Mini excavators are harnessing technology to boost productivity, as well as operator comfort
The only thing that stays consistent with compact equipment is the constant change. Today’s mini excavators feature many upgrades from the models of yesteryear to keep operators efficient and comfortable on the job.
Advancements include multiple tail-swing configurations, cab comfort updates, joystick enhancements, maintenance access upgrades, improved angle blade designs and the rollout of depth guidance and telematics systems.
Many manufacturers offer multiple tail swing options for today’s mini excavators, which allow operators to do more while moving the machine less.
“To decide which tail swing is best for your application, you’ll want to consider the size of your jobsites and access points, as well as your lift capacity needs,” said Aaron Kleingartner, Doosan dealer and product marketing manager.
Zero tail swing: This configuration allows operators to work up against structures and obstacles without restricting rotation. The rear of the house stays within the tracks throughout the full rotation.
Minimal tail swing: This is another configuration for sites where space is tight. With only about 15-cm of overhang from the house, a minimal tail-swing option makes it easier to turn or rotate the house on cramped job sites.
Conventional tail swing: If you’re after lifting power and don’t mind a 15-cm to 50-cm overhang, a conventional swing may be best for your business, since zero tail-swing and minimal tail-swing machines have a lower lift capacity. Conventional tail-swing machines also have a narrower width than their counterparts, making it easier to load the machine on a trailer or move through gates.
The latest lineup of mini excavators boasts many advanced cab features to keep operators feeling great during long days on tough jobs.
Expanded headroom and legroom: Up, down, side to side. Cabs are becoming more and more spacious, boasting extra headroom and floor space to allow big and tall operators additional stretching space.
Digital displays: Advanced displays deliver easy-to-read machine monitoring capabilities that help operators solve more problems right in the field. Owners and operators can keep a close eye on the attachment settings, integrate a rearview camera, switch languages, create operator profiles and set up keyless start. Some displays offer touch interaction and device connectivity for added ease of use.
Automatic climate control: Set it and forget it. Automatic climate control allows operators to choose their ideal temperature, and the machine will automatically keep the cab at a steady temperature no matter the weather.
Improved visibility: Advancements in cab design have allowed for narrower pillars with more glass surface area, giving operators an improved line of sight to their work, jobsite and attachment.
Adjustable, heated seats: Operators of all sizes can now adjust their seat to a comfortable position using multiple adjustment points. Also, a heated seat feature keeps operators warm and focused on the job during long, cold days.
Reduced vibration: Operating a machine shouldn’t beat up the body. Innovations in track roller systems, machine body construction and connection components have reduced the amount of vibration in the cab, creating for a more comfortable working environment.
LED lights: Compared to halogen, LEDs offer brighter, far-reaching illumination when working after sundown or in low-light environments.
Connected stereo: Improved speaker systems and auxiliary equipment allow operators to plug in their devices and blast some tunes. Some machines even have Bluetooth capabilities for wireless connectivity.
When operating a mini excavator, the operator’s hands are on the controls at all times, which can cause soreness and fatigue.
“Improvements in joystick design, like ergonomic controls made of soft-touch materials, ensure operators can find a grip that’s comfortable and efficient when traveling, digging, backfilling and operating attachments,” Kleingartner said.
Fingertip auxiliary hydraulic controls allow operators to control attachment speed and thumb movement with only the press of a finger, while a secondary auxiliary thumb toggle lets the operator easily switch between the second auxiliary and the boom offset. There’s no need to release the joystick or to search for a switch. Some manufacturers also offer a hydraulic joystick option for smooth, precise workgroup operation, as well as the ability to control a rearview camera right from the joystick.
Swing-open tailgates with wider access points make it easier to swap filters and check fluids. A centralized grease bank makes simple work of lubricating components. Plus, many of today’s mini excavators have an auto-tensioning belt that needs no adjustments for effortless maintenance.
Improved angle blades
With improved motion and component protection, updated angle blades are designed to work harder and provide a smoother grade than the blades of old.
“The ability to now angle the blade left or right up to 25 degrees lets operators find the best position for their work so they can grade or backfill faster,” Kleingartner said. “Increased downward positioning ability — up to 12 degrees — provides the machine more stability when lifting heavy loads, digging on uneven ground and trenching with an offset boom.”
Advancements in improved edge durability helps the blade better withstand impacts, while blade reversibility further extends the life of a blade and reduces maintenance costs.
A blade float feature helps simplify grading, levelling and backfilling on uneven terrain by exerting a consistent downforce on the blade with little operator input.
Depth guidance systems
Achieving an accurate dig no longer requires the operator to leave the cab, set up a laser system or ask a crew member to hold a depth gauge. Using sensors that monitor the exact position of the mini excavator’s bucket teeth, arm and boom, a depth check system allows the operator to program a desired digging depth and dig against that benchmark.
“Some systems have an accuracy of approximately half an inch and integrate directly into the excavator’s display panel so the operator can continuously monitor the distance to target, grade and depth,” Kleingartner said.
“Audible alerts also guide operators as they approach the target, meet the target or work beyond the target.”
A fully wired system means the operator will never lose signal due to jobsite conditions or wireless signal loss — even when the boom is working underwater.
Whether the operator is trenching utility lines, digging basements or prepping for footings, a depth guidance system can improve a business’s profitability by preventing over or under-digging — and the associated costs that come with fill material or manual labour to finish the job.
Some mini excavator manufacturers are rolling out telematics systems designed to protect uptime and help owners monitor their equipment’s health, location and productivity — all from a mobile app or website.
The ability to customize alerts allows owners to control when and how they receive notifications.
“In addition to in-the-moment monitoring, owners can also use telematics to track their equipment’s operating statistics over time to draw insights and improve efficiencies,” Kleingartner said.
“Telematics systems benefit operators by helping them monitor oil pressure, fuel level, operating temperatures, diagnostic information and more as they work to make sure the machines are operating safely and efficiently.”
A telematics system can also help dealers, help you.
Any machine issue codes are automatically sent to your dealer, so they can assist with resolving the problem. Your dealer can also monitor a machine’s maintenance intervals, so equipment gets the service it needs, when it needs it.
Today’s mini excavators are designed to accelerate productivity while keeping operators comfortable on the job.