Hitachi Construction Machinery Americas Inc.

Keith Gribbins, publisher at Compact Equipment, previewed the Hitachi ZX26U-5N and ZX50U-5N mini excavators at an event in Pine Mountain, Georgia. At the same event, Hitachi Construction Machinery Americas Inc. (HCMA) teased a total of eight mini excavators coming to the Americas soon, ranging from 1.7 to 8.5 metric tons.

 

Here’s a summary of what Gribbins had to say:

The nimble ZX26U-5N mini excavator is only 4 feet, 11 inches (1.50 m) wide, so it’s perfect for cramped urban construction and easy transport from job site to job site. In a larger format, the Hitachi ZX50U-5N mini excavator offers two operational modes: The power mode provides higher engine speeds for most general digging work, while the economy mode reduces engine speed for lighter digging jobs.

Overall, both the ZX50U-5N and ZX26U-5N are interesting new units to the American marketplace, which is craving more mini excavators right now. The next big move?  You can read his full article and watch his video deep dive for more details.

Watch the video
Machine Heads Deep Dive On Hitachi ZX26U-5N And ZX50U-5N Mini Excavators

Hitachi Construction Machinery Co., Ltd. (HCM), will begin operation of the Ami Parts Center (Ami-machi, Inashiki-gun, Ibaraki Prefecture, Japan) in July, with the aim of strengthening the company’s global supply system for mining machinery service parts.

HCM will outsource all aspects of the distribution of service parts from the Ami Parts Center on a third-party logistics (3PL) basis to Hitachi Transport System, Ltd. Hitachi Transport’s global physical distribution management system will streamline the system to globally supply mining service parts.

The supply of construction machinery service parts needs to be fast and reliable in order for construction machinery at construction and mining sites around the world to operate stably. HCM has contributed to the dependable operation of their customers’ machinery by supplying their parts warehouses throughout the world from the Tsukuba Parts Center, the company’s service parts control center that began operation in May 2014. In addition, with the start of full-scale independent expansion in the Americas in March 2022, they opened a parts warehouse near Atlanta, Georgia. The operation of both bases is outsourced on a 3PL basis to the Hitachi Transport System, and HCM is working to strengthen its global supply system, including in the Americas.

Specializing in service parts for mining machinery, the building specifications of the Ami Parts Center are compatible with super-sized, heavy loads. In addition to the consignment space, it is also equipped with a dedicated shipping space, with the ability to ship overseas from the center. The Ami Parts Center will serve as the company’s second major base for service parts, following the Tsukuba Parts Center.

The HCM Group will continue to contribute to the stable operation of its customers’ machinery through the prompt and reliable supply of service parts.

Overview of the Ami Parts Center


Official name DPL Tsukuba Ami II

Property owner Daiwa House Industry Co., Ltd.

Location 5-1, Yoshiwara 5-Chome, Ami-machi, Inashiki-gun, Ibaraki Prefecture, Japan

(Access: One minute by road from the Amihigashi IC on the Ken-O Expressway)


Building specifications Steel-framed structure (Single-story, above ground)

Site area 67,797 m2

Area leased Approx. 33,000 m2

Load capacity 3.5 t per 1 m2

Loading equipment Overhead crane 15 t × 1, 10 t × 1, 2.8 t × 8: dock leveler 4: High-rise palette racks

Principal products handled Service parts for mining machinery

 

 

Overview of the Jackson Parts Warehouse

The Jackson Parts Warehouse began operation in March 2022, with the aim of fortifying the Hitachi Construction Machinery parts supply system in the Americas.

The Jackson Parts Warehouse stores parts for distribution not only within the United States, but throughout the Americas, from Canada to Latin America. Operation of the warehouse is through third-party logistics, outsourcing to an American subsidiary of Hitachi Transport System Ltd. It incorporates Hitachi Transport System’s global physical distribution management system. It is expected that in the future, through further enhancement of the facilities and system, the warehouse will handle 70,000 types of parts and ship 1,800 types of parts daily. 


Official name Prologis Commerce Center

Building owners Liberty Property Limited Partnership

Location 120 Midway Rd Prologis Commerce Center Jackson, GA 30233

Jackson, Georgia, USA

(Access: Roughly one hour by road from Hitachi Construction Machinery Americas Inc., roughly 40 minutes by road from Atlanta Airport, approx. 350 km from Port of Savannah)


Building specifications Steel-framed structure (Single-story, above ground)

Site area 31,217 m2

Principal products handled Main parts for hydraulic excavators and loaders for general civil engineering and for ultra-large hydraulic excavators for mining

 

About Hitachi Construction Machinery Co., Ltd.

