipment models were reserved for cut-and-dried utility work, utilized either for quick, precise tasks when a larger machine didn’t make sense, or one-off jobs that may not necessarily have been lucrative for a contractor,” adds Mike Fitzgerald, Bobcat’s marketing manager. “Thanks to significant advancements in performance and productivity features, however, operators can rely on today’s compact equipment for a wide variety of demanding tasks.”



“The industry for small excavators continues to grow because of their overall versatility. Small excavators can handle many jobs from start to finish, eliminating the need for additional equipment onsite. An example is digging a hole, loading a truck, backfilling, compacting and then final grading, all with just one operator and one machine,” explains Brian Riniker, product manager for small excavators at John Deere.

“Compact construction equipment offers increased maneuverability and allows operators to excavate or load near buildings and structures that traditional construction machinery cannot access. These compact machines can also be used indoors,” adds Taimoor Khan, business development manager for carbon neutral products at Komatsu.

Komatsu’s PC45MR-5 and PC55MR-5 compact hydraulic excavators boast minimal swing radii and are equipped with standard auxiliary hydraulics and My Komatsu digital portals that can analyze telemetric data. Likewise, Bobcat’s new E40 compact excavator offers minimal tail swing, plus fast cycle times, excellent maneuverability, and “an over-the-blade lift capacity and over-the-side lift capacity that competitors can only achieve – or come close to – with conventional tail swing models,” says Fitzgerald.

Tail swing aside, Bobcat’s new L95 compact wheel loader has a tight turning radius, automatic ride control, a powerful transmission, and “exceptional material- handling capabilities with large bucket capacity, high lift height, swift travel speeds and the maneuverability operators need to accomplish more,” he continues.

Compact equipment is also ideal for electrification, says Grant Van Tine, electric vehicle product manager at John Deere. “Compact construction machines, especially small excavators, are good candidates for battery electric solutions. The daily runtimes and energy requirements are lower on compact equipment,” he explains.




In addition to requiring fewer and/or smaller batteries that take less time to recharge, the size of compact equipment also brings with it the simple fact that it can be easier to move than larger equipment.

“If it’s under a certain weight you don’t need a special licence to transport it from job site to job site,” explains Jonathan Gardner, project manager for construction equipment at Kubota Canada.

Furthermore, while large equipment has to be moved on trailers to specialized charging stations, operators could take a compact loader “down to the local gas station and use the J1772 plug they have there and top it up,” says Darren Ashton, Volvo Construction Equipment’s North American product manager for compact.

Volvo’s EC18 and ECR18 electric compact excavators take six and five hours respectively, to charge from zero to 100 per cent on a 16A workshop outlet, dropping that to one hour and 15 minutes and one hour to charge from zero to 80 per cent in a fast charger.




Compact electric equipment can provide companies with “green” credibility and access to areas where traditional equipment might prove problematic, due to emissions. Case’s new CX15EV electrified mini-excavator produces no emissions and minimal noise, so it could be used “at a hospital or retirement community or a fancy urban setting in a neighbourhood that has covenants that you can’t dig before 10 a.m.,” states Brady Lewis, product manager for emerging products and technology at Case Construction Equipment.

In a similar fashion, Takeuchi’s new TB20e battery powered compact excavator operates quietly and gives off zero emissions, “making it useful in more sensitive areas or even in enclosed spaces,” says Caldwell. Electric compact equipment also requires less maintenance, as there’s no engine filters, oil changes, and coolant, much less liquid fuel.



Whether conventional or electric, compact equipment holds a powerful appeal for smaller firms. Some are even viewing compact machines as a way to help them navigate rising labour costs and difficulties associated with finding new skilled workers.

“You’re seeing a pretty clear diversion away from larger machines moving into more compact machines … I think you’re starting to see a migration towards a lower cost option for owner-operators to do more work themselves versus relying on employees and team members,” says Ryan Anderson, product manager for Case Construction Equipment’s sub-compact lineup.

Going forward, it’s highly likely the compact category will continue to grow, especially as this equipment starts to sport features once reserved for larger machines.



Kubota’s new KX080-5 compact excavator, for instance, offers a standard, factory-fitted rear-view camera with a seven-inch LCD display and the company’s Kubota- NOW telematics system. Cab noise has been reduced and cab heating and cooling improved as well.

Based on customer demand, John Deere has been making its compact equipment more powerful and versatile while “adding features found in larger equipment, such as SmartGrade 3D grade control on the 333G compact track loader,” says Emily Pagura, product marketing manager at John Deere.

“Companies are adding features to [compact] machines that will make them more effective, such as 2D/3D machine guidance, machine control,” echoes Diego Butzke, product manager for excavators and motor graders at Case. He says these features “have been part of the heavy equipment world, but I think they will start to come over to compact equipment as well, because the same lack of labour that impacts larger excavators, you also have now on mini-excavators. You need to be more effective with doing more things with less people.”


Nate Hendley is a freelance writer and author, and is a regular contributor to On-Site Magazine.



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