Hitachi Construction Machinery Americas Inc.
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.”

Equipment Today, the nationally recognized equipment magazine serving commercial construction contractors, has selected the Hitachi ZW550-6 Wheel Loader as one of the favored new construction products of 2020.

The editorial teams from Equipment Today and compiled product inquiries and web page views from new products featured in Equipment Today over a 12-month period from May 2019 to April 2020. Winning products represent the leading edge of innovation, quality, efficiency and productivity in the construction equipment field today.

“The products recognized by the annual Contractors’ Top 50 New Products awards represent what contractors are seeking most to boost profitability on their construction projects,” asserts Becky Schultz, Equipment Today editor. “The high level of interest they generated from Equipment Today readers and visitors to demonstrates that these are products contractors feel are capable of improving performance, efficiency, and productivity on their jobsites.”

To learn more about the ZW550-6 Wheel Loader visit Hitachi ZW550-6 Wheel Loader.

Newnan, GA – (April 4, 2020)EquipmentWatch, the world leader in data, software and insights for the heavy equipment industry, has announced the winners of the 2020 Highest Retained Value Awards (HRVA) and the 2020 Lowest Cost of Ownership Awards (LCO).

The Hitachi ZW550-6 wheel loader earned the Highest Retained Value Award of 2020.
Explore more of the ZW550-6 award from EquipmentWatch.

Click here to read the full Press Release on the ZW550-6 Award from EquipmentWatch.

The Editors of Construction Equipmentmagazine has named the Hitachi ZW550-6 wheel loader to their prestigious “Top 100” new products of the past year.

One of the industry’s most respected trade publications, Construction Equipmenthas been compiling its list of the year’s most significant and innovative new product launches for nearly 30 years.

The ZW550-6 was the first of the new Dash-6 Series of loaders to be announced by Hitachi Construction Machinery Loaders America. Formally announced in March 2019, the Dash-6 loaders represent a new line of durable, high performance machines engineered to meet the needs of the most demanding equipment fleets. The ZW550-6 weighs in 104,000 lbs., powered by a 512 HP engine, generating 83,460 ft-lb of breakout force. Buyers can choose either an 8.2-yard or 9-yard bucket as standard equipment.

Built to handle the heaviest loading applications in quarry, aggregate and mine fleets, the ZW550-6 introduces joystick steering as standard along with smart technology such as traction control, ride control, auto power-up and an operator-friendly LCD color monitor. All Dash-6 models are also equipped with Hitachi’s ConSite telematics remote reporting system, which will be demonstrated live at CONEXPO 2020. 

Complete details on ZW550-6 features and specifications are available here.

HCMA Updates Wheel Loader Line

The ZW550-6 wheel loader is the first in the Dash-6 series from Hitachi Construction Machinery Loaders America (HMCA), formerly Kawasaki. The 512-horsepower loader has an operating weight of 104,000 pounds and comes with either an 8.2- or 9-cubic-yard bucket. The Isuzu 6WG1 engine uses DOC and SCR aftertreatment, and it has an auto shutdown feature. Static tipping load is 73,200 pounds straight and 6,980 at full 37-degree turn. Height to bucket hinge pin is 16.5 feet, with dumping clearance of 11.5 feet at 45 degrees. Dual Z-bar linkage is standard, and breakout force is 83,460 lb.- ft. Parallel Tilt & Lift smooths digging while the tandem function prioritizes the bucket when dumping.

To read the entire article in the July 2019 Construction Equipment Magazine, click here.

Hitachi’s ZW550-6 wheel loader is designed for the heaviest applications, including tough rock and high volumes of dirt. The 104,000-pound loader runs on a 512-horsepower Isuzu engine that meets Tier 4 Final requirements with no diesel particulate filter and is designed to reduce fuel consumption. Operators can further save on fuel with auto-shutdown and the lockup transmission. A new Power Mode boosts engine rpms by 10% with the flip of a switch on the steering joystick for extra rimpull and breakout force when digging in heavy piles, as well as extra power for climbing steep grades with a full load, faster bucket lifts, and faster acceleration on flat surfaces.

To see the full article on the ZW550-6, check out the July 2019 issue of Equipment World Magazine.

New flagship wheel loader shows Hitachi at the top of its game.

The team behind the new generation of Hitachi wheel loaders felt they have something to say to America’s most demanding buyers of heavy equipment. With the release of the ZW550-6 loader, the statement comes through loud and clear. Tough, sleek, nimble, and productive, the ZW550-6 is Hitachi’s announcement that there’s a new player at the table when earthmoving contractors and quarry operators are dealing for a big, dependable machine.

To read the Partner Solutions article in the May 2019 Aggregates Manager, click here.