Hitachi Construction Machinery Co., Ltd. (TSE: 6305), headquartered in Tokyo, Japan, is a construction machinery manufacturer. The company engages in development, manufacturing, sales, and service operations around the world for hydraulic excavators, wheel loaders, road construction machines, and mining machinery. Hitachi Construction Machinery is strengthening its focus on value chain businesses other than new machinery sales, such as parts and services, rentals, used equipment and parts recycling. It is utilizing digital technologies to provide deeper solutions at all points of contact with customers. HCM employs approximately 25,000 people worldwide. In fiscal year 2020 (ended March 2021), the consolidated sales revenue was ¥813.3 billion and overseas sales revenue was approximately 75%. For details, visit the company’s website.

Information contained in this news release is current as of the date of the press announcement, but may be subject to change without prior notice.

Today’s mine sites are looking for sustainable solutions as they strive to cut their carbon footprint to achieve environmental, social and governance (ESG) goals without sacrificing performance. This is critical as demand for minerals continues to increase as the pandemic subsides and the drive toward low-emission transportation solutions gains momentum.

Mine sites are getting serious about decarbonization, and more are exploring electrification as a possible solution to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The business case for making the transition is further bolstered by fuel-price spikes, which significantly impact mine sites’ operating costs. To address this growing demand for electrification, companies are forming partnerships that will help speed the transformation.

Hitachi Construction Machinery (HCM) has been at the forefront of the march toward mine site electrification with established trolley truck technology and electric mining excavators and shovels. On March 22, 2021, HCM signed a memorandum of understanding with ABB to help accelerate the transition to all-electric mines. This was followed by a collaboration agreement signed on June 23, 2021, to develop an engineless, full-battery rigid-frame haul truck. Using ABB’s innovative battery technology, Hitachi haul trucks can be transformed from diesel to full-electric battery operation.

The two companies will apply their complementary skills to reduce emissions. ABB is a leading global technology company that specializes in electrification, robotics and automation. It will develop onboard energy storage systems by customizing an existing product. HCM will lead the overall design and development of the dynamic-charging battery haul truck using its existing haul-truck trolley technology as its base.

The haul trucks will use a new onboard electrification system. It will draw energy from a dynamic charging system, which will allow simultaneous charging of the onboard energy storage system while providing energy to power the truck. This dynamic charging system takes the form of a trolley system and allows electrical energy to be quickly transferred from the grid to the haul truck.

Trolley systems cut fuel use

Trolley assist technologies are not new, they have actually existed for decades. The technology has not yet been widely adopted despite several inherent advantages. With fuel prices continuing to climb, trolley assist technology is well positioned for the future. The increasing popularity of diesel-electric trucks simplifies the implementation of a trolley assist system. These trucks already have an electrical system on board to tap into, which makes it easier to put them on a trolley line.

A trolley-assist system is a proven, effective way to slash fuel consumption in a diesel electric truck. It enables a secondary means of powering the wheel motors in high-demand segments of the haulage route. Operators can easily change from trolley to diesel with the flick of a switch. When this is activated, diesel-generated power is cancelled, and overhead catenary power is connected and diverted to the wheel motors through inverters and a trolley switch box.

HCM manufactures and supports the trolley-system components on its haul trucks. The system uses low-cost electric power for better economy and reduced running costs. Because the engine speed on the Hitachi truck in trolley mode is lower than any other diesel-electric machines or conventional diesel trucks, it burns less diesel fuel. Productivity is also a factor. In many cases, when the trucks are under the trolley, they can climb up the ramp at greater speed.

Eliminating the diesel engine

By combining the trolley system with battery technology, the diesel engine can be completely removed from the haul truck. Owners get the advantages of the trolley-assist system while burning no diesel in the truck, which is an important step in the drive to zero emissions.

In order to successfully implement battery technology and overcome significant energy storage constraints compared to diesel, the designers must focus on energy efficiency. For instance, energy can be captured and reused during braking, and energy use can be limited when the vehicle is not traveling.

By drawing power from the overhead system while connected and simultaneously charging the battery, the load and depth of discharge is reduced, maximizing battery life. This also allows operators to limit the size of the battery, maximizing the haul truck’s payload. Since the vehicle does not have to stop for recharging, operators can maintain a higher rate of continuous operation.

The prototype battery electric mine haul truck is currently in development. It promises another step forward toward a sustainable future. HCM and ABB’s joint solution promises to contribute to net-zero emissions of greenhouse gases from mining machinery.

To experience ​the Hitachi mining solutions portfolio — including intuitive, heavy-duty mining excavators​ and​ ​the most technologically advanced mining trucks on the market​ ​visit hitachicm.us/mining​.

Sonosuke Ishii steps into the role of chairman of Hitachi Construction Machinery Americas Inc. (HCMA), where he will pursue continued growth through innovative products, services and solutions.

“It has been the dream for many years for Hitachi Construction Machinery (HCM) to explore its own business in North America and Latin America,” says Ishii. “Together with our factories in Japan, HCMA and HCMA dealers — as our most important partners — will deliver viable solutions throughout the Americas.”

