ECL lead to Stage 5

April 15, 2021

As the leading supplier of infrastructure services to many of the nation’s leading developers, ECL Civil Engineering have been at the forefront of advancements in engine technology recently taking their first Stage 5 engine excavator into their fleet.

The past two years have seen the Bedford based company undertake a massive fleet upgrade and renewal programme spurred on by an increase in both the number and the size of projects the company are winning.

Whilst the fleet still remains mixed with a number of JCB and Komatsu excavators and JCB telehandlers and dumpers spread across their sites, the bulk of the excavator fleet is now dominated by the Japanese Kobelco brand. Only the eagle-eyed will notice the spread of the Kobelco brand across the company’s active sites from Northampton down to the M25 as the company have taken their entire fleet in the manufacturer’s yellow branding. “It tied in with the rest of our fleet at first.” Managing Director Sean Hoare commented. “It’s the colour all excavators should be!” he says with a wry smile.

We first reported on the initial batch of Kobelcos entering the fleet back in 2018 with a rake of SK140, SK210 and SK300 models arriving around the home counties. Since the first machines arrived, the company has expanded both ways in the weight range and have taken a number of mini excavators which are used within the finishing operations around houses and within the large amount of road alteration works the company undertakes when development works to a new housing development commence. The larger side of the business has seen them offer their clients a dedicated bulk earthmoving service with the arrival of an SK500LC-10 along with the first Stage 5 SK350LC-10E which will be used on large infrastructure projects installing large diameter drainage to depths of up to 7m.

The arrival of the SK500 coincided with a number of large infrastructure projects being won and whilst the company has the capacity to move muck on a large scale with a number of 30 and 36 tonne excavators already on the fleet, the decision to add the 50t machine to the fleet added another dimension to their already impressive capabilities.

Operated by industry veteran Danny Murphy, the SK500 has, like many of the newcomers to the fleet, been outfitted with a range of bespoke buckets from South Walian manufacturers Keen Attachments.

Powered by an 11 litre, 6-cylinder Hino engine delivering 363hp, the T4 final machine was first put to work excavating a large borrow pit of blue clay used in the formation of new roads for a development in Leighton Buzzard. Weighing in at 51.3t, almost 15 tonnes heavier than his previous Komatsu PC360, Danny is impressed with the machine’s performance saying that it isn’t that different to the smaller machine he has come off.

While the arrival of the 50 tonner has expanded the company’s capabilities when it comes to earthmoving, the SK500 has also brought the installation of large box culverts in house. Prior to its arrival, large culverts up to 14t in weight were installed with the assistance of a large crane. This meant that a large amount of infrastructure was required to be installed prior to the crane being deployed. Ground conditions, wind and aerial hazards also had to taken into account resulting in large costs and delays when installing these structures. The SK500 has been a revelation with its impressive lifting ability now allowing the company to install all but the heaviest of culverts, pipes and manhole sections with total safety.

The latest addition to the fleet is a pair of SK350 excavators, the first Stage 5 machines to arrive in the UK.  The 37 tonne machines are powered by a 7.6 litre Hino engine delivering 286hp. To comply with the ever-tightening emissions regulations, the Hino engineers have developed what they say is a simple solution to reducing the harmful emissions emitted from an engine. The common rail fuel injection system, variable geometry turbo charger and EGR system reduce harmful particulate matter whilst a large capacity EGR cooler reduces the formation of NOx gasses. A redesigned SCR system then converts the NOx emissions into harmless nitrogen and water all of which results in a near 80% reduction in NOx emissions. A number of smaller changes have also been made under the body of the excavator. Designed to reduce contamination when changing filters, the hydraulic filter benefits from a new cover whilst pressure sensors on the inlet and outlet pipes leading to and from the filter detect pressure build ups. Should the pressure near or exceed a determined level, a warning is sent to the touch screen in the cab to alert the operator. On the fuel side of the engine larger pre-filter ensures only clean fuel enters the engine.

Like its bigger brother, the SK350LC-10E has been fitted with a Miller hitch and a range of Keen buckets. Another improvement over the outgoing Stage 4 models is an improvement in productivity thanks to an increase in both the machine’s breakout force and dipper crowd force.  Kobelco claim the increases amount to a 5% improvement over the older model.

Inside the cab, the environment remains almost the same although the operators do benefit from a 25% reduction in the effort to move the joysticks reducing driver fatigue along with a redesign in the air conditioning system which now has four outlets in the rear cab pillars to direct warm or cold air towards the rear of the operator.

Both the boom and dipper pivot points have been improved over the previous models with enlarged reinforcement on the boom and a redesigned shape of the dipper point. The hydraulic pipework on the dipper and boom have also been redesigned in a bid to improve the smoothness of the machine’s operation along with reducing fuel consumption. Larger bore pipe with smoother transitions require less pump force. A newly developed Arm Interflow System has been fitted to this model to decrease fuel consumption. When downward force is placed into the boom structure hydraulic fluid is automatically pushed into the dipper cylinder aiding the boom cylinder to stroke and bring the dipper in. As the boom is lifted, the operation reverses and allows the dipper to extend with less pump force required. In ECO mode Kobelco claim this gives the excavator an almost 47% improvement in fuel economy over the older dash 6 machines.

The first SK350LC was delivered and put straight to work on the company’s huge development on the outskirts of Aylesbury where they have been responsible for the construction of over 5 miles of roads and sewers before putting in the infrastructure for over 200 properties on the first phase of their work.

The addition of the leaner and greener SK350 excavators follows ECL’s commitment to providing environmentally friendly equipment to their sites.

ECL have also taken a number of SMP tilt rotators into their fleet over recent months with a pair of ST-22 units being delivered on SK210LC-10 excavators. We will bring you a full report on these high spec machines in a future issue of EARTHMOVERS.

Written by Paul Argent for Earthmovers Magazine.