Kobelco: Excavator innovators since 1930

Kobelco: Excavator innovators since 1930

Much has changed for Kobelco since introducing the first electric mining shovel more than 80 years ago. However, despite growth and changes within the structure of the company, they have always remained committed to a single focus on excavator excellence.

Instead of following the route taken by many of our competitors and diversifying into different types of construction machinery, Kobelco dedicate time, investment and resource into creating the best excavators they can. This commitment has resulted in the introduction of a variety of industry-leading technologies.

As part of the Kobe Steel Group, Kobelco have access to significant resources for product development. However, this investment increased again in 2012 with the establishment of the Global Engineering Center (GEC) in Japan. The center’s primary role is to help integrate and optimise the Group’s research and development, supply chain and production operations.

However, the facility also houses an Advanced Technology Center, which among other purposes, helps to support the future of Kobelco construction machinery through the development of new and innovative technologies. These ultimately help them to set the Kobelco brand apart from their competitors.

In developing new equipment, technologies and manufacturing processes, the GEC needs to work closely with other teams at the Itsukaichi factory, where all their excavators are hand-built.

“I have been working at Kobelco for six years,” explains Takashi Nakaoka, GEC Product Design Engineering Department, Upper Design. “In order to improve our manufacturing processes, we work closely with the other sections at the Itsukaichi factory. For example, we’re currently working with the Manufacturing Section to develop excavators that are easier to assemble. We work together to create design drawings that are easier to understand, so that we can make the assembly process much quicker.”

During recent years, the GEC has played a vital role in the development of some of their most stand-out technologies, including the innovative Integrated Noise and Dust Reduction Cooling System (iNDr) technology. This superior system promotes low noise, exceptional engine cooling, enhanced reliability, minimal machine downtime and a more comfortable working environment for the operator. While this technology was first introduced on the SR class of Kobelco construction machinery in 2014, it has now been integrated into a number of their other models too, and has since been widely acknowledged by their customers across the globe.

Most recently, in 2017, we introduced the Kobelco SK210HLC-10 – the first true hybrid specialist excavator in the demanding 21-tonne operating class. The SK210HLC-10 Hybrid is the world’s first lithium-ion battery-powered excavator and has become renowned for its exceptional ability to increase productivity levels while reducing operator costs. All their Hybrid excavators are hand-built at our Itsukaichi factory in Japan.

“I have spent 15 years here at Kobelco” explains Yusuke Kono, Production Division, Numata Manufacturing Section, Revolving electric motor, Generator motor, Battery of Hybrid excavator assembly line.

“My current role is to assemble electric swing motors, generator motors and batteries of our Hybrid excavators. This is actually a unique division that was established three years ago. To my knowledge, there are no other construction manufacturers who have a section like this.”

“There are currently three of us who work in this section and together we have the capacity to produce parts for one Hybrid excavator a day. However, when demand of our Hybrid excavators increases, we adapt our working methods to make them even more efficient and to cope with the workload. I am proud to see Kobelco introducing new technologies that have never existed before. This gives me great job satisfaction.”

While the development of their future technologies remains under close guard, Kobelco recently announced that they are in the process of pioneering a unique concept that aims to change working style, cope with operator shortages and work on job sites in dangerous locations. The innovative Kobelco K-Dive system will enable operators to operate (multiple) machines from remote locations as if they are sitting in the actual cockpit.

Kobelco presented the K-Dive concept at the recent Intermat 2018 in Paris. Watch the video to find out more.

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