CMME gets an insight into Cat’s regional launch of its GC machines and how they will benefit customers and consolidate Cat’s position in the market
In a corner of Sharjah in the UAE, an event took place on the premises of Mohamed Abdulrahman Al-Bahar – the Cat dealer in the GCC countries (except KSA) – last month that was low key when it came to being ceremonious but was hugely important in its ramifications: The official launch of Caterpillar’s new GC series of machines in the Middle East region.
While there were no laser and sound and light shows to usher in the new models, basking under the Arabian morning sun were two models – the 330 GC excavator and the 950 GC wheel loader – that can truly said to be “game changers” for Cat in the region.
So what is it that makes the new introductions so important and such game changers? To answer that question was present the Al-Bahar team which led the attendees of the launch event through the presentations and walkarounds of the features and benefits of the new machine. The team comprised Samer Ismail, Product Manager, Earthmoving and Excavation; Mohammad Daas, Segment Sales Manager, Key Accounts; and Shahul Hameed, Marketing Manager.
To explain the significance of the new GC range, Ismail takes us back to the beginning of the range’s story.
“What we as the Cat-Al-Bahar combination do before we launch or invest in any new product is that we collect the voice of the customer. This is a priority for us. We listen carefully to what our customers would like on the machines they operate. We collect a large amount of data on that, which we deliver to the engineering team at Caterpillar for them to design a machine that can do the job for the customers as per their stated needs.
“In keeping with this philosophy, both the 950 GC and 330 GC are models that have been tailored to customer requirements after we did our research on what those requirements were and obtained the feedback from our customers,” Ismail says.
Explaining the methodology further, he adds: “We collected data on what our customers would like based on their feedback on the changes they wanted to see on our exiting model ranges. Some of those changes that the data indicated were specific bucket capacities and cycle times for the hydraulic systems, a particular power rating for the engines, a need for the machine to have a standard level of durability and reliability that they are used to from Cat, particular undercarriage lengths and machine widths in case of excavators along with stability, and support for a wide range of attachments on the machines.
“The Cat engineering department then got to work to design and build a machine that can achieve the parameters as outlined by our customers.”
Collating the feedback data, it was clear that customers were asking for machines that were easy to own and operate and yet powerful and efficient in the range of light to medium duty applications. And this is the segment that the GC machines have been designed for.
“For the normal Cat machines that we had in our range, customer would have ended up investing a lot more but would not have got to utilise many of the advanced tech features on those machines,” Ismail states.
So, does this mean that the new GC range is merely a stripped-down version of the other technology rich Cat machines? Not at all, Ismail points out.
“The GC is another separate standard for us in the market. This is because the GC machines do not have any real difference from an engineering point of view when compared to Cat’s other models. The GC machines can do all kinds of jobs that the others can and address all sorts of customer needs. Any customer can buy this machine without any complication or restriction,” he says.
“The GC machines’ hallmark is durability, reliability and quality. When opting for the GC machines, customers get the same standard on all the models in the range as in other Caterpillar equipment. The customers’ expectation from the product is that it will last for years and can do their jobs perfectly, as well as with more productivity.”
But even while keeping the core Cat values, features and expectations in mind for the GC range, a focus in its development was lowering cost for the customer. The GC range has been designed to have low ownership and operating costs. And in order to do this, some significant steps have been taken in the design and build.
“One of the ideas that Cat came up with is to standardise the engine on the GC models. For example, in this size class – the 950 and 330 – all models have one engine, the Cat C7.1. This will lower the cost of the product range and will also help the customer because he will find it easier to maintain the units as it obviates the need to stock various different parts and find people trained to work on various engine types when it comes to repair and maintenance. Another common aspect in the GC range is the hydraulics. It has the same Cat standard hydraulics as on other Caterpillar models,” explains Ismail.
He attributes the ‘Game Changer’ description for these machines to their offering “the opportunity to move more material in less time, at a lower cost per ton, for a faster return on equipment investment”.
He elaborates: “They are simply economical with an attractive total cost of ownership. Built as per the Cat production system standards, they are best-in-class machines and come with the standard Cat brand promise of durability and reliability.
“Bringing along the new standard, the GC machines are ideal for those looking for machines that are simple, durable, fuel competitive and easy to use. Moreover, with the extensive support of Al-Bahar’s network and services with Cat Genuine Parts, the GC models promise new opportunities to optimise businesses. In other words, these machines are easy to own, operate, and service.
“Customer value comes first at Al-Bahar and Caterpillar. Having considered our customers’ requirements, we found that some of our existing customers wanted simple fuel-efficient machines, which would minimise their owning and operating costs. With the objective of meeting our customers’ expectations, we have introduced the GC range, including machines that offer high performance and are supported by Al-Bahar. Our customers are aware there will be no compromise on the quality and after-sales support.”
Reiterating the Cat brand promise, Shahul Hameed adds: “Cat’s positioning has always been as a brand that can give the best cost per hour to customers. The best owning and operating cost is their foundational pitch. And they’ve always found a way to do this when it comes to technology and R&D implementation.
“When it comes to the technology part of it, not all applications necessarily demand high levels of tech implementation or adaptation. So, with the GC they have introduced a range with a different philosophy compared to machines with the latest tech features while retaining all other aspects of the original classic machines which were always durable and reliable. They’ve included technology wherever it can contribute towards improving the fuel efficiency and reducing the operating cost but on the other hand they’ve maintained the core performance machines where performance is the prime requirement. In essence, Cat has customised the product to meet the application requirement.”