Ishii brings forty years of experience and business knowledge with HCM that will enable close collaboration between HCM and HCMA. “The key to seizing this opportunity is to further strengthen the collaboration between Japan and the U.S., and to unite all Kenkijin through close communication and teamwork,” says Ishii. All Hitachi Construction Machinery Group (HCM Group) employees operate under shared values and codes of conduct known as the Kenkijin Spirit. This spirit is underpinned by three ideas: taking on challenges without fear; understanding customers’ needs better than they do; and taking initiative on communication, including reporting, liaising and consulting.

Ishii started in sales and progressed to sales management and leadership positions within HCM. He has served as president of Hitachi Construction Machinery Eurasia sales, president of the mining group, vice president and executive officer, and senior vice president and executive officer.

Ishii takes the reigns from Masaaki Hirose, who took a new role as executive officer at HCM in Japan. While he was chairman of HCMA, Hirose helped to structure the company under the HCM way of business, to increase the visibility and awareness of the Hitachi brand in the construction market and to rapidly grow market share in the Americas.

About Hitachi Construction Machinery Americas Inc.

The commitment of Hitachi Construction Machinery Americas Inc. (HCMA) to the North American and Latin American markets is significant. With manufacturing facilities in Banshu, Ryugasaki, Tierra, Hitachinaka-Rinko and Tsuchiura, Japan, and the U.S. Corporate office and campus in Newnan, Georgia, HCMA offers outstanding parts availability, customer and dealer training programs, and a wide range of services and programs — providing outstanding support for Hitachi construction machinery. Backed by the global strength of Hitachi Construction Machinery Group, its employees, dealers and especially customers, HCMA is poised to make a major impact on the construction and mining equipment markets in North America and Latin America. For more information, please visit hitachicm.us.

Media Contact:
Curt Bennink
[email protected]
515-274-9271

Demand for compact machinery continues an upward trajectory as the COVID-19 pandemic subsides and the resultant recovery takes hold. In particular, steady housing starts are expected to drive growth in the North American market, where Hitachi Construction Machinery Americas Inc. (HCMA) started its full-scale business expansion in March 2022.

Taking a proactive approach to meet this future demand, Hitachi Construction Machinery Co., Ltd. will increase the production capacity for compact products such as excavators and wheel loaders produced at the Shiga Works facility of its consolidated subsidiary, Hitachi Construction Machinery Tierra Co., Ltd. The Shiga Works facility is forecast to produce approximately 30% more units by FY 2025 compared to the number of machines produced in FY 2021.

As part of the facility upgrade, Hitachi Construction Machinery Tierra plans to functionally enhance and relocate its product test site to an adjacent site by FY 2024, with the goal of advanced development of compact products. Because compact products often replace manpower and frequently operate in urban areas, there is a growing need for high functionality, which requires more advanced development testing. In addition to an expansion of environment-resistant testing equipment, beginning in FY 2024 Hitachi Construction Machinery Tierra will expand compact excavator and compact wheel loader testing, including structural rigidity tests, at a site approximately twice the size of its previous site.

Looking toward the future, the Hitachi Construction Machinery Group will continue to help resolve the customer issues of “improving safety,” “improving productivity,” and “reducing lifecycle costs” as a close and reliable partner.

Test site overview

 

About Hitachi Construction Machinery Americas Inc.

The commitment of Hitachi Construction Machinery Americas Inc. (HCMA) to the North American and Latin American markets is significant. With manufacturing facilities in Banshu, Ryugasaki, Tierra, Hitachinaka and Tsuchiura, Japan, and the U.S. Corporate office and campus in Newnan, Georgia, HCMA offers outstanding parts availability, customer and dealer training programs, and a wide range of services and programs — providing outstanding support for Hitachi construction machinery. Backed by the global strength of Hitachi, its employees, dealers and especially customers, HCMA is poised to make a major impact on the construction and mining equipment markets in North America and Latin America. For more information, please visit hitachicm.us.

Media Contact:
Curt Bennink
[email protected]
515-274-9271

After years of preparing, Hitachi Construction Machinery Americas Inc. (HCMA) is launching the next chapter for Hitachi Construction Machinery in North America and Latin America. On March 1, 2022, HCMA officially began leading the Hitachi brand’s construction and mining equipment sales and service support efforts. At a commemoration celebration event held for employees at the HCMA headquarters in Newnan, Georgia, HCMA CEO Alan Quinn and HCM Executive Vice President and Executive Officer Yasushi Ochiai outlined what customers, dealers and the industry can expect moving forward.

During his address, Ochiai said that this expansion in North America and Latin America will be one of the most important for the company in the 70 years that HCM has been developing, producing, selling and servicing construction and mining machinery. “It has been the dream of many years for HCM to explore its own business in the region, not only with wheel loaders but also with other products, services and solutions. Expansion of business in the Americas will give further momentum to the development and production of new machinery, and the promotion of sales and services. The Hitachi Construction Machinery Group will become a true global player.”

