23 September 2020, 09:10
While it’s true that 2020 has presented some unprecedented global challenges, it is also a year of celebration for Kobelco Construction Machinery (KCM). This year marks 90 years since the manufacturer created Japan’s first electric mining shovel in 1930, an innovation that would go on to have a significant impact on both the business and the worldwide construction industry.
Kobelco’s success can largely be attributed to the Japanese manufacturer’s unrivalled reputation for building enduring, long-lasting, low maintenance machinery that can withstand some of the toughest job site conditions. For 90 years, quality has been Kobelco’s priority and this philosophy has never changed, despite the ever-changing and increasingly difficult economy.
Kobelco – the early years
From the development of the first electric mining excavator and the introduction of the first hydraulic machine, Kobelco’s history is packed with ‘firsts’.
In 1930, Kobelco created Japan’s first electric mining shovel, which paved the way for all future Kobelco construction machinery and set the tone for decades of pioneering technological developments.
By 1960, Kobelco completed the Okubo factory and manufacturing of construction machinery began. Today, this factory still exists and is dedicated to the production of Kobelco cranes. It is one of four Kobelco factories in Japan.
In 1967, the first crawler-type hydraulic excavator was produced by using Kobelco-own technology, the H208, kickstarting another 40 years of Kobelco innovation with the release of the SK-New MARKII series of hydraulic excavators (1987), the urban-type hydraulic excavator "Acera" series (1989) and the "Beetle" series of short rear tail swing mini excavators (1996).
Over the last two decades, Kobelco has remained at the forefront of excavator technology – its hi-tech Itsukaichi factory now plays a key role as the production base for Kobelco excavators and the development of advanced technology.
One of Kobelco’s most important innovations to date has been the development of hybrid technology – Kobelco was the first major excavator manufacturer to instigate hybrid development in 1999. This forward thinking led to the reveal of a hybrid excavator (HE-01) in 2007, followed by sales of the hybrid excavator 80H (8-tonne class) in 2010. Demand for a larger category hybrid machine was realised with the SK200H-9 – Kobelco’s first 20-tonne class hybrid excavator, before the SK210HLC-10 was launched in 2017 – the world’s first hybrid excavator to use lithium-ion technology.
In recent years, Kobelco has also become synonymous with demolition technology. The manufacturer had carved out a reputation as a market leader for demolition equipment in Japan and even built (at that time) the world’s highest building demolition machine (SK3500D) in 2006. However, Kobelco’s product development teams wanted to find a way to maximise productivity on demolition job sites and set about developing a machine structure with a common-use type base boom and interchangeable attachments, allowing one machine to be adapted to multiple specifications. The SK350DLC-10, SK400DLC-10 and SK550DLC-10 demolition machines all feature Kobelco’s proven NEXT system for both high elevation and foundation demolition work, giving the operator the ability to change tools on site and work at multiple heights with a single machine.
In 2007, Kobelco released a short rear tail swing hydraulic excavator with a new Integrated Noise & Dust Reduction (iNDr) cooling system. This superior method of noise suppression promotes low noise, exceptional engine cooling, enhanced reliability, minimal machine downtime and a more comfortable working environment for the operator. Today, this innovative technology can be found in many mini, midi and medium-sized excavators.
Today’s Kobelco now operates in over 100 countries with almost 480 dealers and 8,000 employees worldwide.