There are 26 manufacturers of- fering more than 400 models of hydraulic excavators in North
America today. That says pretty much
all you need to know about the importance of these machines on the job site.
And excavators — both wheeled and
tracked — are big moneymakers for the
manufacturers producing them.
The machines I am referring to range
from 6.0 metric tons (above mini excavators) to mining-sized excavators and
shovels weighing over 500 metric tons.
These products all work on the same
principles, look pretty much the same
and carry much the same type of components to operate, taking into account
the size differences.
When I was a kid, we used to call
these machines “steam shovels” and
lots of kids today still think of them that
way because of stories they have heard.
Tracked excavators are by far the
primary product when discussing excavators. The market for tracked excavators in North America is light years
ahead in size versus that for wheeled
excavators. In 2013, tracked machine
sales were close to 24,000 units, 38
times bigger than wheeled excavator
sales. Of course, the lion’s share of suppliers is involved in the tracked excavators versus roughly 10 companies competing in the wheeled category.
Looking at the tracked or crawler
excavator markets, the big players are
Caterpillar, John Deere and Komatsu —
the big three that together account for
roughly 70% of annual industry sales.
Then there are a whole lot of other
companies vying for 30% of the mar-
ket, none getting much of the pie, but
enough to make it worth the fight. The
bigger companies in this second tier
include Kobelco, Volvo, LBX, Doosan,
Case, and Hyundai, each of which have
3 to 5% percent of the sales total.
Companies with a more limited impact on the market include Terex, Liebherr, JCB, Manitou, Yanmar, Bobcat
and Chinese players such as Sany and
LiuGong that are looking to increase
their North American presence.
On the wheeled side, Gradall (
Alamo Group) is the market leader and
has held that position forever. I put the
Gradall position near 40% of industry
sales each year, with several of the
European big boys like Liebherr, Sen-nenbogen and Terex Fuchs selling a
number of wheeled material handlers
used in industrial scrapyards. I include
the scrap handlers with the dirt movers since they are lookalike machines
and carry very similar designs. Deere,
Caterpillar, Hyundai and several other
suppliers get into the act with wheeled
products, but all are on the fringe.
There are some interesting developments in the excavator industry that bear
watching. I never have really warmed up
to the concept of hybrid machines, but
hybrid excavators are getting attention
because of the potential to reduce fuel
costs improve efficiency. Manufacturers
from Caterpillar down are pouring R&D
money into new hybrid developments to
cut operating costs.
Several players are coming forth with
some leading-edge technology. Electrohydraulics and generally improved
hydraulic systems are being integrated
into the overall machine designs, with
new Tier 4 engines as the starting point.
Better performance and higher effi-
ciency are the key words. Reducing fuel
consumption by 25 to 50%, improving
lift capacity and providing higher break-
out forces are the aims for everyone.
The big players are already bringing
forth or planning new models ranging up
to mining-sized machines, which lead
me to believe that a bigger and growing
portion of new excavators will evolve as
hybrids as time passes.
Moving on, industry sales are shift-
ing. The smaller compact excavators
rated from 6.0 to 12 tons are gaining in
popularity. This segment of the market
now occupies about 23% of all sales as
compared to 10 to 20% five to 10 years
ago. One notices quickly that Kubota,
Bobcat, IHI, and Yanmar — all strong in
smaller equipment — are stepping up to
provide these products. Deere, Caterpil-
lar, Komatsu and others are also diving
into the small excavator marketplace.
The primary sales of excavators still
takes place in the 12 to 19, 20 to 30 and
30 to 50 ton weight segments, which
combined account for approximately
75% of all sales. Large excavators rated
over 50 tons and mining machines rep-
resent only a small portion of the total.
I look at excavator sales as pushing
up 5 to 8% in 2014 versus 2013 levels
and more growth of 7 to 8% in 2015.
At the end of 2013, industry sales had
recovered roughly 80% of peak sales
achieved in 2006, which is good considering the tremendous drop in sales
I believe industry sales should approach or exceed the peak sales within
the next four years based on projections for construction and the economy,
which is certainly good news. This is
based on moderate economic growth
and improvement in nonresidential construction over time, which has not done
too well in recent years.
The workhorse of construction is definitely the excavator and it is only going
to get bigger in the future. dp
Excavators Still The
CHARLES YENGST www.yengstassociates.com — email@example.com
CHARLES R. YENGST IS