Quinn added that March 1 marked a historic day for HCMA, “While Hitachi equipment has been used on construction sites and mines throughout the region, moving forward, dealers and customers will experience Hitachi the same way the rest of the world does with a direct relationship. We are preparing to launch new machines and technologies while focusing on having a more direct relationship with our customers and dealers. We will do whatever it takes to be the best supplier our customers and dealers work with.”

Hitachi team holding a Thank You banner behind an excavator and wheel loader

In addition to celebrating this new direction for Hitachi, the first fleet of trucks loaded with Hitachi orange equipment hit the road bound for HCMA’s extensive and growing dealer network. Simon Wilson, vice president at HCMA, said the excavators and wheel loaders on those trucks are designed to help contractors optimize production, have an efficient and safe operating experience, and help manage their operating costs.

“This is just the beginning of the advances the market can expect from Hitachi,” said Wilson. “Over the next year, HCMA will be introducing many new models that incorporate the latest in hydraulic systems and innovative ‘uptime’ and IoT services, as well as increase the capabilities of Hitachi ConSite, with an initiative to add more telematics and predictive analytics to our equipment lines.”

On the mining side of HCMA’s business, HCMA Senior Director, Mining Equipment Sales Babliton Cardoso met with dealers and mining executives at the 2022 MINEXCHANGE Conference and Expo in Salt Lake City, Utah. “It was a great event, and there is a lot of excitement in the industry for this new chapter in Hitachi’s history of delivering innovative and dependable mining machinery. Many people told us they’ve been waiting for us to make this move. Our team looks forward to working with them for many years to come.”

To support dealers and customers, HCMA is expanding its corporate headquarters with the addition of a 400,000-square-foot parts distribution center and more personnel. More than 60 highly qualified individuals have already joined the team since August 2021.

“North America and Latin America represent the largest construction markets in the world, and we are ready to turn the region Hitachi orange with the industry’s best equipment,” concluded Quinn.

For more information about Hitachi equipment and to locate your nearest dealer, visit the new HCMA website at https://www.hitachicm.us.

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About Hitachi Construction Machinery Americas Inc.

The commitment of Hitachi Construction Machinery Americas Inc. (HCMA) to the North American and Latin American markets is significant. With manufacturing facilities in Banshu, Ryugasaki, Tierra, Hitachinaka, Tsuchiura Japan, and the U.S. Corporate office and campus in Newnan, Georgia, HCMA offers outstanding parts availability, customer and dealer training programs, and a wide range of services and programs — providing outstanding support for Hitachi construction machinery. Backed by the global strength of Hitachi, HCMA, its employees, dealers and especially customers, HCMA is poised to make a major impact on the construction and mining equipment markets in North America and Latin America. For more information, please visit hitachicm.us.

 

Media Contact:

Jess Held

[email protected]

515-274-9271

 

On March 1, 2022, Hitachi Construction Machinery Americas Inc. (HCMA) will officially begin leading the Hitachi brand’s mining equipment sales and service support efforts in North America and Latin America. This new direction replaces the joint venture Hitachi Construction Machinery (HCM) shared with John Deere. In preparation for this changeover, HCMA has added more than 60 new team members throughout North America and Latin America, solidified equipment dealer relationships and worked with the HCM global team on new equipment and technology innovations that can help mines reduce operational costs and support sustainable mining practices.

According to Alan Quinn, CEO of HCMA, there has been a lot of excitement and anticipation leading up to the brand’s official realignment in the Americas. “HCM and Deere worked together for many years to become a leading equipment provider in the Americas,” he said. “As HCMA takes over control of equipment sales, service and support moving forward, we are preparing to launch new machines and new technologies while focusing on having a more direct relationship with our customers and dealers. To support those efforts, we are developing a team to specifically support the mining industry, developing relationships with dealers that support the mining industry and operating a 400,000 square-foot parts distribution center located south of Atlanta, Georgia.”

Today, HCMA has enlisted seven dealers in North America and eight dealers throughout Latin America to support mining operations. Quinn says HCMA will continue to grow its dealer network in the coming months.

In addition to bolstering its dealer network, HCMA plans to introduce new machinery and technology for the mining industry. “HCM is committed to product development,” said Quinn, “so our future mining equipment aligns with the priorities of mining companies. For example, our team is working on battery-powered haul truck technology that will help reduce equipment exhaust emissions while still delivering similar productivity. We understand mines are more environmentally conscious, and we are developing technology to support a more sustainable industry.”

Onboard equipment technology is another area HCM is investing resources to advance. The company plans to differentiate itself through the product capabilities of these new machines, including the latest in hydraulic systems, innovative “uptime” and IoT services and enhanced safety features. The mining industry can expect to see increasing capabilities of Hitachi ConSite, with an initiative to add more telematics and predictive analytics for its mining product lines.

