A Salute To A Customer


Nov 7, 2007

“It’s not just for digging anymore.”

As a world leader in excavator technology and design Komatsu is always looking to tailor its equipment to best suit owners, operators and the job at hand. Before Komatsu released the PC200LC-8 thumb spec option hydraulic excavator they looked and listened to what owners and operators had to say.

It started with talking to numerous contractors across the country and it became apparent that a thumb spec configuration in the PC200 class machine was becoming a customer requirement. So, in addition to manufacturing the PC200LC-8 standard-equipped machine, Komatsu designed the PC200LC-8 thumb specification hydraulic excavator.

The size, strength, versatility and ease of transportation make the PC200 size class machine an integral piece of equipment for large and small contractors alike. The PC200 size class machine (20 metric ton range) remains the largest player of the total crawler excavator market and Komatsu wanted to be sure it was meeting all of their customers’ job requirements and applications and with such high installation ratios of thumbs Komatsu also wanted to be sure they had a product to offer that totally meets these customer demands.

The PC200LC-8 thumb spec is a term that may be misleading people at first because it incorporates far more than just the ability to mount a thumb. Many other machine-specific components are incorporated such as a 11,133 lb counterweight (2,900 lbs over the standard counterweight) which increases lift capacity and machine stability to a class leading unrivaled position, a heavy-duty arm for increased support of a thumb and other attachments, and a major key component is a strengthened revolving frame to accommodate demands associated with thumb applications, are among the features incorporated into the thumb spec model. This “total machine package” is allowing contractors to achieve a greater level of versatility and productivity in the job market as it truly allows the operator to feel firm footed therefore becoming more confident and with that comes an increase in work output.

“For me there is no other choice,” says Ricky Smith, owner of Smith Backhoe & Construction, Union, South Carolina. The PC200LC-8 thumb spec is the first piece of Komatsu equipment purchased by Smith Backhoe & Construction and Smith says the thumb spec played a major role in his purchase decision. “I wouldn’t buy one (excavator) without a thumb attachment,” Smith says. “It just makes us so much more productive and versatile in the workplace, allowing us to bid on jobs we may have otherwise felt unsure or incapable of tackling.”

Smith regards his business as a “small operation” (with 11 full-time employees). Describing his market Smith says “this is a highly competitive work place and for smaller companies, such as ours, having the right equipment to remain productive yet cost-effective is crucial to ensuring success and staying in business.”

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Larry Green of Larry Green Grading (LLG), Lyman, South Carolina agrees, adding “we are involved in so many different types of jobs that the hydraulic thumb is a major asset to us. We may be laying pipe and manholes one minute and site clearing or truck loading the next.” Green feels the PC200 thumb spec is just the type of versatile machine he needs for the job and says “from job to job this unit always factors into helping us make our deadlines and keep our competitive edge.” Green goes on to say, “I think one thing that separates us from the competition is our ability to fulfill our obligations and complete the work on time; simply put ‘doing what we promised people we would do’ and in a timely and efficient manner.” The Komatsu thumb spec is the tool that allows his company to accomplish that mission.

Like most people in business Larry Green is always looking for new applications in which to expand his operations. “We knew if we wanted to grow our business, keep a competitive edge and remain successful, we would need a machine that would give us the speed, power and the confidence to bid on larger or ‘heavier’ jobs,” Green said. We were running a PC160LC-6 and at first we thought about upgrading to a machine in the PC300 size class” (30 to 40 metric ton).

However, after Linder (Linder Industrial Machinery, Komatsu’s South Carolina Distributor) demonstrated the PC200LC-8 thumb spec machine Larry knew he found what he needed to significantly grow his business while keeping his overhead costs down. “I was especially impressed with the digging and lifting power and the stability of the machine. I could tell right away they had really ‘beefed it up.’ The unit was extremely well-balanced and could handle large loads with precise control. I knew we were getting a lot of machine for the money which definitely fit our operating budget.”

Green went on to say “one thing I think has always set Komatsu heads above the others is the smoothness and sheer power of their hydraulics. I have always kept Komatsu in my excavator fleet (starting with a PC200LC-3), and I have run other manufacturers’ excavators but I have never seen or felt the speed and performance that I do with Komatsu. The first job we used the PC200 thumb spec machine was a demolition site with an optimized bucket and thumb. The machine was so quick and stable I knew I could get a lot done as I could work faster with a greater level of confidence; I knew right away I had a powerful machine for its rated size class.”

Ricky Smith’s company is also involved in a diverse range of projects from water and sewer to concrete, cleaning/clearing and grading to demolition and even some logging. He is currently working on a project for the City of Union, South Carolina, replacing sewer pipe and manholes. While it may seem like a straight-forward job Smith says that it is anything but routine. The existing sewer pipe and manholes being replaced are over 100 years old. When working in older projects, the old saying is you should expect the unexpected and Smith says “we have not been disappointed when it comes to the unexpected; we are experiencing more than our fair share of obstacles.”

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In addition to clearing the right-of-way and dealing with buried stumps, large field rocks and other debris Smith says “we have been hitting services and taps that we or nobody else even knew were there. There are few or no records from that long ago to rely on. Some of the manholes we are ripping out are quite deep and heavy as are the sections of old pipe we are removing and this machine (PC200LC thumb spec) is handling all of these obstacles quite well.”

The operators in Smith’s crew have also expressed positive comments about the PC200LC-8 thumb spec machine. Jeff Allen, Site Supervisor, has been operating equipment for Smith Backhoe & Construction for 14 years and has been very pleased with the overall performance of the PC200LC-8 thumb spec. Allen and his crew appreciate the digging power of the unit and feel it is very strong for this size class of machine, especially when you consider the many different applications in which it is expected to perform. They also like the smoothness and responsiveness of the machines’ hydraulics, saying it is not too fast or jerky (especially in the swing mode), which helps to lessen or eliminate bucket spillage or causing dirt to fall back into the trench. They said the fine control and stability of the machine really shows when it comes to picking up and moving the rock box and the thumb is responsive and reliable for picking up and holding onto the “odd objects they encounter.”

Some of the other features they enjoyed are the overall cab comfort and visibility and in particular the front visibility which they said was important in trenching operations as the operator could see right up to his machine. They also liked the ergonomics of the joysticks and how you could adjust them to your desired comfort level which Allen says “makes a world of difference in keeping your production constant on long days.”

Jeff Allen also said the monitor panel is “state-of-the-art and a real time saver” as it gives the operator the convenience of checking all the major diagnostics without having to leave the cab. He also likes the easy access service doors or preventative maintenance, filter and fluid checks. He was particularly impressed with the visibility and ease of the grease points and grease fittings on the machine, especially on the bucket.

When asked what they consider when it comes time to purchase a major piece of equipment such as the PC200LC-8 thumb spec, both Larry Green and Ricky Smith agree that price is a factor but stressed that the machines reliability was more important along with the service and support they need from their distributor to keep their operations running.

Green said confidently “Linder’s sales staff and field technicians have always provided us with great service. When you are in the middle of a project you always worry about a machine going down at the worst possible time. It’s a great comfort knowing if the worst happens Linder will get us up and running in the shortest amount of time or they will get a machine out of their yard. They have always seen us through the rough times.”