Caterpillar’s new next generation line-up of excavators has arrived. Available straight out of the box with an unparalleled suite of industry-leading technology and proven in-field operating efficiencies, the new next generation Cat 320, 320 GC and 323 excavators has arrived in New Zealand, ready to utterly transform the shape of earth-moving for local operators.

Available initially in three 20-ton class sizes, the next generation Cat 320, 320 GC and 323 excavators push heavy-duty machine technology and efficiency to new levels.

Significant gains in productivity are matched with reductions in fuel burn and machine stress. The new next generation Cat excavators also arrive with more safety technology than ever, and offer advanced and accurate Cat Grade Assist 2D, along with the opportunity to upgrade to Cat Grade Assist with Advanced 2D or, for the first time, integrated Cat Grade Assist with 3D.

Gough Cat’s industry sales manager, John Russel, says that the trio of new next generation 20-ton class Cat excavators arriving here this month represent a significant leap forward in terms of the trusted manufacturer’s technological offering.

“The impact these machines will have on a variety of industries over the course of the next few months will represent a real step-change in what Cat offers all manner of excavator customers,” he says.

“The technology in these new machines is, in and of itself, very impressive. But it’s the results that owners and operators of the Cat 320 and 323 excavators will see on the worksite that will prove just how big an advance for Cat these machines are.”

The new excavator line-up changes the game across the board. Operating efficiencies are increased thanks to a variety of purpose-designed automated systems. Fuel and maintenance costs have both been reduced, while operator comfort has improved over previous generation machines.

Still the 20-ton class standard, the new Cat 320 raises the bar for efficiency with integrated Cat Connect Technology that advances productivity gains. Standard technology combined with lower fuel and maintenance costs deliver low-cost production in medium- to heavy-duty applications.

Designed for low- to medium-duty applications, the new Cat 320 GC also balances advanced productivity features with reduced fuel consumption and maintenance costs. The result is high reliability and low cost-per-hour performance.

Delivering high production performance, the new premium Cat 323 boasts standard integrated Cat Connect Technology and the most power and lift capacity in the new next generation model range.

“The percentage improvements these machines boast is really impressive,” continues John.

“Especially when advanced operating technology like Cat Grade Assist is factored in, operators will see up to a 45 percent improvement in productivity, coupled with up to 25 percent less fuel usage and a 15 percent reduction in repairs and running costs.

“But nowhere will these gains be more tangibly realised than with the use of Cat Grade Assist.”

The Cat Grade with 2D system helps operators reach the desired grade quickly and accurately, offering guidance for depth, slope and horizontal distance to grade. Cat’s Grade Assist builds on this system further, automating boom, stick and bucket movements, so operators stay on-grade simply and effortlessly with single-lever digging.

The Cat Grade Assist systems are also backed with Cat Payload on-board weighing; integrated with the Cat 320 and 323 right from the factory. This system delivers precise load targets and increased loading efficiency with on-the-go weighing and real-time payload estimates to prevent truck over- or under-loading.

Cat LINK hardware and software connect jobsite machines to the office, providing customers with on-call machine-critical operating information.

“Thanks to all the sensor technology now standard in the Cat 320 and 323 machines, Cat also offers a robust and accurate E-fence system, which protects both the machine and the operator in confined work spaces,” says John.

“E-fence enables the machine to work safely under structures or near traffic by preventing any part of the excavator from moving outside operator-defined set points.

“The operator can programme in swing angles and virtual walls or barriers, meaning the machine will automatically stop if any part of the super structure moves outside of the pre-set area.”

Adding to these safety measures is Cat’s 360° Visibility feature. This system utilises three separate cameras to create a virtual bird’s-eye view of the machine and the surrounding working environment. The operator can see where his machine is from above in real-time, thanks to the system’s bright, clear 10 inch in-cab screen.

“That’s great for peace of mind when working in confined urban work sites or near services or other equipment.”

When completing time-sensitive project work, Cat’s engine technology provides heavy-duty power, but not at the expense of increased fuel usage. The three new machines offer power ratings ranging between 145 and 164hp (108 to 122kW), but will consume 20 to 25 percent less fuel than the previous corresponding 20-ton class Cat models.

Cat’s new Smart Mode operation automatically matches engine and hydraulic power to digging conditions, optimising both fuel consumption and performance. Engine speed is automatically lowered when there is no hydraulic demand, further reducing fuel usage.

This last factor works in combination with a number of other clever features, all designed to protect the machine, even in the most demanding work environments.

The new next generation 320 and 323 excavators boast new cooling systems which employ multiple electric fans, as well as the independent monitoring of hydraulic oil, radiator and air-to-air aftercooler temperatures to deliver the exact airflow required.

With a new hydraulic system built for responsiveness and efficiency, the Cat 320 GC, 320 and 323 feature a new main control valve that eliminates the need for pilot lines. This reduces pressure losses and lowers fuel consumption. Fewer hydraulic lines on the excavators also result in 20 percent less oil required, lowering long-term operating costs.

Another benefit of the new electro-hydraulic system is that joystick and button functionality can be fully customised, meaning repeated processes or commonly-used functions can be programmed to suit individual operators.

Featuring higher dirt capacity, a new Cat hydraulic return filter arrives with a 3000-hour service life, representing a massive 50 percent increase over previous filters. Similarly, the new Cat air filter with integrated pre-cleaner and primary and secondary filters doubles service life over previous designs to 1000 hours, while a new fuel tank cap filter extends service life to 2000 hours.

“Cat has done the sums; over the course of 12,000 hours operating time, the average Cat 320 or 323 excavator could use up to 820-litres less hydraulic oil and mitigate the need for up to 50 fewer filter changes,” says John.

“That adds up to an all-round better ownership experience and a more robust machines that works more consistently, with less scheduled down time needed than ever before.

“These new excavators offer Cat customers a unique combination of purpose-built features designed to match productivity expectations and cost targets.

“They’re designed smarter to enable Kiwi operators of all disciplines and sizes to work smarter too.”

Cat’s new next generation 320, 320 GC and 323 excavators will be on display in the Gough Cat exhibition space at the 2018 National Fieldays, Mystery Creek, Hamilton, June 13-16.

This article first appeared in Contractor magazine here.