“While our new operational structure is just getting started in North America and Latin America, we are excited to bring the full breadth of resources seen from Hitachi in many other parts of the world,” Quinn concluded.

 

About Hitachi Construction Machinery Americas Inc.

The commitment of Hitachi Construction Machinery Americas Inc. (HCMA) to the North American and Latin American markets is significant. With manufacturing facilities in Banshu, Ryugasaki, Tierra, Hitachinaka, Tsuchiura Japan, and the U.S. Corporate office and campus in Newnan, Georgia, HCMA offers outstanding parts availability, customer and dealer training programs, and a wide range of services and programs — providing outstanding support for Hitachi construction machinery. Backed by the global strength of Hitachi, HCMA, its employees, dealers and especially customers, HCMA is poised to make a major impact on the construction and mining equipment markets in North America and Latin America. For more information, please visit hitachicm.us.

 

Media Contact

Jess Held

[email protected]

515-274-9271

Hitachi ZW330 Wheel Loader

Powered by a Cummins QSL9 Certified Tier 4 Final engine, the ZW330-6 wheel loader does not require a diesel particulate filter (DPF), reducing maintenance costs and improving fuel efficiency. Eliminating the DPF is an important feature for customers, says Dallas McMann, general manager of Amarillo Machinery. “That’s an item eliminated that could have potentially caused problems or become a cost item down the road.”

Reliable versatility

The ZW330-6 wheel loader is an excellent choice for a variety of applications and job site environments, including site excavation and development, high-volume material production, and much more thanks to an impressive full-turn 39,300-pound tipping load and 6.3 cubic-yard bucket capacity.

Designed with low operating costs in mind, the no-DPF engine combined with the lock-up transmission enhances fuel efficiency while traveling, and further boosts machine speed during hill climbing.

The ZW330-6 also features unmatched durability, with robust materials and components. High quality aluminum radiators improve corrosion resistance, and heavy-duty structural features ensure reliable performance. The wheel loader has Z-link boom arms designed to improve reach and clearance as well as a box section frame, base mounted boom cylinder, and heavy-duty center pin.

Maintenance is streamlined in a number of ways. Engine covers open fully to allow easy and convenient access to the engine, and fluids and filters have ground-level access. Combined with extended hydraulic and oil change intervals, these features ensure a reduction in downtime as well as a simplified routine machine management program. For total cost of ownership management, Hitachi’s ConSite remote intelligent monitoring and managing application goes beyond telematics to manage performance and productivity. From idle and operating time to fuel efficiency, location services and managing maintenance schedules, ConSite provides in-depth insights into machine performance.

“WE WERE LOOKING FOR RELIABILITY AND PRODUCTIVITY, AND THE POWER AND EFFICIENCY OF THE ZW330-6 EXCEEDS EXPECTATIONS.”

Charles Harvey, mine manager, Big Creek Sand & Gravel

Singular comfort and safety

Engineered with market-leading technology, the ZW330-6 is one of the safest wheel loaders in its class. Particular attention was paid to visibility, which is second-to-none thanks to the spacious cab’s 360-degree panoramic view, a curved engine hood, and an in-dash rear-view camera. The wheel loader’s visibility is enhanced further by thoughtful details such as muffler and air intake positioning.

Operator comfort has become increasingly important, and Hitachi worked to ensure a quieter, more comfortable working environment when designing the ZW330-6. Improved sound insulation reduces noise levels in the cab, and the standard ride control feature minimizes pitching via the movement of lift art cylinders for a smooth driving experience no matter the terrain. Operators can also look forward to a standard heated air suspension seat and an adjustable side console for a comfortable and customizable work environment.

Exceptional features

The ZW330-6 is well-equipped to enable operators to achieve high levels of productivity. The standard E-Stick Joystick Steering System provides exceptional control, and a multifunctional LCD monitor allows the operator to view vital machine operation at a glance. A quick power switch increases engine output to deliver more power when required, or for when hill climbing.

Intuitive, intelligent features adjust performance to match the application and the job site environment based on inputs from the machine. Efficient digging is ensured through simultaneous bucket and lift arm movement, while efficient loading is ensured through improved traction force – up to a 25 percent improvement compared to the previous model.

Charles Harvey, mine manager at Borger, Texas-based Big Creek Sand & Gravel, recommended the company purchase ZW330-6s after reviewing the specs. “We were looking for reliability and productivity, and the power and efficiency of the ZW330-6 exceeds expectations,” he says.

The company, which has a six-day-per-week digging operation that produces sand and gravel for highway construction work, requires powerful, efficient equipment.

“Performance is everything for a company that handles our scope of work,” Harvey says.

View Big Creek Sand & Gravel’s ZW330-6 in action.
ZW330 on Job Site

Quiet times are rare on Seattle’s Lower Duwamish Waterway, the centerpiece of a bustling industrial corridor that plays a critical role in the Puget Sound area’s economy. Bordered by a wide variety of manufacturing plants and support operations, the Duwamish serves as a marine “main street” for barges delivering bulk loads of raw materials from around the world. And as each shipment arrives, the plants’ tightly timed production and supply processes demand that the materials be unloaded as quickly and efficiently as possible.