Hitachi Construction Machinery Americas Inc. recently had a few press figures come join the demonstration at the 2019 Sonoran Meet-Up. The ZW550-6 was in the spotlight, with Regional Business Manager Dustin Hoogeveen providing a walk-around introduction video and a current ZW customer, Dave Clevenger, providing insights of his opinions of the machine in an interview. Be sure to check out both videos by visiting

Or check out our YouTube Channel:
ZW550-6 Walk-Around
ZW550-6 Customer Interview


With the release of the ZW550-6 loader, Hitachi Construction Machinery Loader America Inc. (HCMA) has established a flagship machine worthy of the firm’s goal of delivering on the needs of America’s most demanding buyers of heavy equipment.

The ZW550-6 makes a strong case for earthmoving contractors and quarry operators to include Hitachi on their “must see” list when they are looking for a big, dependable machine.

Stepping Up for Heavy-Duty Applications

The ZW550-6 leads off the new Dash-6 series of Hitachi wheel loaders. Weighing in at 104,000 lbs. (47,173 kg) and 512 hp, and equipped with an 8.2 or 9 cu. yd. (6.2 or 6.8 cu m) bucket, it’s a robust piece of production machinery built for the heaviest applications. With its standard Dual Z-Bar linkage, high tipping load, and high breakout force, Hitachi designers had clearly set their sights on tough rock handling as well as loading high volumes of soil and fill, according to the manufacturer.

To meet the expectations of demanding buyers, Hitachi steps up with a full suite of premium features for the ZW550-6, including joystick steering as standard along with smart technology such as traction control, ride control, auto power-up, and an operator-friendly LCD color monitor. Hitachi’s “Global e-Service” telematics and ConSite reporting, now available in the wheel loader line-up, provides 24/7 remote monitoring, daily maintenance and operational data plus monthly performance reports. Dash-6 machines also take the lead in Tier IV Final power, replacing DPF filters with clean SCR technology using a simple DEF system.

A Solid Foundation

The ZW550-6’s heavy duty box frame is built for the long haul in tough environments. The durable frame is matched with a low-mount lift arm that minimizes twisting on the front frame, especially with uneven loading. The cooling package is equally suited for long duty cycles in hot, dusty applications. A reversible cooling fan comes as standard with automatic or manual activation. Aluminum cooling cores ensure high cooling efficiency as well as longer, corrosion-free service life. A protective rear grille also helps to prevent dust and raw material from entering the radiator compartment.

“Power Mode” Boosts Productivity

A new Power Mode feature provides simple access to extra power on demand for higher productivity and efficient duty cycles. The quick power switch, mounted conveniently on the steering joystick, lets operators boost power instantly with a 10 percent higher engine rpm. The power boost means added rim-pull and breakout force for digging into heavy piles or for climbing grades with a full load on board. Power Mode also provides faster hydraulic speed for quicker bucket lifts. While Power Mode also allows faster acceleration on flat stretches, it does not limit the loader’s top speed. It means faster duty cycles with more payload each time.

Loading tasks are further simplified with the Hitachi’s ZW-550-6 responsive lift/bucket prioritization. Its Parallel Tilt & Lift movement smooths out digging operations while the tandem function prioritizes the bucket when dumping. Then the automatic return-to-dig function resets the bucket for the next load.


Hitachi claims the best cab visibility in the business for loader operators, with clean lines of sight in all directions, according to the manufacturer. With standard joystick steering, there’s no steering wheel to obstruct the operator’s view of the work zone. Hitachi also opens up the view to the rear by relocating the exhaust stack to the far end of the rear cowling. Sight lines are further enhanced by the ROPS design, with frame struts forward and away from the corners of the cab. A rear safety camera is standard equipment. Proximity detection provides audible and visual alerts for stationary and moving objects out to 20 ft. from the loader.

Goodbye DPF — Hello SCR

By eliminating DPF and its attendant regen cycles from the ZW550-6 power system, Hitachi delivers a Tier IV solution for wheel loaders that simplifies servicing and saves fuel. The new ZW550-6 introduces a clean SCR system that runs efficiently without high engine temperatures, reducing needless fuel consumption and removing any concerns about idle times. With no DPF system, operators can look forward to less downtime for engine maintenance and extended engine life. The SCR opens space in the engine compartment, giving service techs easier access to service points. An auto shutdown feature adds more savings on fuel and emissions.

Telematics with Hitachi’s Global e-Service allows ZW550‑6 owners to monitor their loaders remotely for machine performance, receive daily operational reports, perform remote diagnosis and plan for maintenance dates. The results also are provided automatically in monthly email summaries, with Hitachi’s ConSite program.

For more information, visit the ZW550-6 Product Page.

Read more about the ZW550-6 Launch in Construction Equipment Guide here.

Industry focus on large wheel loaders- including Hitachi’s ZW550-6 model- featured in a recent article in the November/December 2018 Grading & Excavation Contractor . Hitachi’s own Sam Shelton gave insight into the ZW550-6 features in comparison with other large wheel loaders in the market.

Click Grading & Excavation Contractor- Nov-Dec2018 article to read the full article.

Article by Nathan Medcalf.


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