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Reinvigorating the crawler cranes

With the appointment of TRT as its new distribution partner, Kobelco crawler cranes are set for a renewed approach to the market. Cranes and Lifting reports.

With the appointment of TRT as its new distribution partner, Kobelco crawler cranes are set for a renewed approach to the market. Cranes and Lifting reports.

Kobelco Construction Machinery Co. Ltd recently announced the appointment of Tidd Ross Todd Ltd and TRT (Aust) PTY Ltd (“TRT”) as its new distributor covering Kobelco-branded cranes in New Zealand, Australia, Papua New Guinea, New Caledonia and Fiji.

Robert Carden, executive director, TRT explains what the appointment will mean to TRT and what the Australian and New Zealand crane sectors can expect to see from the new relationship.
Although sections of the market may not be fully aware, TRT has a long-standing relationship with Kobelco product.

“As the industry is well aware, TRT has been the New Zealand regional dealer for Manitowoc for many years and Queensland for the past four years. As their dealer we have been selling the Kobelco crawler cranes branded as Manitowoc product. The 80t, 100t and 110t Manitowoc crawlers were actually the Kobelco product painted red and ‘badge sold’.

“Manitowoc had an arrangement with Kobelco for many years and in 2019 the relationship came to an end and with it went the opportunity for TRT to sell the smaller crawlers. We began looking at what options there were. Manitowoc manufacture their crawlers in the US, and this makes them a very different specification when compared to the Japanese manufacturers,” said Carden.

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According to Carden, the TRT team then examined whether Kobelco might provide an opportunity for TRT to work with them.

“We had heard a few rumours that Kobelco weren’t 100 per cent happy with their existing distribution arrangement in the Oceania region and so we made an approach to Kobelco. The conversations continued until both parties were happy and we made the announcement in January this year,” he said.

Carden explains “An arrangement like this with a strong crane brand like Kobelco was also fitting of TRT’s continued product development and strategic growth initiatives, but to also continue to reinforce TRT’s full, long term commitment in the Australian market.”

“Running two product lines isn’t as complicated as it might seem,” Carden said. He added that it will be the customer who benefits with more options in terms of the range of crawler cranes on offer.

“When you look at the product lines and the smaller end of the crawlers, our main offering is going to be Kobelco. When we get to 300t and above we’ll be offering both the Manitowoc’s larger crawlers and Kobelco as an option in NZ and Queensland, and Kobelco throughout the other regions of Australia,” he said.

“The larger Manitowoc crawlers haver some special features that differ to the Kobelco product. The variable position counterweight (VPC) product from Manitowoc caters for a particular market, so we see this distribution arrangement with Kobelco as simply, giving customers more choice. So, for the 300t and 650t range customers can have either a standard style of crawler from Kobelco or the VPC style crawler from Manitowoc,” said Carden.

Carden goes on to explain what the change will mean to existing Kobelco crane customers and new customers in terms of product support and service.

“We’ll be providing the same level of service and support that we’ve been providing for the Manitowoc and the TIDD pick and carry cranes. This means having parts in stock and being able to supply technicians as required. Spare parts will come directly out of the Kobelco factory or from our own stock, with our crane parts warehouses located in Brisbane, Australia and Hamilton, New Zealand.”

“Another major advantage is that Kobelco has a substantial and well stocked warehouse in Singapore, so getting parts and components out quickly is much easier and much faster to this part of the world,” he said.

Currently, TRT has a distribution network for the TIDD and Manitowoc products. Carden explains how they will manage the distribution of the Kobelco range.

“We have a significant operation in Brisbane, therefore we’ll be managing the Kobelco product and parts supply from there, Australia wide, with systems and processes already in place. In terms of service, we currently fly our technicians all over QLD, NT and into PNG. Our 20 plus crane technicians will support the Kobelco product across Australia. We will be focused on developing this regional service support framework over the next 12 months,” he said.

“We are also building a specialist TRT team around the Kobelco product. We already have a number of key personnel with years of experience with the Kobelco crane product, which is a great building block” says Carden.

“One of TRT’s advantages is the experience of Troy Hand, based in Brisbane. In 2017, TRT purchased B&N Cranes Pty Ltd from Troy, at that time, B&N Cranes was a certified Kobelco service agent. As a result, we already have a number of technicians who are Kobelco experts (that moved with the business) and are fully trained in the product. We see ourselves being in a really strong position to be able to utilise that expertise and offer customers a great service and to get to any site, if they need us to, and solve any issues that arise.”

“Part of starting up over the Christmas period enabled us to invite a service technician from Kobelco, Japan over to New Zealand and Australia for two weeks at each of the TRT sites for product training – to start as we mean to continue in supporting the product and Kobelco crane customers. With the inherent technical background that we have, we believe we are able to offer Kobelco customers a stronger value proposition than they had before Christmas,” said Carden.

