Japanese construction equipment manufacturer marks nine decades of innovation and pioneering developments
WHILE this year has presented some unprecedented global challenges, 2020 is also a year of celebration for Kobelco Construction Machinery (KCM), as it marks 90 years since the company created Japan’s first electric mining shovel in 1930.
This particular innovation would go on to have a significant impact on both the business and the worldwide construction industry, paving the way for all future Kobelco construction machinery and setting the tone for decades of pioneering technological developments.
By 1960, Kobelco had completed their Okubo factory and the manufacturing of construction machinery began. Today, this factory still exists and is dedicated to the production of Kobelco cranes. It is one of four Kobelco factories in Japan.
In 1967, Kobelco’s first crawler-type hydraulic excavator, the H208, was produced, kickstarting another 40 years of Kobelco hydraulic excavator innovation.
Over the last two decades, Kobelco have remained at the forefront of excavator technology, with their hi-tech Itsukaichi factory now playing a key role as the production base for Kobelco excavators and the development of advanced technology.
One of Kobelco’s most important innovations to date has been the development of hybrid technology – Kobelco lay claim to be the first major excavator manufacturer to instigate hybrid development in 1999.
This forward thinking led to the introduction if increasingly bigger hybrid machines, culminating in the launch of the SK210HLC-10 – the world’s first hybrid excavator to use lithium-ion technology – in 2017.
In recent years, Kobelco have also become synonymous with demolition technology, carving out a reputation as a market leader for demolition equipment in Japan and, in 2006, producing the world’s tallest (at that time) high-reach demolition machine, the SK3500D.
However, Kobelco’s product development teams wanted to find a way to maximize productivity on demolition sites and set about developing a machine structure with a common-use type base boom and interchangeable attachments, allowing one machine to be adapted to multiple specifications.
The SK350DLC-10, SK400DLC-10 and SK550DLC-10 demolition machines all feature Kobelco’s proven NEXT system for both high-elevation and foundation demolition work, giving the operator the ability to change tools on site and work at multiple heights with a single machine.
Today, Kobelco operate in 200 countries with almost 8,000 employees worldwide, but a major milestone for the company in the last decade was the re-establishment of the Kobelco Construction Machinery Europe BV (KCME) headquarters in Almere, the Netherlands, in 2013.
Over the past seven years, this important base has provided full after-sales support for European customers across 64 dealers and 270 outlets in 60 countries.
KCME’s managing director, Makoto Kato, said: ‘Europe is a region of huge significance for Kobelco. Since our re-establishment in Almere in 2013, we have been working hard to build the foundations for a strong and successful business and are very proud of how much has been achieved over the past seven years.
‘Kobelco have strong brand heritage and reliable products – our line-up now covers a significant range of machinery from the smallest SK08 mini-excavator to the largest SK850LC for quarrying, demolition and earthmoving.
‘However, a major part of our business is productive partnerships with our dealer network and we are pleased to have such a dedicated team of business managers and dealers to help showcase the Kobelco brand.’
Michel Wierts, who is responsible for Kobelco’s dealer network in western Europe, said: ‘Many of our dealers have been committed to the Kobelco brand since we re-entered Europe in 2013, including Molson and McSharry in the UK and Ireland. We’re proud to see these dealers grow along with us, better servicing existing customers and managing the increasing demand for Kobelco machinery.’
Kobelco Construction Machinery Co. Ltd’s president and chief executive officer, Yoshinori Onoe, concluded: ‘Ever since producing our first large domestic electric shovel 90 years ago in 1930, we have continued to create a wide variety of products to meet customer demands by adapting to our environment and developing new technologies.
‘This ‘user hands-on approach’ has always been in our DNA – we continually strive to be a company that brings satisfaction to our customers by always providing new and innovative solutions.’