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Volvo invests in German plant to cut lead times

PLANT Manufacturer creates tracked excavator production line in Konz to cut out journey from South Korea, writes Dan Gilkes

VOLVO Construction Equipment has invested 7 million euros (£4.4 million) in its equipment factory in Konz, Germany, installing a 120 m long production line for tracked excavators.

The introduction of tracked machines to the wheeled excavator and loader factory will enable a faster response to customer orders in Europe along with a greater number of build options.

By assembling its 14 and 21-tonners in Germany rather than South Korea, the firm will cut around eight weeks from lead times for European customers, with the savings in shipping costs almost cancelling the slightly higher production costs.

Other models will be added when Volvo introduces its next generation of tracked machines in two years' time.

The Konz plant will this year put together around 1,400 wheeled excavators.

In this ramp-up year it will also build around 700 to 800 tracked machines. But total excavator production capacity is closer to 4,500 machines, so there is room to double production.

The manufacturer claims to be equal third in the global plant market, behind Caterpillar and Komatsu, on a par with Deere and Hitachi and ahead of CNH and Te re x .

Volvo CE European president Chris Rees is confident the firm can go higher, putting clear space between itself and the nearest competition.He said: 'We fully intend to position ourselves as a global number three.'

One thing that will help the firm's sales is the desire to offer a full line of equipment.

Mr Rees said skid steers are due in Europe within the next year and other new products will follow.

With Volvo's tracked excavator line now reaching up to 70 tonnes, he said the firm was still exploring opportunities in the rigid dump truck sector, a market that it was last involved in some years ago with Euclid.Mr Rees said: 'Rigid trucks are definitely on the radar.'

He says there are no plans to go any larger in excavators for now, although there will be smaller models in the Volvo line, fitting in beneath the firm's smallest 1.3 tonne mini.

THE EC700B

VOLVO'S 346 kW 70 tonne tracked excavator is designed to offer the perfect match for its popular A40D articulated truck (left).

Volvo says many of the main components, such as pumps, motors, the swing bearing and the track rollers, are of a higher capacity than those on many competitive machines and most would not be out of place on an 80 tonne class machine.

This is said to provide high performance and durability, with Volvo claiming advantages in digging power, cycle time and bucket capacity.

But full production machines will not be made available for sale until early next year.

The EC700B boasts some impressive specifications on paper. Bucket sizes range from 2.5 cu m to 4.5 cu m and the machine has a standard boom and dipper length of 7.7 m and 3.55 m.Maximum digging depth with the longer boom is 8.4 m and the digging reach is just over 13 m.

The large cab has a nine-way adjustable seat and a high capacity climate control system. The cab is noise and vibration damped and all of the hydraulic lines have dampened clamps to further reduce hydraulic noise in the machine.

Ownership costs should also be reduced for those customers who regularly move a machine of this size, as the undercarriage can be retracted for transport.