“The Japanese manufactured Kobelco crane brand has a reputation that is recognised as having traditional engineering and manufacturing values, with quality being a major focus for the products”, says Carden.

“Kobelco has always had a really strong reputation for quality and because of this, in our opinion, we will never profit from warranty or service repairs on Kobelco cranes, because there are so few issues with them. We know this from past experience with the three smaller crawler models we’ve been selling into the market for a long time now under the Manitowoc brand. The warranty side and the performance side of the crawlers is second to none, so it’s mainly rebuilds, servicing or accident repairs that we’ll be carrying out on the range of crawlers,” he said.

“Kobelco has worked hard on updating the new 300t G series crawler model (CKE3000G-2) and as a result, we will be focused on bringing this top performing product to the Region. They’ve done a great job of upgrading the engines for the G Series range of cranes, they are more economical to run, more environmentally friendly. But they have also focussed on reducing the transport costs from set up to breakdown and the transport from site to site through a number of very clever features.

Over the years we have seen that it takes a while for Kobelco to make changes, but each time they do, the changes add to an already top-class product. This new range has a good life cycle, with very low running costs,” Carden said.

The new hydraulic crawler cranes have a maximum lifting capacity of 300t for the standard crane and 350t with an SHL specification. The models are CKE3000G and CKS3000.

The CKE3000G and CKS3000 debut as the largest models of Kobelco’s multi-purpose crawler crane CK/CKE/CKS series which have been best sellers in the market for many years. The basic concept of this new model is based on versatility and being an ‘all-rounder’.

Along with the recent increase in weights and dimensions of construction materials and heights of high-rise buildings, mobile cranes are required to have a higher lifting capacity as well as improved productivity and safety. In order to respond to such needs, Kobelco’s has developed these “all rounder” cranes to handle a wide variety of applications in different jobsites.

Various kinds of attachments are available ranging from standard crane configuration, including fixed jib, heavy fixed jib and luffing jib, which are most suitable for multipurpose works, to the super heavy lift configuration, including luffing jib, for the heaviest lifts. These attachments make it possible to provide the most suitable solutions in accordance with the individual jobsite requirements. Kobelco designed these cranes taking into consideration maximum compatibility, such as jibs and pallet weights, with their other models.

After in-depth marketing research on the 300t crane market, Kobelco have positioned these models to provide superior lifting capacity. As an example, when compared to the best-selling model CKE2500G-2 (250t), the load moment in the standard crane specification is 40 per cent higher and in the standard luffing configuration it is 60 per cent higher. The Super Heavy Lift (SH) specification can compete with the 400t-500t classes.

In order to achieve maximum ease of operation, the specifications are optimised for the actual jobsite environment. The performance of the undercarriage has been enhanced to operate on rough ground jobsites, with high ground clearance and outstanding propelling performance, while minimising the overall footprint.

The models inherit the reliable Kobelco hydraulic control system, which has achieved a superior reputation for many years. In order to comply with specific jobsite requirements. A free-fall winch is also available as an optional extra.

The cabin has an operator-friendly environment taking into consideration comfort, ease of operation and safety. The extra-wide windows and tilt mechanism offer excellent visibility. An intuitive-designed moment limiter monitor makes it simple for anyone to quickly master the operation with easily understandable pictograms and a touch screen panel. As an added safety function, a working range limiter assists the operator in preventing collisions.

In our pursuit of ease of transportability these cranes conform to local transport regulations. Transport width is less than three metres for all components and main machine weights that can be adjusted in order to meet transport restrictions. A self-assembly system is available for crawlers, lower boom, car body weights and counterweights.
Carden explains what the market can expect to see from the TRT and Kobelco relationship.

“It’s all about a partnership and from a TRT point of view the relationship is following our “One Team” principles. We will be working very closely with Kobelco service technicians and engineers to supply information and to really get the Kobelco brand to where it was a few years ago.

“We’ve found a few customers unhappy with the lack of service that was available to them, particularly over the past six months, and we are really putting the effort in to helping them out with any outstanding issues. So if customers do have any issues, then we want them to contact us to work with TRT and Kobelco to get their machine back to the standard they expect it to be,” he said.

“We know it will take a few months for everything to settle, it’s been a quick transition for TRT with the dealership changing hands very quickly. We really encourage any Kobelco customers to get in touch for a chat, no matter the age of your crane. It’s an exciting time for TRT and Kobelco. We’re in this for the long haul and we look forward to working with Kobelco to reinvigorate the Kobelco brand across Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific region,” said Carden.

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