That’s where Industrial Services, Inc. (ISI) comes in. Armed with a fleet of wheel loaders, excavators and other equipment, ISI works under contract to several companies along the Duwamish to transfer the bulk materials—everything from limestone and gypsum to blast furnace slag and scrap steel—off the barges and on to landside storage areas. The company also stages the materials for pickup and performs other services as needed.

ISI’s owner, Greg DeHaan, says that while the work is largely routine, no two assignments are treated alike.

“It’s a unique business to be sure, and one that very few people can do,” says DeHaan, who was the first employee hired when ISI was formed in the early 1980s with an initial focus on material recycling. “We’ve been doing most of these kinds of jobs for quite a while, and it’s a point of pride that we’re always ready to help when our customers need us.”

ISI had been operating for about a decade before the company’s founders decided to spin off the marine operations as a separate business with DeHaan in charge and, eventually, gaining full ownership. Today, ISI has 12 full-time employees with additional workers brought in as needed for larger jobs. Most of the material transfer work takes place at five ramp-equipped berths located along the waterway. And despite Seattle’s reputation for long stretches of rainy days, ISI’s crews work in all kinds of weather.

“Almost every day, we’re unloading a barge somewhere,” DeHaan says. “Each ramp site is a little different depending on the size of the barge, the material and the customer. Most vessels have a capacity of 8,000 to 10,000 tons. Depending on the type of material, we can move 500 to 800 tons in an hour.”

Earlier this year, the company transferred a massive 14,000-ton bargeload of road salt to be used by the Washington State Department of Transportation. Depending on the severity and amount of winter-time precipitation, ISI has to be prepared to handle follow-up shipments so that an adequate supply is available to keep the state’s roadways safe.

“In some ways, winter is a busier season for us,” DeHaan says.

When load size or waterway traffic requires vessels to remain anchored in nearby Elliot Bay, ISI brings its transfer equipment to the shipment.

“We put everything on barges and offload the ship in the Bay,” DeHaan says. “We manage the whole operation, including using the ship’s crane to swing the loader aboard.”

AFTER MORE THAN A YEAR, THE ZW330-6 HAS MORE THAN EXCEEDED DEHAAN’S EXPECTATIONS, PARTICULARLY AS IT SPENDS MUCH OF ITS TIME AT THE SITE OF ISI’S BIGGEST CUSTOMER—A MAJOR CEMENT MANUFACTURER WHERE THE COMPANY PROVIDES SEVEN-DAY-A-WEEK SUPPORT OVER TWO SHIFTS.

Always on call

The common element underscoring all of ISI’s assignments is the need to provide reliable, seven-day-a-week service. When a barge shipment is scheduled to arrive, customers are counting on DeHaan’s team to be there. Given that the Duwamish is a tidal waterway, DeHaan must synchronize the work with Mother Nature, as well as the customer and shipping operator.

“I’m always watching the tides,” he says. “Whenever everything lines up, we have to be ready to move, regardless of the time of day.”

That includes working holidays and taking the controls of the machinery himself when needed.

“We almost got Thanksgiving Day off,” DeHaan says with a laugh. “But a shipment was set to come in that morning, and we had to call in a few people to work.”

Small wonder, then that ISI requires reliable equipment to serve its customers. Scott Cunningham, who represents Columbia Western Machinery in the state of Washington, says that as with so many other customers in Pacific Northwest, “much of what ISI does requires specific machine sizes in weight and capabilities. We customize each machine from a base model to those specific needs.”

Compact loader machine discovery

Having owned and operated various brands of machinery through his career, DeHaan has an eye for quality and value, both for his team and his customers. So when DeHaan learned in early 2020 that Columbia Western was offering Hitachi’s ZW330-6 wheel loader, he was eager to see the machine for himself.

Along with already having a ZX240-5G in ISI’s fleet, DeHaan had several years’ worth of good experiences with front-end loaders manufactured by Kawasaki, which Hitachi acquired in 2015.

“Everything I read about the new series looked good, so I visited Columbia Western to take a look,” he says.

As it turned out, that “look” was all DeHaan needed to be sold on the ZW330-6. “I knew right way that I was buying it,” he says, adding that some enjoyable spins around Columbia Western’s lot reinforced his decision. “There was no ‘maybe’ about it.”

It wasn’t just that the ZW330-6 is well-suited to perform in ISI’s wide range of applications and environments, DeHaan says. A number of “little things” impressed him as well.

“Hitachi doesn’t overcomplicate things,” he explains. “There are so many operator-friendly features that make the machine easy to run, yet adapt to different conditions. Routine maintenance is also easy, with everything easy to access.”

