The demand for wheeled excavators is increasing in the GCC as local authorities impose restrictions on crawler excavators in cities because of the damage they can cause to road surfaces. As cities become congested, construction contractors opt for heavy equipment that can be transported and operated without damage to streets and curbs. Wheeled excavators are also attractive for their multifunctional applications in road construction, concrete pipe installation, drainage, repair and maintenance works.
According to Piet Bakergem, general manager, Hitachi Construction Machinery Middle East Corporation (HMEC), wheeled excavators offer the lifting capacity, stability and manoeuvrability required to replace crawler excavators on urban jobsites.
Hitachi’s wheeled excavator offering for the MEA region comprises three models in the Zaxis range – the ZX170W-5A, ZX190W-5A and ZX210W-5A – with operating weights ranging from 16,800kg to 21,600kg.
“The counterweight of a wheeled excavator is above the wheels as opposed to behind the tracks of a crawler excavator. This makes it easy for wheeled excavators to swing within limited available space; for example, during roadworks. Crawler excavators may require both sides of the road to be closed, but wheeled excavators can do the same job with only one side of the road closed,” says Bakergem.
For narrow job sites, Hitachi offers mini excavators with operating weights ranging from 800kg to 5,400kg. For increased speed, power and durability, Hitachi offers medium excavators with operating weights in the range of 6,650–38,200kg. For heavy construction, mining and dredging applications, Hitachi offers large excavators such as the EX1200-7, EX1900-6 and EX2600-7.
“We offer customization options such as extension of booms for large excavators for dredging applications before delivering them from our factory in Japan. We have also seen increase in demand for electric excavators on mining sites, because fuel consistency and quality cannot always be ensured in remote areas,” says Bakergem.
Bakergem provides his outlook of the MEA market with regard to demand and sales projections for excavators.
“The majority of our customers are construction contractors, followed by a number of rental companies. So, if we look at the contracting industry as an indicator of excavator demand, the propensity to invest in new machines is low due to the general slowdown in the market. There are exceptions such as in Saudi Arabia where new machines are being sold again,” says Bakergem.
Bakergem points out that no single market alone will dominate excavator sales in the coming years. Instead, growth will come from several markets in the region that have announced ambitious, long-term plans for urban development.
“In the Middle East, we see positive signs from Iraq and Egypt where budgets have been approved for infrastructure development and construction in general and tenders are being issued. In Africa, Kenya remains a stable market for us, and we’ve expanded into Uganda. There’s also growth potential in Saudi Arabia where several mega-city projects have been announced. Industry expectations following the announcements are high, but we’ll able to estimate growth accurately only when contracts are awarded. So it’s a wait and watch period for us, but our outlook for the Saudi market is positive, and we expect to see these announcements to materialize into contracts in 2020,” says Bakergem.
Meanwhile, Hitachi is depending on its after-sales business through dealer expansion. In 2018, Middle East Crane Equipment Trading (MECET), the official distributor of Hitachi Construction Machinery in the UAE and HSC Cranes in the Middle East, opened a 10,000m2 facility in Dubai, anticipating the after-sales needs of the market for the next decade. Last year, HMEC also signed a dealership agreement with Middle East Development Co. (MEDEVCO) in Lebanon.
“Hitachi machines are known to be highly reliable because we do not compromise on after-sales and support services. This is the backbone of our business, and we ensure the uptime of our machines by working closely with our dealers and end users to improve the speed of maintenance and repair services and local availability of spare parts. Customers can rely on us as we’re at their service 24/7, 365 days a year,” says Bakergem.