Excavators: Fleet Expansion For High Productivity, Positive Cash Flow

June 2013, Vol. 68, No. 6

The key to achieving a good return on your investment is to reach high machine utilization. Leveraging excavator attachments to perform specific tasks can significantly increase utilization rates. If a machine’s called upon to perform a wider spectrum of tasks that also includes loading trucks and land clearing, owners may want to consider a broader selection of machines and a growing variety of attachments. For example, some contractors who dedicate excavators only to heavy digging may be missing an opportunity to fit it with attachments such as a clamp for land clearing, a hydraulic breaker or grapple for demolition or quarry projects or a plate compactor for trench work.

Ellis suggests that a company’s size will also impact utilization patterns. “A smaller customer may identify an excavator that will handle 90 percent of the work that needs to be done. However, a machine one size smaller may still cover 75 percent of the work a customer needs to do. The overall cost of ownership would be a lot less, and a machine could be rented to do the other 25 percent of work,” Ellis says.

Poring over an excavator’s specifications is as fundamental to a purchase as a hands-on demonstration. Ellis says familiarity with key specifications from digging depth to loading height to hydraulic flow will help clearly define whether a machine is equipped to handle certain challenging materials or power its attachments.

“If you're going to predominantly use two-way flow attachments, it’s important to make sure a machine has a two-way hydraulic kit to accommodate the demand. If you just have a coupler and a variety of buckets, then there might not be as much of a need for a hydraulic kit,” Ellis says.

While manufacturers provide dozens of specifications to help customers assess machine capabilities, Ellis recommends that customers match their intended work to the following core specifications:

• Engine horsepower;
• Operating weight;
• Arm breakout force;
• Hydraulic flow;
• Maximum digging depth;
• Maximum reach at ground level;
• Maximum dump height; and
• Carrier clearance with boom.

Cost of ownership
In the final analysis of an excavator selection, prospective customers should evaluate the overall cost of ownership by taking a comprehensive look at a purchase beyond just the machine’s initial acquisition and residual value.

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