Specialist machines might require additional investment but they may also offer flexibility. Over the last 24 months there has been a definite shift in the way the market, in both Europe and the UK, is looking at work tools.
For our distributors such as Finning, the messages have all been about task to machine. All too often people don’t spend enough time specifying a machine. For mini excavators in particular, leaving off additional auxiliary lines automatically restricts its capabilities.
In contrast, a well-specified machine can open up a world of opportunities. For example, few people look at a Cat 300.9 (our smallest excavator) and think demolition, but this machine can be twinned with a hammer to go into housing or office spaces to perform such tasks.
Trending wise, we have seen a steady change in the market to more specialised machines. Increasing numbers of customers in Europe in particular have been switching to mini excavators and compact wheel loaders, both of which are real tool-orientated machines.
Similarly, we are seeing Scandinavian countries and customers in Germany moving to enhance tool and machine capabilities still further, with the use of specialist 360-degree tilt rotator type attachments and oil quick hose change systems.
More pros than cons
Yes there is an investment here, but the return is a machine that can do so much and have so much flexibility. With hose change systems in particular the end-user benefits from reducing the loss and contamination of hydraulic fluid.
Will this transfer to the UK? There are certainly signs that companies are seeing the advantages, and the opportunities for both national and niche markets are definitely there. The challenge with the UK market is the dominance of plant hire.
Here there is a tendency to go for basic machine set-ups to reduce maintenance, as hiring tools and machines to operators not familiar with them can cause issues.
Conversely, this represents a clear opportunity for plant hirers to hire machines, tools and highly trained operators, boosting profitability while also reducing task cost for the client.
Thinking about machine specification and work tools at the point of purchase is therefore crucial for that competitive advantage.
Hans Middelkoop is a work tools specialist at Caterpillar