Greg DeHaan and Scott Cunningham discussing in front of a ZW330 on a job site

Proven material transfer performance

After more than a year, the ZW330-6 has more than exceeded DeHaan’s expectations, particularly as it spends much of its time at the site of ISI’s biggest customer—a major cement manufacturer where the company provides seven-day-a-week support over two shifts.

“We use it a lot, yet it’s been flawless,” DeHaan says. “The first crew fires it up at 5:00 a.m., and we go from there.”

Hitachi’s real-time fleet telematics has also been instrumental in helping Columbia Western keep the ZW330-6 in top condition and ready for use unloading barges.

“I like that the mechanic can pull up the data, alert us to any issue that we may not know about, and come by with everything needed to correct it,” says DeHaan, who has telematics on other machines in ISI’s fleet. “It’s one less thing we have to worry about. I tell the dealer, ‘you just take care of it and give it what it needs, and we’ll just run it and put hours on it.’”

DeHaan also calls Columbia Western’s support “outstanding”—high praise indeed for a dealership that opened just months before the pandemic upended the construction industry and pretty much everything else.

“We ask a lot of our customers to trust a new company and trust our product when they decide to use it,” Cunningham adds.

Eyes on the horizon

DeHaan expects to use telematics with his future equipment purchases, including a Hitachi ZX245 excavator currently on order from Columbia Western. And when it’s time to add another wheel loader, “I’ll definitely be looking at another ZW330.”

As with other owners of industrial businesses, DeHaan’s immediate concerns are finding enough labor to keep up with demands on ISI’s services. “To do the kind of work we do on barges, you do need a fair amount of experience,” he says. “It’s a tough labor field, but I have a lot of guys who’ve been with me for more than 10 years, and some who’ve been here 20 years. So I’ve been fairly fortunate. I try to take care of them, and they take care of me.”

At some point, DeHaan hopes to give his son a larger role in the business so he can gradually step back and watch ISI’s progress from the sidelines. For now, there are tides to watch, barges to unload and schedules to keep.

“The work is routine in many respects,” he says, “but it’s always interesting, and we’re always busy. And it’s still amazing to see what comes up this river.”

ZW550-6 on a job site

If there’s a large infrastructure project in the greater Seattle area, chances are Gary Merlino Construction Co. (GMCC) is involved. One of the Puget Sound region’s largest locally owned heavy civil construction contractors, GMCC helped create the third runway at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, rebuilt and expanded portions of major interstates and other key area highways and contributed to the revitalization of Seattle’s waterfront by rebuilding the street corridor once overshadowed by the now-demolished Alaskan Way Viaduct. And that’s in addition to a large volume of private-sector work for clients such as Boeing and other major regional employers.

“It’s that kind of diversity that helps us stay in balance with economic changes,” explains Ralph Lo Priore, the company’s Fleet Asset Manager.

We’ve always liked how Hitachi machines have performed. They always use top-quality components, and the engines are bullet-proof. The machines don’t have to be coddled to stand the test of time.
Ralph Lo Priore
Fleet Asset Manager

Such accomplishments would be impressive for any contractor, but even more so for one that, according to company history, began humbly in 1961 with just a wheelbarrow, a few hand tools and the commitment of brothers Gary and Don Merlino to hard work and excellent customer service. Now in their 80s, both brothers remain active in the day-to-day operations of a firm that boasts approximately 450 employees, a large fleet of trucks and equipment that Lo Priore estimates is worth approximately around $400 million and the capability to self-perform more than 85% of its projects.

GMCC also supplies aggregate and concrete products to other contractors, the result of its 1985 purchase of long-time Seattle-area ready-mix specialist Stoneway Concrete. Lo Priore says the combined companies generate $200 million of business annually.

A rigorous equipment evaluation process

Lo Priore, who began his career with the company as a mechanic more than 30 years ago, characterizes himself as “passionate” about construction equipment. Along with being intimately familiar with their operation and capabilities, he firmly believes these assets must be managed wisely throughout their life cycle, beginning with making informed product evaluations and buying decisions.

“We can’t afford to continually right-size our fleet,” he explains. “That’s why we consistently apply what I call the ‘Merlino-Stoneway recipe’ for identifying equipment.”

Rather than focusing solely on size or price, Lo Priore says this equipment purchasing approach looks at the whole picture—what the machine will be doing, the kind of material it’ll be moving, the characteristics of job sites it’ll be working at, and so forth.

Scott Cunningham, who represents Columbia Western Machinery in the state of Washington, says there are other factors contractors like GMCC have to consider. “We deal with a lot of rain and mud nine months out of the year, so it is important that we equip machines with safety features that accommodate for that,” he says. “There is also a lot of ground rock, so it’s important that machines are fitted with the right bucket based on area conditions.”

Digging deeper

Then there are the specific needs of GMCC and Stoneway, which Lo Priore says differ from those of their peer competitors, both in the type of projects and materials being moved and in the skill of the company operators.

