Kubota digs new South African depths

Kubota mini excavator

A Kubota mini excavator is deployed on a construction site in Sandton, Gauteng, South Africa.

Having launched the Kubota range of compact excavators locally in 2013, Charl Kemp, who is in charge of that range at Smith Power Equipment (SPE), the South African distributor for Kubota, reports increased demand of the compact excavator range.

He says that sales are picking up, and at the end of the first quarter of 2016, he expected to sell more than the 24 units sold the whole of 2015. Already, 13 units have been sold during the first quarter of 2016. Agriculture remains the most lucrative market for this range, but Kemp says a few more units are going into mines, and quite a bit into construction. Plant hire companies also account for a substantial number of units in operation, using them with hammers and other attachments for a wide range of applications.

One company that is pleased with the performance of its Kubota excavator range is Mini Loaders Plant Hire. David Shelley, managing director Mini Loaders Plant Hire, has been in the excavation rental business since 1994 and concentrates on compact excavators of five different sizes.

“I originally met with SPE and its Kubota representatives from Japan to discuss the specs we required and they were cooperative in this regard. The main issue was that we were not interested in glass cabs as these tended to break in the harsh conditions we work in. We got our Kubota excavators supplied ROPS approved and they are working safely on our site and the operators work in a comfortable environment with better all-round visibility,” says Shelley.

He adds that his Kubota machines are being used by major South African contractors on several Johannesburg Roads Agency’s road and bridge upgrades, as well as on the development of the Rea Vaya bus rapid transit (BRT) infrastructure.

Shelley says that one of the advantages of the Kubota excavators is the fact that he is able to modify them, specifically attaching them with his own quick-hitch system which allows for quick interchange buckets of various sizes with demolition hammers. “We do a lot of demolition work and the ability to change from bucket to hammer quickly is a major advantage for us in terms of productivity,” he says.

He also praises Kubota’s boom-swing, which allows the mini excavator to operate without having to move while the zero tail-swing radius always keeps the mini excavator within track-width when swivelling. “These features enable operation in tight and confined spaces,” he says.

The integration of the boom and zero tail swing radius is a game-changing technology for Kubota. In terms of these two features, Tom Bloom, SPE general manager for construction equipment division, says they, in addition to Kubota’s dominant position globally in the field of compact industrial diesel engines below 100HP, have made the company’s success in the mini-excavator market unparalleled. “By the end of 2008, Kubota had sold more than 340 000 mini excavators and since then it has enjoyed the No.1 market share worldwide,” says Bloom.

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