TUDIOUSLY analysing a specification sheet or slewing around on a demo model is one way to select a new excavator, but for Melbourne civil construction company, Bayport Group, pitting brand against brand in an intense on-site review was the only method they considered in a comprehensive evaluation.

The process saw Bayport Group become one of the first companies in Australia to choose an innovative Caterpillar D Series excavator. Managing director, Richard Torossi, says the process was genuine and telling in its findings – any other test was never going to cut it. “We did a demonstration or evaluation of the Cat and three other brands,” Torossi explains.

“The Cat outperformed the others and while it was not the cheapest available, the machine’s performance – particularly the breakout forces – and the support from the dealer William Adams, and most importantly the re-sale value were the reasons we decided to go with the Caterpillar machines,” he adds.

“People do see us as predominately Cat people, but we do buy from other brands,” Torossi explains. “We were with another brand of excavators, prior to converting to the Cat D Series. We are still running three other brand machines so we will let them clock up hours for us and evaluate a changeover for them as well.”

The four brands were put through their paces on a site near Bayport Group’s head office where a cut with plenty of hard material formed the perfect testing ground. Bayport Group’s plant maintenance manager, Grant Walker, said the operators’ feedback from the evaluations was sure. “We had the machines for a couple of days each and ran right through them and let the operators give them a good workout and they came back recommending the Cat machines.”

“While cycle times are generally variable between operators, it was things like machine stability which became obvious for us to see,” Walker says. “It was quite evident watching the on-ground performance of the machines working in the same conditions. Up to the release of this D Series excavator we’d bought up to 15 machines from a different manufacturer so it was a big turnaround.”

Bayport Group’s 35t 330DLs feature a long undercarriage for added stability and Cat’s ACERT C9 fuel-efficient high performance engine developing 200 kW. Power management modes allow the operator to manage the engine power setting with a password protected keystroke – high power for extreme digging applications or standard mode for light duties to optimise fuel efficiency.

The D Series hydraulic system uses a cross sensing system to deliver faster implement speeds in addition to improved controllability. Hydraulic pumps, control valves and the oil reservoir have been relocated on the D Series to allow shorter lines between components which delivers reduced pressure loss and quieter operation for operator comfort.

The ACERT engine also goes some way to standardising the company’s equipment fleet, Torossi says. “The 330DL runs the C9 ACERT engine and we’ve got Kenworth T401 tippers running Cat C12 motors. It’s allowed us to standardise fittings so we don’t have to carry a wide range of filters and the like,” he explains. “We wanted the ability to be able to grab a filter and run out there and replace it quickly if there’s a bad batch of fuel or something.”

While various factors in the evaluation were studied, the key selection criteria were always going to be about productivity issues, according to Walker. “We need to be able to maximise production during the working hours available to us and so the machine performance in the evaluation included a bit of a study on fuel economy. There wasn’t much in it between machines – a few litres per hour – so it was more about what sort of job it could do.”

“Unless you’re doing the same thing with the machines day in and day out – which is something we don’t – then fuel economy actually has a negligible impact when compared to productivity,” he adds. “Our emphasis is on moving more cubic metres per hour more so than litres per hour. We’re looking for productivity ahead of economy – we watch it, but we make money from productivity at the end of the day.”

Another factor coming into play was resale value. Having tested the market with the other brand machines and found to be short – the strong Caterpillar used values helped tip the scales toward the brand. “We decided we didn’t want that uncertainty when these machines get to their lifespan next time around.”

The company’s first 330DL purchased in 2006 has now clocked up more than 2,000 hours and is going strong. “Both operators are delighted with the D Series which are doing nine to 10 hour days,” Torossi says. Bayport chose a short stick and boom arrangement to maximise digging force. “We could also fit a bigger bucket to the 330DL than what we could have with the previous machines and that gave us the productivity we were looking for,” Walker says.

“We’re coming up to a job on a 50 hectare development site and we’ve got 450,000 metres of clay to shift so we’ll have the machines out there for 12 months. It’s these sort of jobs which has seen us go from 20t machines up to 25t and now to over 30t machines as we try to match them up to our dump truck fleet – we’re looking for a balance between the performance so we get the best results.”

Bayport chose to sign up to William Adams’ Standard 3748 service package which offers three years guaranteed total machine support, seven days a week, 12 hours a day with no overtime service charges and a 48 hour uptime guarantee.

It was an inviting package according to Walker. “Every other manufacturer will try to talk you out of taking a service package but our response was ‘what can you do for us’,” he says. “They say they’ll stand by you, but most won’t even put that in writing. With the 3748 package you know how much it is going to cost you for service – there’s no ifs, buts or maybes. You sign the agreement and it is set in stone.”

The D Series performance, the dealer service support and the expectation of a healthy re-sale value means the two 330DL have ticked all the boxes for Bayport Group, Walker says. “There’s some scepticism with buying a new model, but there’s always the comfort factor with buying Cat.

Source: Construction Contractor