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Construction Industry Outlook: Komatsu's World Class Excavators

Despite the worldwide coronavirus pandemic affecting economies across the globe, the US Department of Commerce is projecting the American construction equipment industry will continue to grow from $28 billion in 2019 to over $36 billion by 2026 — with a 4% compound annual growth rate (CAGR). A resumption to normal economic levels could see an even more significant increase in industry growth.

According to Statista, Caterpillar is the largest manufacturer of heavy equipment with just under $33 billion in global sales for 2019. Komatsu, with its $23 billion in worldwide sales for that year, is in second place. Rounding out the top three companies, John Deere reached $11 billion in global 2019 sales. Total worldwide heavy equipment sales for 2019 were roughly $153 billion. In other words, it's big business.

Role of Excavators In Construction

Arguably, excavators are among the most used construction equipment pieces, thanks to their versatility and size options. These can range from a compact / mini excavator with 14.5 horsepower, a seven-foot digging depth, and an operating weight of about 3,800 lbs to a large excavator with 250 or more horsepower, 37-foot digging depth, and a weight of 80,000 lbs. As their name implies, mid-size excavators fit in between.

Of course, special-purpose excavators, like mining equipment, can make the largest construction excavator look like a toy in comparison. For example, the massive Bucyrus RH400 — the world's largest hydraulic excavator — was launched by Terex in 1997. The RH400, now produced by Caterpillar, weighs almost 200,000 pounds and has a whopping 65.4 cubic yard bucket capacity. This beast also has a 36-foot long crawler and 28-foot wide undercarriage.

Similarly, but not quite as big, other monster excavators come from Demag (now owned by Komatsu), Hitachi, Liebherr, and Komatsu.

Komatsu Excavators

Moving away from extreme equipment, let's focus on one widespread Komatsu excavator, the PC210LCi-11. For the curious, "P" stands for "power shovel," and "c" stands for "crawler. In its second generation, the PC210LCi-11 is a mid-size excavator popular for various tasks, including foundation pads and utility work. This machine has roughly 51,000 lb. operating weight (depending on equipment), 0.66-1.57 cubic yard bucket capacity, and is rated for 165 horsepower.

The PC210LCi-11 features Intelligent Machine Control which helps the operator be more efficient through semi-automatic handling of the excavator. A network of sensors and global navigation satellite system antennas enables more accurate work ranging from rough digging to finish grading while minimizing over-excavation.

Looking at a small hydraulic excavator, the Komatsu PC35MR-5 enjoys a strong reputation for functionality in a smaller configuration. This machine has roughly 8,000 lb. operating weight (depending on equipment), 0.07-0.24 cubic yard bucket capacity, and is rated for 24.4 horsepower. Standout features include an integrated blade enabling the machine to backfill after itself and an extra-small swing radius allowing the operator to work within smaller areas easily.

Recognizing that maintenance is key to equipment longevity, Komatsu has built the PC35MR-5 with easy-to-access service compartment doors and a tilting cab platform. These larger panels make it easy to perform daily inspections and regular maintenance tasks. The forward-tilting operator platform offers direct access to the engine and hydraulic system for service work and troubleshooting.

The Komatsu Story

Headquartered in Tokyo, Japan, Komatsu was founded in 1921. Today, the firm is a far-reaching multi-national corporation focusing on heavy equipment manufacturing in construction, mining, forestry, and military segments. Komatsu also makes press machines, lasers, thermoelectric generators, and other industrial equipment. The company operates in 151 countries.

Through its U.S. subsidiary, Komatsu America Corp, the company first began its American operations in 1970. In addition to the popular Komatsu heavy equipment widely seen on construction sites and at mining operations, the company's wide variety of forklifts are commonplace at warehouses, docks, and other storage facilities.

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