Caterpillar is famous for its big machines. The company built its reputation manufacturing massive earthmoving equipment and only entered the market of smaller excavators just over two decades ago in 1998. Since then, the Cat mini excavators have become known as small machines with big capabilities. Here, Mark Mulligan, building and product manager at Finning UK & Ireland, exclusive distributor for Caterpillar equipment, explains why the new Cat next generation mini excavator range stays true to the Caterpillar DNA with exceptional build quality and is suitable for the most challenging environments.
Just like all Caterpillar’s machines, the minis must perform in a range of challenging environments and are built to withstand extreme heat, cold, dust and smell. And because they are the smallest machines in the Caterpillar line-up, the mini excavators are also built for precision work.
A new generation of mini excavators
The Caterpillar next generation mini excavators were developed over a period of five years with input from customers all over the world and tested rigorously in the harshest settings. An all-steel design gives the next gen mini the required toughness. Their ruggedness translates into at least 15 per cent lower operating costs, because parts last longer and they are replaced more easily due to a modular design.
Service intervals have also been extended, which reduces downtime. For instance, hydraulic filters are changed after 500 operating hours, hydraulic oil when the machine reaches 3000, and coolant after 6000 hours at work. When any of these parts need to be replaced, the cab has been specifically designed to simply tilt up for speedy operator access.
Caterpillar has ensured that operating one of its next gen mini excavators is a comfortable experience. It’s the only mini excavator on the market with air conditioning in a pressurised and sealed cabin, so working in a hot, dusty or smelly environment is no longer a problem. A further innovation is that at the push of a button, the operator can switch from the pedals to a joystick and even travel across site using cruise control. Experienced operators will no doubt be keen to try out this new feature, putting an end to being hunched over while moving the machine from one part of a site to another.
Gen Z technology
The Cat next gen mini excavator range has been designed with the next generation of technology in mind. Especially generation Z — people born in the 1990s who grew up with computers and video games — are now entering the workforce and expect machines to be interactive, intuitive and interconnected. This is why they were fitted with Bluetooth making it easier to stay connected whilst on site.
The health of the entire machine can also be monitored remotely because it’s fitted with telematics, including remote software updates and geo-blocking in case someone tries to steal one. Mini excavators are the most stolen type of plant equipment due to their relatively compact size and ease of concealment — with a total of 650 mini excavators reported as stolen nationwide in 2018.
The addition of the built-in technology and tools means it will take less time and be less intensive to train operators to use the mini excavator effectively. Seasoned operators will find ways to use the new customisation features to fine tune their machines. For instance, the next gen minis recognise their attachment and at the touch of a button, the power and controllability can be changed to suit the job and the settings on the hydraulics can be adjusted so precisely that the excavator can be used to crack an egg.
The layout of the next gen mini is consistent with other Caterpillar models, so operators can switch easily between machines. The newly developed stick and steer joystick is an industry first. At the push of a button, an operator can switch from the traditional pedal steering to controlling the movements of the machine with the joystick. Doing so gives the operator more flexibility, it’s easier to work more precisely and ultimately a lot more comfortable. The paddles and levers can even be removed entirely.