Despite the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, TRT is focused on moving forward across the full Kobelco range, with the major focus on customer support, product training and increased representation.
In February this year, Kobelco Construction Machinery Co announced the appointment of Tidd Ross Todd Ltd and its subsidiary TRT (Aust) PTY Ltd (TRT) as its distributor covering Kobelco branded cranes in New Zealand, Australia, Papua New Guinea, New Caledonia and Fiji.
Robert Carden, Technical Director, TRT, explains that despite the obvious disruptions, his organisation has remained focussed on the Kobelco crane product and is expanding the coverage and representation for the range, with the most recent development the appointment of a sub distribution arrangement with New South Wales based Baden Davis Crane Connection Pty Ltd.
“As Kobelco celebrates its 90th year, we are pleased to announce the appointment of The Baden Davis Crane Connection as the New South Wales and ACT agent for Kobelco crawler cranes, parts and service.”
The Crane Connection will provide the full range Kobelco Crawler Cranes in NSW and ACT, as well as service and parts support for Kobelco cranes operating locally. TRT will still manage all product imports and will continue Kobelco crawler crane distribution, parts and service across the rest of Australia.
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“This appointment was a very natural development for TRT, especially for a crane type that The Crane Connection are knowledgeable about. Our organisations work well together; we have a similar company ethos, outlook, and approach. Engineering and service is the backbone of both our businesses, so it’s a great fit all round.
The Crane Connection are already doing such a great job with distribution of our TIDD Pick and Carry Cranes, it was such a good fit for both companies. They have a sizeable service operation and facilities based in Sydney and we know they will provide excellent support for Kobelco customers,” said Carden.
Anthony Davis from The Crane Connection explains, “The Kobelco crawler range fits perfectly with our existing product lines. We have tele crawlers and rough terrains, truck cranes and all terrains with Link Belt. We also look after the TIDD range of articulated pick and carries manufactured by TRT.”
Carden continues, “When TRT was appointed as the distributor, the market responded positively to the change and to the Kobelco brand and products.”
“Immediately following the appointment as national distributor for Kobelco, TRT experienced a high level of enquiries leading up to COVID, “and then everything went very quiet
“Kobelco product is identified as well-designed and well-engineered and so it’s disappointing to have lost at least three months momentum as a result of COVID-19,” said Carden.
But TRT is now seeing the level of enquiry building strongly. “We are pleasantly surprised at how the market is starting to bounce back; it feels like we are getting underway again as an industry,” he said.
“The industry is returning to some sort of normality and crane companies can see the world hasn’t ended. If I’m honest, the first six months as the Kobelco national distributor has been less than ideal with this unprecedented international pandemic, but Kobelco has remained supportive throughout. They understand the challenges being faced with the same COVID-related issues themselves. But we are reclaiming the momentum and moving forward.
“In my opinion, crawler cranes have a longer life cycle than, say, an all-terrain, or a pick and carry crane, because they are roadable and parts wear out quickly. A lot of customers are undergoing 10 year rebuilds on their crawlers as well, because they see their crawler as being relatively inexpensive to operate as it gets older,” said Carden.
Product training and education is always a focus for TRT, as it has taken on the distribution in the region and now this has become a focus for The Crane Connection.
“Product training started almost immediately after TRT took on the Kobelco distributorship. Fortunately, before the COVID crisis became too restrictive, we had one of the Kobelco engineers conduct training with our teams in Australia and New Zealand for a month; we made the best use of that time before he headed back to Japan.
“Like most other business that have adapted during the pandemic, we’ve discovered that it’s amazing what you can do on video call. Our operations in Brisbane and Hamilton, now participate in regular video training sessions and work closely with the Kobelco engineering staff in Japan.
“As a result, we have developed a number of inhouse Kobelco certified technicians, supported by Troy Hand, our Crane Sales Manager in Australia. Troy is extremely passionate about the quality and function of these crawlers. As has always been the case, Kobelco prides itself on the quality of its product, and part of this training is to ensure the warranty side of the business is dealt with properly,” says Carden.
Davis confirms, “We are working closely with the TRT teams in New Zealand and Brisbane and we are having a lot to do with Troy, who has a high level of Kobelco product knowledge about the range and the function.”
But as a result of COVID restrictions and businesses refocussing, TRT are also seeing a number of other developments in the industry.
Carden explains, “We are noticing customers adapting and evolving into a different range of works or expanding what they are already doing. This is leading to enquiry and to a demand for new equipment rather than a straight replacement for existing equipment as it nears end of life or asset operation period.”
The Crane Connection will be handling the complete Kobelco range of lattice boom crawlers which starts at 55t through to 550t capacity.
“We will be offering full servicing and maintenance programs from our Arndell Park operations, including 10 year inspections. We will be holding fast moving parts and consumables here in Sydney and we will be able to access the comprehensive parts network through TRT in Australia and New Zealand,” says Davis.
