SANDHURST Plant is investing heavily in the former Smalley Excavators business at Bourne in Lincolnshire, which it bought from receivers last year. Now called SMC, the company will introduce a range of mini excavators and a crawler dozer this year, and has plans for further machines.
Kent-based Sandhurst Plant is best known in the hydraulic breaker market as a dealer for Krupp hammers, and previously the Montabert range. But although the firm has no previous experience in manufacturing mini excavators, it was a successful dealer for the Hanix range of minis in the late 1980s.
By combining Sandhursts knowledge of selling minis with the manufacturing experience of the SMC workforce, SMC reckons it can take a good chunk of the market. Aimed at tool hirers and small plant firms, the SMC machine is competing in probably the most competitive sector of the mini excavator market.
Launched last month, the 1.4 tonne MX14-1 is an upgraded version of a mini excavator built by Italian firm IMEF, and is the first of three minis to carry the SMC name.
Tim Dean, managing director of Sandhurst, saw the Italian machine at the Intermat plant exhibition in Paris last year. He says he saw potential for the model in Britain and set up an agreement with the Italian firm.
The prototype machines have been made in Italy, but modified by SMC at Bourne. Production models will be manufactured in Italy by IMEF to this design and SMC is selling these machines across Europe.
SMC has stamped its mark on the mini excavators by redesigning the layout of the hydraulics, controls and seating.
Chief design engineer Robin Brand says the MX14-1 is a high specification machine that can match its rivals on performance. Powered by a three cylinder Mitsibushi diesel developing 20 PS, the MX14-1 has a bucket breakout of 1,275 kgf and can dig to depths of 2.2 m.
Two larger minis planned by SMC are being designed completely in-house and the firm plans to have its MX50 ready for the Bauma exhibition at Munich in April. A five tonner, the MX50 will be an update of the old Smalley 847, but will be offered with rubber or steel tracks and have longer track frames.
Power will come from a Mitsubishi engine delivering around 45-50 PS and the machine will feature load-sensing hydraulics and joystick controls.
Mr Brand says its performance will also compare well with rival minis and adds: When you take that size of machine, youve got to look at people in that area. It will be as good as the others, but youve got to pitch the price right and we dont skimp on components.
The first 20 or so machines will be built at Bourne, but space at the site is limited and SMC is looking for another firm to build them. A similar approach will be used for the 2.6 tonne MX30, which should appear early in 1996.
The company also plans to have a prototype of its DX70 crawler dozer ready for Bauma. The DX70 is being designed for the civils market and Mr Dean says it will be very stable, allowing it to work on steeply sloping banks.
Power for the prototype will be from a Perkins engine. But production models will use a
70 PS Mitsubishi which drives through a hydrostatic transmission. At just 2.1 m high, the 4.5 tonne DX70 will be fitted with 300 mm wide tracks.
Mr Brand says: We want to keep the height reasonable to keep the centre of gravity low down. Itll be offered with standard tracks or as a low ground pressure version and have a tilt blade. We see it as a sort of little brother to a Cat D4.
SMCs product line is highly diverse the firm still makes lighting sets and compact CX220 crawler cranes at Bourne. In the future these products will be built by other firms.
SMC is also looking at developing a larger version of the crane. Mr Brand says: There were always thoughts of building a big brother to the CX220.
Sandhurst bought the Smalley business in order to secure the rights to the little CX220. The connection between the two firms dates back a few years when Sandhurst asked Smalley to develop this machine.
Smalley also was well known for building dredging equipment and SMC is currently updating these machines. The new dredgers will feature many of the components from the MX50 mini excavator.
Mr Brand says: 'We are looking to uprate it a bit more and give it more dig depth. We do a bigger machine, the 6470, but its a very small specials market.'