Summing up the new Cat GC range and the philosophy behind it, Ismail concludes: “The GC range has been conceptualised to still be a step ahead of the competition. It can do the same jobs burning less fuel and returning higher productivity while also being very competitive on price.
“The Caterpillar philosophy has always been to look at the long-term for the customer and make the most positive difference we can to his total cost of ownership. We are offering him a competitive advantage and the features that add up to this are lower fuel consumption, higher productivity, durability and reliability and such others. We have lots of features in the GC range which put us ahead of the competition in this category.
“The GC range will comprise a full ensemble of products, including wheel loaders, excavators, graders and dozers. We are starting the roll out of the GC range now with the 330 GC excavator and the 950 GC wheel loader. The plan is to keep adding further models to the range regularly between now and 2023. By then we will have the full GC range available in the market.
“We believe the GC products will help us a lot to gain more market share. Today we are already the market leader in the region in the segments that the GC is designed for, and with the introduction of the range we are now poised to improve that figure further.”
330 GC Excavator -Innovation digs deep
The new Cat 330 GC is a smart choice for operations where high reliability and low-cost-per-hour performance are priorities. It offers the ideal balance of dependable performance, operator productivity features, and reduced costs. Setting the standards, 330 GC lowers maintenance costs with extended and more synchronized maintenance intervals.
The precise combination of larger hydraulic pumps, an electronic main control valve, and electronically controlled cooling fans in 330 GC allows it to deliver top performance while burning less fuel. Additionally, it is equipped with two modes to help manage fuel consumption for your specific applications. The new Smart Mode automatically matches engine speed and hydraulic power to demand for the highest fuel efficiency in any application. Other highlights of 330 GC include ISO-Certified Rops Cab, all-around visibility, Touchscreen Monitor, Keyless Push Start, fewer connections, less hose and ground-level daily maintenance.
Taking CMME on a walk around of the machine, Mohammad Daas, segment sales manager, Key Accounts, says: “Safety is one of the most important features both Cat and Al-Bahar consider when designing a new machine. On the new 330GC we have incorporated safety features such as enhanced visibility for the operator from the cab. Usually, the fuel tank blocks the operator’s view to his right, not only on the older Cat machines but also on our competitors’. But due to the fuel tank redesign the right-side visibility, which is very important for the operator in loading operations, has now been enhanced greatly.”
Great attention has also been paid to ease of inspection and maintenance. For any task that requires anyone to climb on top of the machine, every access point is designed so that there are the important three points of contact for safety. Developing the priority on safety further, Cat offers a built-in rear view camera as standard on the 330 GC.
“Certain component and design changes have been made that directly lead to a reduction in the maintenance costs in this new model. All systems and functions that are alike have been consolidated separately in one place. So the entire cooling system can be found by opening one hatch, all the hydraulics are found together elsewhere, the electrical systems and machine fluids are bunched together in another location and the air and other filters are stacked together in their own compartment – this bundling and segregation dramatically improves access for checks, maintenance and service and contributes very significantly to raising productivity, improving machine availability and lowering downtime,” Daas explains.
“Together, the new features make it possible to arrive at the figures that the GC range boasts of: 10% lower fuel consumption and 20% reduction in maintenance costs.
950 GC Wheel Loader – Loaded with features
According to Al-Bahar, the Cat 950 GC wheel loader is a complete new design leveraging proven Cat components and technology to meet customer needs. Reliable performance, low fuel consumption and ease of operation are the main attributes of the machine, which is purpose-built for everyday jobs.
The 950 GC comes with performance series buckets, Z-bar linkage for better bucket loading and load sensing hydraulics for better balance. Powered by the Cat C7.1 engine it has an Engine Idle Management System to minimises fuel consumption. Load sensing hydraulics produce flow and pressure for the implement system upon demand and only in amounts necessary to perform the needed work functions.
Samer Ismail explains: “The 950 GC is the machine of choice for a customer who doesn’t need all the technology and options that goes with the Cat 950L, instead is looking for a easy to use machine with lower acquisition costs. It is a very heavy-duty machine and it works well for applications in our region.
“Designed for quarries, sand-and gravel pits, coal operation and construction job-sites, the 950 GC is also an exceptional choice for governmental bids, offering agencies a well-designed, durable machine that fits the budget.”
Explaining the features of the machine, Daas adds: “The bucket is a very important part of this machine. It is Cat’s patented Performance Series bucket, which is at the top of the range among all competitors. I call this a magic bucket. The Performance Series buckets have three features: a longer floor, contoured and inclined sidebars, and a wider opening.
“The longer floor allows operators to penetrate the material easily and in less time, allowing him to lift more material at one go. The bucket on this machine allows for a 110% fill factor, no matter the operator’s skill levels. Even a new operator will be helped by the bucket’s design to pick up more material and so improve operating efficiency for the customer.
“The sidebars on the bucket help in this aspect, allowing retention of more material. In load-and-carry operations, where the operator has to fill the bucket and move, say, around 20m to dump the material somewhere else, the sidebars again protect the loaded material from spillage. There is also a similar guard at the back of the bucket to prevent spillage from the rear.”
Some other noteworthy features improve the machine’s cycle time and therefore its efficiency. The Kick-out option helps the operator to set a bucket height needed to be reached for loading a truck or dumper. Once the height is set, all he needs to do is push the lever in his console only once and the bucket will lift the load to the set height and tip it into the truck.
The Return-to-dig feature operates at the other end of the bucket’s loading arc. With it he can set the lower limit that the bucket will be allowed to come to and when the bucket is lowered it will come to rest at that very position – all at the single press of the joystick.
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