“There’s a big difference in ownership costs and operating costs, which is often dependent on who’s at the controls,” he explains. “I’ve seen plenty of examples of a machine put to work on an application it’s not designed for. That will have an effect on time, cost and productivity, as well as the machine’s ultimate resale value.”

The same principle holds true for maintenance, as machine applications, operator habits and any number of other factors can affect the timing of everything from fluid changes to resale and replacement.

“Machines ‘age out,’ but they don’t always ‘hour-out,’” Lo Priore says. “You’re taking a big risk if you simply go ‘by the book’ and rely solely on standard maintenance schedules, because they don’t always reflect reality. I’d much rather periodically analyze a machine’s engine oil sample, for example, than just wait for a certain number of hours to tick by.”

Telematics can be a valuable source of information for fleet management, Lo Priore adds, but only if one truly digs into the numbers and what they mean.

Ralph Lo Piore on Job SIte
Ralph Lo Priore

“When you rely too much on technology, you have no idea if something bad is on the verge of happening,” Lo Priore says. Using that technology to identify trends and patterns, however, can be very helpful. For example, telematics data was instrumental in identifying an operator who was riding the brake on a machine, a habit that was sure to cause premature wear to the brakes and differential.

“Instead, we helped the operator correct how he ran the machine, which benefitted him as well as the company,” he says.

Lo Priore’s approach may sound strict, but it’s one that he says helps safeguard the Merlino organization’s operational budgets and ability to reliably serve customers.

“Anyone can get the work done, but how often do they have to come back and correct mistakes?” he asks. “Customers rely on us to meet cost and schedule estimates, so we need to know that the machines will be there and perform as expected. So when I buy, I’m confident it will do what we want.”

Putting machines to the test

Hitachi is among the equipment brands that Lo Priore says has consistently met GMCC and Stoneway’s exacting standards for several decades.

“There’s obviously a lot of well-built equipment out there, but we’ve always liked how Hitachi machines have performed,” he says. “They always use top-quality components, and the engines are bulletproof. The machines don’t have to be coddled to stand the test of time.”

Even with the long, positive experience with Hitachi equipment, Lo Priore put the Merlino organization’s latest purchase, a ZW550-6 wheel loader from Columbia Western, through its paces.

“I ran the data and learned everything about it—cost, capacity, productivity, maintenance and so forth,” Lo Priore says of the ZW550, which he describes as a “tweener” size machine that offers the advantage of easy mobility and fuel economy.

“We put a guy who’d never run a 550 in the cab, and he was up to speed in a few hours,” Lo Priore says. “the platform is very simple to understand, making it easy to be successful as an operator.”
Ralph Lo Priore
Fleet Asset Manager

Lo Priore also praises Hitachi’s “dependable platform” that offers helpful features without overwhelming operators with options. “Sometimes, manufacturers put too much emphasis on technology,” he explains, adding that a more basic platform is often better suited for helping operators learn how to get the most from a machine.

“We put a guy who’d never run a 550 in the cab, and he was up to speed in a few hours,” Lo Priore says. “The platform is very simple to understand, making it easy to be successful as an operator.”

To complement his familiarity with the GMCC and Stoneway fleet, Lo Priore has welcomed the support from Columbia Western, which opened in 2019. “I’ve known the owners for a long time and was happy when they told me they were going to be a Hitachi dealer,” he says. “They’ll try to help us out with issues over the phone rather than make us wait for a service call.”

Cunningham says the fact that the company’s owners are construction industry veterans provides a deeper appreciation of the kind of support customers need.

“We ask a lot of our customers to trust a new company and trust our product when they decide to use it,” Cunningham says. “In turn, we strive to provide the prompt service when it’s needed it in order to keep their machines and businesses running smoothly.”

Coping with an uncertain future

While the Merlino organization’s stringent demands for equipment are by no means new, they have never been more important. As the Merlino brothers chart the course of their companies’ future for the next 20 years, they need to be sure they can capitalize on the Seattle market’s bounty of promising opportunities while also staying ahead of what is sure to be more intense competition. There’s also the prospect of new state and federal regulations to supplement the recent evolution to Tier 4 emissions standards.

And as with most other firms in the construction industry, the pool of experienced help to do those jobs continues to shrink. Along with equipment operators and tradespeople, workers skilled in equipment maintenance are also becoming hard to find.

Lo Priore worries that the current work-force lacks the mechanical aptitude that earlier generations possessed. “You don’t always need a master mechanic to fix things,” he says, “but it’s helpful to at least know the basics of how machines function in certain applications and how to care for them. The challenge for us is to try and help make people think about equipment the same way we do.”

Relying on fundamentals such as the “Merlino-Stoneway recipe” will help the companies stay in the forefront of Seattle’s construction industry.

“We may ask for a lot from our fleet,” Lo Priore says, “but we’ve reached a point where customers expect a lot from us. We’re not about to let them down.”

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