Chairman’s Commentary

The nature of the use of contracting equipment is changing and buying decisions need to keep changing with it. Rudimentary equipment that is robust and has done the job in the past, does not necessarily make for optimal performance of the machine in the current working environment. This is particularly so with the excavator and the attachments it uses.

There is much media comment these days on the need to spend trillions on building and rebuilding infrastructure. The issues with crumbling roads, bridges, dams, airports, water and sewerage systems, are often compared unfavourably with the massive schemes built after the second world war going through the 1970’s especially in North America, Australia/NZ and Europe. As we listen to the media’s commentary, there is a theme along the lines of “it was so easy then, why can’t we get it together now?”

But if you dig deeper, it starts to become clear that we are dealing with vastly different concepts of Infrastructure build. In the decades after the war, much of the work was on demolished towns and cities in Europe and Asia – and massive green fields developments in North and South America, Australia, Asia and the Middle East. There were no people to obstruct the build or to be worked around. Whilst we still have some of these projects with roads, airports and the like – most modern infrastructure build is around repairs, upgrade and expansion of that infrastructure build of so many years ago. Further complicating things, people are using that infrastructure and everything has to be done around them – bringing along with that considerations of health and safety to the workers and public at large. 

It follows that a whole different approach to infrastructure construction is required and along with it, the style of equipment used. Huge bulldozers, scrapers, graders and single purpose machines that used to predominate are now being overtaken by multi-task machines that can be operated in confined working spaces.

It is not over stating the position to say that the key item in the arsenal of equipment to handle the modern infrastructure build is the excavator. Look at any construction site from large scale new builds to the simplest of domestic builds and there is likely to be an excavator present. Even there, the nature of the excavator use has changed.

The original use centred on basic machines with a single purpose task predominating. Sure, buckets could be changed but this was a lengthy exercise in removing pins and changing things over. Now, excavators have become so sophisticated that they are capable of performing numerous tasks efficiently and cost effectively with competent operators.

GPS, self-servicing and operating enhancements are becoming standard with every new release of the latest Excavators. As excavators have become more sophisticated and flexible – a new focus is emerging on the training of operators and the attachments that improve the efficiency of operators and the machines – along with a new awareness of workplace and public safety. 

As fixed buckets and single purpose attachments gave way a decade ago to tilt buckets and tilts, these in turn are being replaced by dual locking and automatic front and rear locking quick hitches as well as light-weight and compact tilting hitches. From the gear box style actuators introduced over the last decade to the latest compact curved ram hydraulic tilts such as the Toroidal-Tilt Coupler. 

With the hydraulic management being taken down into the attachments themselves, the finger touch precision and response for the operator vastly improves operator performance and compliments the new electronic capabilities and dynamics that are emerging in the latest excavator technologies.

Not only has computer modelling improved bucket design and performance – but new attachments that grab, rake and pick through materials are turning the dipper arm of the excavator in to a robotic arm – the contracting and infrastructure industries equivalent to the medical robotic devices that aide surgery and other such tasks.

Graham Smolenski,


Calibre Contracting Equipment


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