18t Kobelco hits the spot for RN Cawood

April 21, 2020

Molson Group has recently delivered their first Kobelco SK180LC-10 excavator into the UK market.

Supplied to Bawtry based agricultural contractors RN Cawood, the SK180 bridges the gap between the very popular SK140SR compact tail-swing machine and the SK210LC with a standard overhang. Whilst there is already an SK160LC Blade Runner in this weight range, the SK180LC now offers potential customers a high specification standard configuration excavator in a slightly smaller package.

Roger Cawood is the man who has put the new Kobelco into service and will be using it throughout his agricultural contracting operations. “We work all over the UK and Europe installing large tanks, silage clamps and sheds for farming concerns.” Roger explains “The new Kobelco has been added to allow us a greater flexibility throughout the business.”

Replacing a similar sized Hitachi, the SK180LC joins a fresh SK140SRLC in the fleet which includes a rake of smaller equipment from Takeuchi mini excavators, forward tip and Hydrema dumpers and Hamm rollers. “We have a large fleet of kit at our disposal.” Roger says, “A lot of it is only used on an as and when basis but it’s very important to us that we have it available to us at the drop of a hat.”

The 19.6 tonne machine looks a little bottom heavy thanks to the large, long undercarriage and the 900mm wide pads. “We wanted a machine with low ground impact.” Roger explains “Some of the sites we work on cannot bare the weight of myself yet the Kobelco simply floats across the top. While it is great for working on soft ground, it also benefits us as we don’t disturb any farm land we need to cross.” Whilst resting on 900mm pads offers a low ground pressure, it throws the width of the machine to almost 2.9m in width, the maximum Roger wanted as he transports all of his machines himself on a Unimog and low loader combination.

The undercarriage for the SK180LC has been taken from the SK210 model and measures in at ??m in length. Each track frame is fitted with a trio of individual track guides and a pair of top rollers ensuring the wide pads stay in place at all times. The upper structure is a specific design for the SK180. At just 2550mm from slew ring to outer edge of the curved counterweight, the design of the body loses the second access door as found on the SK210 model. And whilst this removes some form of access into the guts of the machine, the ability to get to all of the main components with relative ease still remains. Power to the excavator comes from an ultra-reliable and extremely frugal Hino 5-litre, 4-cylinder diesel engine delivering 134hp. Unlike many of its competitors, the Kobelco still retains a very low-profile shape resulting in a very good, all round view from the cab. The cab is a revelation according to Roger; “It is comfortable, well laid out, not overly complicated and just a great place to work in.” Whereas many companies operate a one man, one machine policy, Roger likes to give as many of his operatives the opportunity to learn to drive the excavators. “The Kobelco is a great machine to operate, very easy on the controls and operator friendly in all aspects.” Roger explains. Front end equipment is similar in size to that found on the larger SK210 although this particular model has been specified with a 3.1m dipper arm, an addition Roger has included to aid in some of the construction processes the team has to undertake. “The additional load over height now allows the Kobelco to be a more than capable tool when it comes to lifting some of the large formwork panels used in the construction of shed walls and silage clamp walls and also allows the use of a concrete skip to accurately deliver material to construct said walls. An additional benefit of the wider undercarriage also makes the excavator extremely stable when it is used for lifting operations. Whilst Roger has just a standard two-year warranty with his SK140SRLC, he has decided to enter into a full R&M contract with Molson for the new arrival. “We’re pretty good at fixing the odd issue although I believe the Kobelco’s will be very reliable, I just wanted the peace of mind that comes with a maintenance contract for the new machine.”

The SK140SRLC is the second model of this excavator to enter service with the company after a used machine dash 5 model had been on the fleet for a while. Despite an issue with the engine regeneration system, now a thing of the past thanks to the introduction of AdBlue into the emissions system, Roger was suitably impressed with both the quality and productivity of the Kobelco brand and the customer focussed service to return to Molson for his next purchases.

We travelled out to rural Norfolk to meet Roger and some of his small but dedicated team in action. The particular project the team were working on was to develop a new dairy farm and included a 2000 tonne muck shift, the construction of new access roads and the construction of two large silage clamps and a 50×40 open shed. Undertaking every aspect of the project themselves, the team are in total control of each and every stage of the job. With the initial muck shift completed and the resulting topsoil bunded to the Northern perimeter of their site, the underlying flint and clay material was graded and compacted before large footings were installed to take the walls of the silage clamps. At the time of our visit the site had been deluged by heavy rain, but Roger’s team kept at it installing the large shuttering panels in readiness for pouring the concrete walls.

While the smaller SK140SRLC was busy lifting some of the shuttering panels into place, Roger and the SK180 were moving some of the flint bearing material from storage ready to screen. “We’ve been asked to remove as much flint from the material as possible as the land owner has a use for it.” Roger explains “We’ll let it dry out a little before screening it and use the leftover material for infill.” Using the services of a 1996 vintage Hydrema 910 dump truck, Roger quickly transferred the material from the stockpile to the Hydrema’s skip for the veteran truck to quickly transfer it across the site. With the flint bearing material moved, Roger’s attention turns to widening one of the existing farm tracks to accept larger vehicles. This task has been done from the main road, so far, the best part of ½ a mile with crushed, screened reclaimed material being used to provide a solid and substantial road surface. Once the material had been graded out, the services of a Hamm HD90 double drum roller was used to compact the road surface. Again, the Hydrema was called into action to remove the soil and grass from the cut with Roger carefully removing the material to the desired width.

Even though it is early days for both Kobelco excavators, Roger and his team are very pleased with the machines. “I can’t fault the machines or the service we get from Molson. Long may it continue!”

Written by Paul Argent for Earthmovers magazine.