Despite their compact stature, Cat’s smallest machinery still gives operators like Eastern Earthmovers the edge. Excavating underneath houses and in confined urban sites remains a manageable and efficient process with a mini excavator like the Cat 301.7D CR.

While Richard Cowdell of Eastern Earthmovers has plenty of large-scale gear in his machine fleet, the smallest piece of kit he currently owns – a 1.7-ton Cat 301.7D CR mini hydraulic excavator – is also one of his handiest weapons.

“The mini digger is usable in all sorts of situations,” he says.

“Because it’s on rubber tracks, we can drive it across concrete floors without any worries. In fact, I have driven it through houses in order to get to work sites at the back of properties on more than one occasion. But it’s easy to do because it’s so small, and it won’t make a mess of the floor either.” 

Richard says the Cat 301.7D CR is perfect for the sort of tight spots his company’s service portfolio often translates to, such as when working underneath houses or up against fence-lines.

Another bonus of its size is that the machine can be transported on a mini tipper truck or even a tandem trailer, making it much simpler to move between job sites when the pressure to complete multiple tasks is on.  In fact, Richard can lift the machine easily using a big excavator, and it has been lifted into hard-to-reach places by a Hiab truck crane on occasion.

Eastern Earthmovers, which Richard has helmed for 17 years, specialises in a number of primarily urban residential tasks, such as section clearing, house and foundation excavations, hole drilling, and minor demolition.

The Manukau headquartered company now boasts 12 staff and no less than 16 Cat machines, including rollers, bulldozers, compactors and a variety of excavators, right up to 20-tons.

“We’ve always had a good run out of Cat gear, so we keep going back,” says Richard.

“We’ve always found Goughs to be very good to deal with, and the beauty of buying new machinery means that we get great after-sales support and service. Generally speaking we get good reliability out of our Cat gear, but we know that Goughs are at the other end of the phone if we needed something sorted out.”

The Cat range of mini hydraulic excavators extends to eight separate models, with Richard’s Cat 301.7D CR sitting at the mirco-range point in terms of size and power.

Gross power of 17.9kW (24.3hp) means that the little machine will shift plenty of dirt when required, but thanks to its small footprint and zero tail-swing design, it can get into the sorts of spaces bigger machines can’t go near. An extendable undercarriage is a standard feature on the machine, allowing for narrower passage between excavation tasks, but a sure-footed wider stance when working.

Standard or longer-reach sticks can be optioned for the Cat 301.7D CR, giving contractors the choice of either 940mm or 1100mm of reach, making Cat’s mini excavator line-up a favourite for trenching and utilities installation. Meanwhile, at the rear the machine’s standard dozer blade offers up a dig depth of 390mm and a lift height of 271mm.

The compact Cat 301.7D CR’s standard canopy roof features two solid hoisting points; with just 1.7-ton to lift, a larger excavator can manoeuvre it over obstacles and into place if needed. That roof can be added to with an optional rear panel insert too, in order to keep the worst of the elements away from the operator’s back out in the field.

Speaking of the hot seat, while the Cat 301.7D CR is on the small side, the operator doesn’t suffer unduly with a cramped driving position. Like Cat’s larger machines, a fair amount of thought has gone into the ergonomics of the seat and controls, which are designed to be safe and easy to use.

Also blueprinted across Cat’s entire range of excavators regardless of their tonnage, are easily-accessible service points and hydraulic oil reservoirs, along with the proven durability of Cat’s quality steel body panels. A 50kg counterweight designed specifically for Cat mini excavators is also available as an option.

Richard’s Cat 301.7D CR – which has worn the Eastern Earthmovers Ltd livery for around a year now – replaced an older CAT machine of similar dimensions that had been in the company’s fleet for three years previously.

“We try not to let our diggers get too old,” he says.

“Some of the bigger machines stick around on the fleet longer than others, but with companies like Cat updating their gear from year to year.  It makes good business sense to keep up with current models.

“If you’re always working with a new machine you’re going to get the benefit of improved technology, performance and increased reliability.”

With an emphasis on constant improvement at every point in the range, even Gough Cat clients who rely on the American manufacturer’s smallest machinery can trust that they’re investing in rugged and reliable equipment.