Bobcat's Mini Excavators Showcase Versatility Across Africa, From Infrastructure Projects to Banana Plantations

Posted: 31 January 2023

Mini Excavators from leading manufacturers are making light work of various projects across the continent. When it comes to construction machinery, few traits are as prized on Africa's shores as versatility. With projects spanning from inner-city buildings to remote infrastructure development under challenging conditions, the ability to adapt to the surroundings while sustaining peak productivity is of utmost importance. Mini excavators stand out as one of the most versatile pieces of equipment on the market, capable of efficiently performing a multitude of tasks while operating in confined spaces or on delicate surfaces. It is no surprise that mini excavators have become ubiquitous on construction sites from East to West.

Bobcat, a company with over 60 years of experience in providing reliable compact equipment, is committed to meeting all of Africa's mini excavator needs. To understand more about the company's mini excavator offerings in the region and the driving factors behind sales, African Review interviewed Nicolas Dumont, the district sales manager of Bobcat Africa. Dumont shared his perspective before listening to local representatives associated with the company. According to Dumont, the 4-5 ton models, E50z and E55z, are the top-selling units in terms of volume, making up approximately 60% of their sales. The E37 follows closely behind.

In Morocco, customers now understand the versatility and advantages of having a compact mini excavator dedicated to smaller jobs.

SILVIO ROCHA

Deputy Director General at Hydrau Mac

"We have achieved an excellent market share across the continent with these machines. Among the models, E17z and E27z are quite popular in South Africa, making it the most diversified market in terms of model mix."

Continuing, Dumont noted that applications for these models are incredibly diverse and really depend on the country in which they are deployed. "While it is more traditional to use mini excavators (MEX) for urban work sites in North Africa, they also have a place in fruit plantations (banana or pineapple) in West and Central Africa for digging trenches for irrigation, or in vineyards in the Western Cape of South Africa. In many African cities, affordable manual labor is still predominantly used for urban work. This is why MEX are mostly used in remote locations where labor is scarce, and a compact machine is necessary."

“The key benefit of our MEX range is that we are able to provide machines with mechanical injection engines. This really is a must to cope with the high sulphur content as well as the contamination of the fuel (such as water or dust) due to poor storage (external tanks where condensation is created)
and/or transfer conditions,” he added.

Finally, Dumont considered what he thinks is setting Bobcat’s machines apart from competitors, surmising, “We have several competitive advantages. On the product itself, the mechanical engine is the main advantage. Many African customers had bad experiences with high pressure/common rail injection engine and they would rather buy a second hand machine with a mechanical engine rather than a Stage V unit.

“Some of our competitors do have mechanical engines as well, but on some models they only offer a canopy while we have an air conditioned cab option on the E37, E50, and E55z, which considerably improves operator comfort in the hot and humid environments found in Africa.”

South Africa

Providing context from one of the continent’s more developed countries, Clayton Sadler, sales manager for Bobcat of Goscor Earthmoving Equipment, explained that while supply challenges have unfortunately limited market sales in 2022, this year sales have largely gone to rental and agriculture.

“The rental units have been used in vineyards and plantations removing old vines and trees, preparing land for replanting and general maintenance for irrigation and drainage. One E55 model with a thumb attachment went into game farm management where it has been put to work de-bushing, maintaining trenches, and road making. The customer is very satisfied with the additional scope of work the thumb attachment offers.

"We see the MEX as more of a rental machine in the construction segment, where it is utilized during the mid-stages of building due to its compact nature."

What sets Bobcat’s range apart, based on customer feedback, Sadler remarked, “With the ‘long arm’ option on the E55 we have a similar reach to a 6 ton machine. Our vineyard customers therefore enjoy the benefit of being able to work on up to three rows of vines from one position. This results in less repositioning, saving time and reducing fuel consumption for the customer. This and the power of the brand make the Bobcat MEX an easy choice.”

Angola

In Angola, the top sellers are “by far and away” the E35, E37 and E50, according to Ivo Araujo, general manager of Centrocar Angola. He remarked that these models are currently and most commonly working in the rehabilitation of cities’ infrastructure all over the nation on many key projects.

This includes the National Road 230 Luanda-Saurimo (connecting the capital with the eastern border of the DRC) as well as other projects including Lubango peripheral highway, Luanda military hospital, and Luanda children's hospital.

On what customers in the country find most attractive around Bobcat’s machines in this field, he remarked that reliability and running costs have been highlighted, in addition to outstanding productivity.

Morocco

Finally, moving to the other end of the continent, Silvio Rocha, deputy director general at Hydrau Mac in Morocco, explained, “The main model by far is the E50z, which is very attractive because of its capability for operating in compact working zones. The E35/E37 models are also popular for finishing works and site preparation in narrow spaces.

“In Morocco, customers now understand the versatility and advantages of having a compact mini excavator dedicated to the smaller jobs that before were always carried out using backhoe loaders.”

He continued by noting that most of the units are working inner city on tramway expansion jobs but customers are now using them in smaller and more narrow construction sites where the compact size matters.

“Mostly our customers are choosing Bobcat models not only due to the reliability of the machines but also because of the technical support and aftersales assistance, which is which is extremely important when they have construction jobs with tight time schedules to meet."

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