“The Japanese manufactured Kobelco crane brand has a huge international reputation for having high quality design, construction, components, with precision manufacturing processes, with quality being a major focus for the products. As a result, they show superior uptime and lower maintenance costs for customers,” added Carden.
“From the beginning, when we took over the distribution in the Region, we asked customers to come forward with any issues relating to their Kobelco products, and we were pleasantly surprised at how few there were. There really hasn’t been a lot for us to work on, which has been reassuring. It’s not that surprising, as we know that Kobelco products are based on traditional Japanese engineering and manufacturing values, and are built to last,” he said.
So, other than the Japanese engineering, what is it about the Kobelco crawler range that reduces issues and repairs?
“While we have provided and overview to Cranes and Lifting magazine earlier this year the features and benefits of Kobelco’s improved hydraulic solutions with the new CKS300G-2, the crawlers from 80t to 180t capacity are in higher demand through construction and infrastructure projects in general,” says Carden.
The Crane Connection’s own local research supports Carden’s insight.
“In terms of new sales, our research has revealed the biggest selling models, in the smaller range, have been in the 80t and 110t capacities in NSW. We also believe there is a resurgence in lattice boom crawler cranes particularly and around infrastructure projects,” said Davis
Kobelco has a large range of crawler cranes that fit a variety of operations and tasks. From the multi-purpose hydraulic lattice booms in the revamped CKE range to the heavy-duty foundation cranes for civil engineering work and telescopic boom cranes that offer the flexibility of an extendable boom. This large range is underpinned by the technology and design feature advancements, integrated by Kobelco and its product development process.
We talked with Troy Hand, TRT Australia’s crane sales manager and Kobelco crane expert to tell us how Kobelco has delivered its most recent crawler technology advancements.
“The CKE range is the most popular in Australia. This is great range of multipurpose crawlers. Every innovation seems to link to a greater efficiency, improved safety and comfort and overall cost reduction.”
Hand explains, “The clever design and construction of Kobelco crawlers has revolutionised the transport and set up in this class. Kobelco have developed lighter weight upper frames for the crawlers using high tensile steel in their construction, its lighter than others in its class. The width of CKE is also designed to be easily transported, the boom and jib are shared, and the boom is nested. They are less than three metres wide, reducing the overall footprint of the crane. All of these transport advantages also mean that they need less storage space.
“The CKE crawlers are designed for self-assembly and disassembly, so you don’t need the assistance of another crane, but it also reduces the amount of manual work required. So, when our customers are able to gain efficiencies from all aspects of the operation, transport, and even maintenance, they become more competitive from the quote to job cost management,” he said.
The operator centric design not only make these cranes more comfortable and easier to operate, it also provides better safety outcomes too. And, for our more environmentally conscious operators, Kobelco have made huge environmental considerations in the design, this is evident with the new “G Mode technology”.
Hand continues, “‘G Mode’ is the latest innovation from Kobelco and available across the CKE range. Kobelco’s ‘G Mode’ is an energy and fuel saving system that allows tangible returns through the life of the crane, including reduced fuel consumption and CO2 emissions in three key areas of operation, the winch, the engine and the new auto idle stop function, and all managed by the operator.
“The ‘G Engine’ function that includes a new clean diesel system, a low emission engine and particulate filter. Not only does it reduce CO2 emissions and nitrogen oxide (NOx), it also shows reduced fuel consumption by as much as 25 per cent – that’s real savings. Not to mention the quieter function reduces the noise pollution on site too.
The “G-Winch” is designed to maintain high speed lifting and lowering without increasing the engine RPM’s, again contributing to overall reductions in fuel use.
Kobelco are the first in the industry to introduce an Auto Idle Stop or AIS. This also reduces fuel consumption as it promotes engine shut off automatically when the machine is idle. But they have also added a manual stop without the need to turn the key, handy when you are waiting for the next lift, trailer or breaking down the machine, says Hand.
“Not only have Kobelco shown the care for the environment and people in their new tech, they have also introduced an option for remote machine management system called ‘K Cross’. This works remotely sending crane working conditions, location, diagnosis and maintenance updates in real time to assist with better asset management, it can even send an SMS to update managers and operators about conditions. In my view, I’m not sure there is a crawler range out there with better functions, environmental focus and that competes with the reliability of Kobelco,” he said.
Carden concludes, “We continue to build a strong team, better customer representation and are focussed on developing and enhancing our product knowledge, and we are in this for the long haul. The Kobelco product is reliable and the technology advancing rapidly. The appointment of The Crane Connection to represent Kobelco in NSW and ACT is another very positive initiative. Many customers will know the experience and value their team brings to the Kobelco value proposition, alongside TRT and the product reputation.”