Industry News, Latest News, Machinery & Equipment, Technology, Technology Update

Retrofitting the future with Komatsu

Komatsu’s PC138 excavator in action.

Komatsu’s PC138 range of excavators, supported by the company’s ‘Retrofit Kit’ – a 3D guidance and payload monitoring system – are giving operators access to a new era of machine technology.

Komatsu has long taken pride in the technological developments of its machines and smart construction offerings.

Komatsu’s roots are embedded in Japan, where more than 100 years ago Founder Meitaro Takeuchi moulded the company in his vision, to contribute and enhance his community’s quality of life.

As Scott Berry, Komatsu National Business Manager – Construction tells Roads & Infrastructure, Takeuchi’s commitment to empowering future generations now translates to Komatsu’s adherence to delivering reliable and “cutting-edge” machinery.

“One of the biggest selling points for our machines is our brand. With our brand we aim to provide the best support, while offering a premium product backed by Japanese quality,” Berry says.

“We offer everything that we believe the customer needs.”

Berry’s enthusiasm for the Komatsu brand has been accentuated by the company’s on-going development in innovative machinery technology.

From Intelligent Machine Control (iMC) to a suite of ‘Smart Construction’ products, Komatsu is constantly upgrading and updating ICT (Information Communication Technology) features, aimed at maximising the productivity and safety of construction machinery. Developed in-house, these technologies are designed to work across a variety of machinery classes.

Both the PC138US-11 and PC138USLC-11 excavators can be fitted out with the latest in Komatsu’s technological offerings.
Both the PC138US-11 and PC138USLC-11 excavators can be fitted out with the latest in Komatsu’s technological offerings.

Now Komatsu’s 3D Machine Guidance and Payload system is opening doors for operators to equip their machinery, such as the PC138US-11 and PC138USLC-11 excavators, with the latest technology offerings.

An integrated package

With more than 45 models, Komatsu Australia’s excavators have been developed to suit the needs of operators ranging from the ‘weekend warrior’, to major infrastructure project developers.

One of the key features of Komatsu’s PC138US-11 and PC138USLC-11 models is ability to handle a range of operations.

“The PC138US-11 and PC138USLC-11 excavators are some of the best-selling construction excavators in our range because they’re a real utility machine,” Berry says. “And we find that a lot of Australian operators are wanting a machine that can pretty much do everything.

“One of the biggest benefits is the urban swing on both machines, which is what the US stands for. Operators can move the machines closer to walls and get into tight spaces. The shorter undercarriage of the PC138US-11 also boosts the agility and mobility of the machine.”

Both the PC138US-11 and PC138USLC-11 have an identical tail swing radius of 1480 millimetres, allowing the excavators to work in tighter spaces when compared to conventional machinery.

Both machines are powered by Komatsu’s low-emission, Tier 4 Compliant engine, providing 97 horsepower.

Berry says the engine provides sustainability benefits when compared to conventional engine designs.

“I’m certainly a believer in doing everything that we can to minimise emissions and make the world cleaner and greener. Whether or not our engines are ‘changing the world’, we believe this is the way of the future,” Berry says.

And while the excavators share similar features and capabilities, the biggest difference between the two models lies in the undercarriage design.


Related stories:


Berry says the larger undercarriage on the PC138USLC-11 provides slightly better stability, especially when using larger attachments and implements. Therefore, increasing the safety of operation, especially when incorporating hazards such as uneven terrain or heavy loads.

He adds that the decision between having a PC138US-11 or PC138USLC-11 comes down to operator preference.

Playing it smart 

As with many of Komatsu’s construction machinery models, these dash 11 excavators are compatible with the Smart Construction Retrofit Kit.

The Retrofit Kit (RFK) allows existing machinery to use ICT features such as 3D machine guidance, payload management and 3D construction data collection.

Marc Brook, Technology Consultant at Komatsu, says the RFK can allow conventional machinery to perform digital construction.

“Time is money, and the more time that the excavator can spend performing productive tasks, the better,” Brook says.

He says the 3D machine guidance feature allows operators to dig to 3D design plans accurately and efficiently, by notifying them in the cab of their bucket’s current position, against the engineered design drawings. 

Komatsu’s Retrofit Kit can enable machines such as the PC138US-11 and PC138USLC-11 excavators to utilise 3D machine guidance, as well as 3D construction data collection.
Komatsu’s Retrofit Kit can enable machines such as the PC138US-11 and PC138USLC-11 excavators to utilise 3D machine guidance, as well as 3D construction data collection.

“The RFK system uses high-performance sensors and antennas to display the position of the bucket accurately and reliably against the design information. The operator can easily change surface offsets, extend the grade of a design surface, record points, create simple designs, easily change between designs and attachments and much more,” Brook says.

“It also provides an option to feed as-constructed data directly from the machine into our Smart Construction dashboard for daily volume and progress reporting.”

Operators can also create simple flat and sloping designs themselves on the in-cab display, which can show several ‘views’ and be customised based on the operator’s preference. This is displayed through the tablet pilot app, which presents this data in an accessible manner for operators.

“The user interface is easy to use. The technology is designed to be user friendly, and operators can become comfortable and productive with it very quickly,” Brook says.

And if operators are ever unsure about the operation of the RFK, the Komatsu team is there to help along the way.

“In the case of technical support or additional training being required, our dedicated support team can access the system remotely to ensure it’s always being utilised effectively,” Brook says.

One of the RFK’s other marquee features – the payload management system – focuses on the measurable weight of the soil loaded in the bucket of excavator models. While this sounds like a straightforward tool, the payload management system provides benefits, especially when it comes to efficiency and safety..

“It increases general safety by ensuring that trucks are not overloaded with material first and foremost,” Brook says. “It also ensures that the target load capacities are being met, increasing material haulage productivity by reducing fuel costs and emissions output to achieve the maximum efficiency out of each truck cycle.”

This payload information can then be reported to a cloud-based server.

Fitting and finishing 

Brook says the potential for the RFK to open new doors for operators is “extremely exciting”, adding that the versatility of the system is one of its strong points.

“The RFK can be fitted to a variety of machine sizes, makes and models, including older machines, for 3D machine guidance. The payload system is machine specific, and we are constantly looking to add more machines to our payload management supported list,” Brook says.

“The RFK can be fitted at our factory prior to the handover of the machine, or alternatively it can be installed on site.”

Komatsu’s Intelligent Machine Control allows excavators in Komatsu’s PC138 range to receive and relay information in real-time.
Komatsu’s Intelligent Machine Control allows excavators in Komatsu’s PC138 range to receive and relay information in real-time.

Brook says Komatsu is eager and embracing the future, with plans already in place to further develop the technological capabilities of the RFK system, along with machinery such as the PC138US-11 and PC138USLC-11 excavators.

“We are constantly working to develop the RFK product based on our customers’ needs. 

“From a hardware perspective we will be looking to support more makes and models of machines in the future. 

“From a software perspective, we are constantly engaging with our customers on features to improve their workflows, and our customers will continue to receive these feature updates as they become available,” Brook says. 

This article was originally published in the February edition of our magazine. To read the magazine, click here.

Send this to a friend