The new next generation Cat 323 excavators have arrived in New Zealand, and one of the first units to be delivered has gone straight out into Pukekohe-based TDM Construction’s busy machine fleet.

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With 15 Cat excavators already on-fleet and a robust company programme for updating older gear in place, it was perhaps inevitable that TDM Construction would end up with an example of Cat’s next-generation excavator in his yard at some point. As it turns out, the company has secured one of the first in the country.

That’s not to say the TDM team hadn’t recognised what a technological leap forward the new machine represents before deciding to invest in one, however.

“We generally look to replace gear at around the 10,000-hour mark and we could see the new Cat diggers coming on-stream, so we took the opportunity to replace an older machine with a new Cat 323,” says TDM Construction’s Todd Black.

“We’ve been Gough Cat customers for 13 years now and trust both the brand and the back-up support here in New Zealand. But the big plus from my side of things was all the technology built-in to these new machines; they represent a complete machine package from the minute they’re delivered.”

Todd says that a huge part of the purchase decision was based around three key differences with the new next-generation Cat; its GPS Grade Assist, onboard payload weighing system and programmable E-fence operating software.

“We work on big infrastructure projects on a regular basis, but the bulk of our work – especially on our door step here in the Franklin District – is on multi-title sub-divisions and large retirement village projects.

“The work is always hectic and there are always a lot of other men and machines on-site, so a digger that gives us extra productivity, as well as all the safety measures built into it, is going to come out a winner. I think that’s where the Cat 323 pushes the game ahead.”

With 2D and 3D GPS systems now proven to increase project accuracy and efficiency, Todd says the availability of Cat Grade Control in his Cat 323 straight out of the box made buying the machine a no-brainer.

The Cat Grade 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 the operator stays 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 Cat 320 and 323 excavators right from the factory. This system delivers precise load targets and increases loading efficiency with on-the-go weighing and real-time payload estimates to prevent truck over- or under-loading.

“The risk of over-loading trucks has been completely wiped out with this system, which is great. Our Cat 323 is an earthworks digger working on a big sub-division, so having the operator know precisely what he has loaded into the truck means we’re working smarter.

“That has a knock-on effect with fuel burn and machine wear too,” says Todd.

Caterpillar believes that when advanced operating technology like Cat Grade Assist is factored in, operators could see up to a 45% improvement in productivity, coupled with up to 25% less fuel usage and a 15% reduction in repair and running costs.

New technology under the engine cover is also designed to improve on consumable wear and tear. TDM Construction’s Cat 323 features a new Cat hydraulic return filter, for example, which boasts a 3000-hour service life; this represents a 50% increase over previous filters. Similarly, the new Cat air filter with integrated pre-cleaner and primary and secondary filters is designed to double service life over previous designs to 1000 hours.

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The factory believes that over the course of 12,000 hours operating time, the average Cat 323 excavator could potentially use up to 820-litres less hydraulic oil and go through around 50 fewer filter changes.

Working on busy urban construction sites comes with its fair share of hazards. TDM Construction, which has 40 staff, has engaged in project work all over the country, including in Christchurch, urban Auckland and the Waikato. But regardless of the location, the nature of the jobsite – usually urban and usually busy with other contractors – always means safety is paramount.

Todd says that the Cat 323’s ability to essentially ring-fence the machine in order to stop the boom from lifting to an unsafe height where overhead wires are present or limiting its movements around personnel or other machinery nearby, adds another level of safety that raises the bar.

Cat’s E-fence system 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 10” in-cab screen.

“We’re really happy with all the technology onboard the new Cat, but at the end of the day we like Cat machines because they have a heap of power but still give our operators the ability to produce very exact, finessed work, they’re reliable and they’re also really comfortable to drive,” says Todd.

“Our operator says he is really impressed with how quiet the machine is too, when compared to older diggers we’re running. It’s important to have machines that your guys are going to enjoy working with, and Cat has always been one of those brands that operators like to use.”

Article by Cameron Officer.