ACT EXCLUSIVE: Kobelco to launch seven new cranes
30 January 2023
Since early 2021, Kobelco Cranes USA has dealt with a lot of unknowns, navigating a massive repower project of its CK crane line distributed in North America. It’s been a difficult journey, according to Kobelco Chief Operating Officer and Vice President Jack Fendrick. But he and his team are excited to launch an entirely repowered line of crawler cranes. American Cranes & Transport has learned exclusively that Kobelco will launch seven new cranes, from 80 to 275 tons capacity. Three of those cranes will be shown next month at ConExpo in Las Vegas.
On these cranes, the Isuzu engine system is new, the cab is new and the paint color scheme is new, but the cranes are the same in that Kobelco didn’t fix anything that wasn’t broken. All the things that make the Kobelco crawler line so revered by its owners and users, they are all intact.
What exactly happened that forced Kobelco to scrap its old engine maker and find a new one? Back in April of 2021, I asked Fendrick that exact question, and as always, he was a straight shooter about the situation and how the company got in this difficult predicament.
“Hino was having difficulty meeting the EPA’s 2021 certification requirements. They made the decision in January 2021 that they were not going to attempt to reach certification. And they couldn’t guarantee a schedule for 2022,” he said in an article in the June 2021 issue of ACT. “This was alarming, as you can imagine. We went through a very lengthy vetting process, and in March 2021 we signed contracts with Isuzu to produce engines for our cranes.”
For a time, due to the market drop because of the Covid-19 pandemic, Kobelco had a supply of EPA-certified engines it used to produce several of its crawler crane models. But when those were sold, customers had to wait for the day the repower project was completed. That day has come, and Fendrick and his team can hardly wait until March 14th when ConExpo gates are opened.
Fendrick grew up in the construction equipment industry, and he is a committed and respected crane industry professional. He has forged deep and long-lasting relationships in the crane world, and he is one of my most trusted sources.
What Kobelco Cranes USA has been through was a bitter pill to swallow. But over the past two years, Fendrick has remained optimistic and fully engaged in assuring the Kobelco crane product line will emerge better than ever. I reached out to Fendrick in late 2022 to check in and see how the new crane launch was progressing.
On January 5, 2023, I drove to Houston and saw one of the new cranes and talked to the Kobelco Cranes team. (Don’t miss our Site Visit Kobelco on page 32.)
While there’s a lot of good things to say about Kobelco Cranes and its team, a simple three-word sentence comes to mind: Kobelco is back. I think you will enjoy reading Fendrick’s answers to our questions. As ever, he is honest, to the point and a very happy guy.
Bring us up to date on Kobelco Cranes. What happened and where are you with the repower?
Our engine vendor notified us in 2021 that they were having challenges meeting the EPA’s 2021 Engine Certification requirements. We (Kobelco) decided to reengineer our crawler crane line up from the 85 to 275-ton range to utilize an Isuzu engine. I can assure you that this was no small feat, and I am proud to say that as of ConExpo 2023 we will return with a full line up crawler cranes.
What will we see at ConExpo?
At ConExpo we will be displaying the CK 1600G-3, CK 2000G-3 and CK 2750G-3.
What will distinguish these cranes from other crawler product lines?
Kobelco specializes in crawler cranes, and we have been a leader in this market for several years. In these cranes you will see the same dedication to design, transport, charts, after market service, parts support, price, lack of bureaucracy and the like. Basically, our brand has been built on being the best value package in the industry, and these new models continue that legacy.
What does the launch/roll out look like in terms of when cranes will be ready to order and deliver?
The past two years has been difficult on our customers and our dealers. We recognized the sacrifices they were making due to our inability to replenish their fleets.
In August of 2022, once we confirmed our production schedule was “real,” we opened the order board, so that our dealers and customers would have time to plan. I am humbled and grateful to report that we are sold out for 2023 and that our dealers and customers will start receiving product in April 2023.
Have there been particular challenges in terms of sourcing parts and supply chain issues?
The short answer is yes, and I am sure that all of my competitors have experienced the same pain. The side effects of the global shutdowns of 2020 are still being felt but are getting better every quarter. One of the more tenacious issues is related to global sea freight capacity, but we feel confident that this will continue to improve as we get into second and third quarters of 2023.
Let’s talk about the CK1600G-3 in particular, which I was able to see in Houston in early January.
The biggest new addition to the CK1600G-3 is the Isuzu Model 6UZ1 engine. It is a 6-cylinder, turbocharged, Tier 4 final engine that provides 362 horsepower. The CK1600G-3 maintains a maximum lift capacity of 160 tons at 15-feet radius and has a very favorable load-chart when sizing up to its competitors.
The CK1600G-3 maintains a maximum boom length of 250 feet, and a maximum boom plus fixed jib capability of 200 feet plus 100 feet. It’s easy to assemble and field-proven. A luffing jib is also available with a maximum reach combination of 157 feet plus 175 feet. All of the boom and jib components are interchangeable with the previous model.
What are the new design aspects?
As I said, the major change is the Isuzu engine, known for its reliability, fuel efficiency and quiet operation. The ability to clear engine error codes is now available to the operator without hooking into an external engine diagnostic tool.
One way that Kobelco differentiates itself from some of the competition is that we service and support the engine ourselves. There are no third-party engine distributors in between us and the relationship with our dealers and customers on engine support.
The operator’s cab has also changed, offering improved visibility. The cab also incorporates new features such as blue tooth and USB compatibility. The G-3 model paint scheme has also changed, presenting updated styling and new product recognition. We have maintained all the previous hydraulic system and crane travel system features and components that have made Kobelco known for being an operator-friendly and a reliable crane in this market over the past 30 years.
We have also maintained all the previous value-added standard features as before, such as a large color touch screen LMI with added adjustability, swing limiter, self-erection capability, KCROSS telematics and fuel-saving G-Modes. Boom and jib commonality with the previous model has also been maintained.
Where do you expect this crane to land in terms of jobs?
Like its predecessor, the CK1600G-2, the CK1600G-3 will be an operator-friendly, all-around versatile crane, very well suited for a variety of applications, such as bridge-building, pile driving, steel erection, foundation work and general construction. Our customers have a field-proven history with their older CK1600s. The CK1600G-3 is expected to do the same.
What is Kobelco’s process for testing a crane once it gets to the United States?
All of our cranes go through months of rigorous testing in Japan. When we receive the first unit in the United States, the testing is over. We bring the units to our facility in Texas for training. Our U.S.-based team spends several weeks going over the units, checking service procedures, access points and mastering any new LMI/computer additions. We are responsible to help our customers maximize up time. That means we are dedicated to providing solutions and expertise that assist field mechanics in their efforts to make repairs quickly and accurately.
Have you shown this crane or any of the new cranes to distributors or end users?
The “big reveal” will be at ConExpo in Las Vegas in March.
What is the vibe you are hearing about ConExpo?
Word on the street is that it will be huge, and we are very excited. The ability for Kobelco to leave ConExpo 2020 under the cloud of Covid and then engage in a massive repower plan and be able to launch a new line up of seven models just three years later at ConExpo 2023 is a testament to our dedication to our customers and dealer network. Everyone at Kobelco is excited about this ConExpo and we can’t wait to see all our friends.
What are you most excited about?
This will be my 10th ConExpo, and I am most excited for our extended Kobelco family to see what we have been working on, and I feel confident they will be proud.
Kobelco’s crawler line up
Kobelco’s repowered line of crawler cranes include:
- CK 800G-3 (80 ton)
- CK 850G-3 (85 ton)
- CK 1100G-3 (110 ton)
- CK 1200G-3 (120 ton)
- CK 1600G-3 (160 ton)
- CK 2000G-3 (200 ton)
- CK 2750G-3 (275 ton)
- CK 3300G-2 (330 ton) *
*The CK 3300 was not affected by the engine change and remains using Scania power.