Following its global introduction in January 2022, the Volvo EC550E crawler excavator made its southern African debut in October last year. Since then, a total of six machines – deployed in coal, diamond and hard rock applications – have been delivered to customers, with some repeat orders already placed.
At a time when productivity and efficiency have become non-negotiables for mining and quarrying projects, customers have been impressed by up to 40% more productivity and up to 25% increase in fuel efficiency. In addition, the machine also punches above its weight with production capabilities well in line with machines in the 60-65 t range.
Ideal for mining, quarrying and large infrastructure projects, the new 55-t excavator breaks the industry norm of production having a direct link to operating weight. This is achieved through Volvo CE’s ground-breaking Independent Metering Valve Technology (IMVT) hydraulic setup, in conjunction with a totally new engine trim on the D13 block and electrohydraulic command for the joysticks.
“As a result, the machine ‘fights’ well outside its weight category, offering production in line with bigger class machines in the 60-65 t range, despite the decals only stating 55-t,” explains Lance Mannix, GM Sales at Babcock’s Equipment division.
“The machine fits in between our existing 48-t Volvo EC480D and the 75t Volvo EC750D models. While the EC480D model is aimed at customers looking for an efficient and reliable 50-t class excavator, the EC550E offers 40% greater production than the EC480D in typical dig and dump applications, meaning it is closer to the EC750D and so challenges the 60-65 t excavator class,” explains Mannix.
The increased size and weight of the undercarriage gives the machine greater stability, allowing it to accommodate a larger bucket (2,4-4,2 m³) capacity. By load distribution surface/footprint of the undercarriage, the EC550E has almost an identical size to some competitor 70-t machines.
In mass excavation (ME) configuration, it can even challenge bigger class competitors. For a typical ME machine, at 6 m reach, 1,5 m elevation – in other words where stability really counts – you have a lift value of 17 910 kg across tracks. This is, by kilos, comparable to certain 70-t competitor offerings.
The 2 071 Nm (320 kW) engine, with rated power at 1 600 rpm, is also well in line with certain competitor 70-t machines. This, coupled with the large displacement pumps (832 litres per minute), results in faster cycle times. For most competitor offerings in the bigger class, one needs to rev the engine at 1 800 rpm to reach the maximum power. Low revs are generally good, so the EC550E has the upper hand here.
Experienced people tend to be relatively more interested in torque than power when it comes to large excavators. Torque is more about force, and power is more about speed – and typically excavator force can be more of a priority than speed, subject to application. However, one cannot see torque in isolation. The EC550 is fitted with large displacement pumps, matched to the capabilities of the engine. Customers can therefore get high flow/fast cycle times at the same time as when operating at a high torque.
Productivity is a parameter of absolute significance to excavation applications. With that in mind, Volvo CE paid particular attention to increased productivity when developing the EC550E. Customers can brace themselves for up to 40% more productivity.
The machine can fill a 35-40-t hauler or highway truck with just four to six passes. The result is optimum pass-matching and high production at a lower cost per tonne of operation.
“The EC550E can fill a Volvo A35G or A40G articulated hauler with four to six buckets, which is considered a well-balanced match in the industry. It also means that Babcock now offers two perfect match excavators for A35G or A40G haulers in southern Africa – the EC750D and the EC550E,” says Mannix
As quarry and opencast mine operators seek to increase their tonne per hour and lower their cost per tonne, while reducing their environmental impact, pass-matching is especially important. Matching the size and capacity of the loading machine to the hauler shortens cycle times and minimises idling for greater productivity, lower fuel consumption and lower emissions. Essentially, it avoids unnecessary waste of time, fuel and money.
Away from the machine, the EC550E is available with a range of optimum-sized heavy-duty rock buckets designed for use in abrasive conditions, with the Volvo Tooth System making light work of teeth replacements thanks to its place, push and click functionality.
Customers can further take control of their productivity with On-Board Weighing, helping to ensure the optimum amount of material is loaded. The optional system provides real-time information to eliminate under and overloading of haul trucks and records total tonnage for complete production management.
Thanks to the next generation electro-hydraulic system with IMVT and engine/pump optimisation, which lowers engine rpm while optimising power, customers can take fuel efficiency to a whole new level. The main control valve uses IMVT, the latest pioneering innovation from Volvo, said to be the most high-performing hydraulic system in the industry. It provides significantly more precise control compared to a conventional system and contributes towards up to a 25% improvement in fuel efficiency.
“The IMVT is probably the biggest news as it is an industry first in this excavator size class. It involves a new concept main control valve (MCV). Instead of a conventional spool-type MCV, Volvo has built an MCV with dedicated valves – one each for feed and return for each actuator. This means that the pumps pump exactly according to demand at any given time, subject to the precise and exact requirement of oil for any specific actuator,” says Mannix.
This eliminates hydraulic losses, delivers increased fuel efficiency and unparalleled level of command of the machine. The system does not only cut fuel consumption, but it also reduces carbon (CO2) emissions significantly. Operators can achieve production that is close to the 70-t mark but without the fuel consumption that comes with a 70-t class machine.
To support the fuel-efficient performance of the machine, Babcock offers a range of Volvo services to help customers reduce the fuel expenditure and carbon emissions of their operations even further, including Fuel Efficiency Reports and operator training initiatives.
To further boost customer profitability, the EC550E benefits from the proven high level of local support from Babcock. At the core of Babcock’s eminence in southern Africa is its unparalleled aftermarket regime.
Guiding the company’s aftermarket philosophy, says Vaughan, is Babcock’s understanding that in today’s operating conditions, equipment owners expect suppliers to meet their needs and respond to their problems effectively and swiftly. This is most certainly the case when it comes to big-ticket, mission critical assets such as mining and quarrying equipment.
“We have over the years built our business on the back of our aftermarket offering,” he says. “In fact, our aftermarket business, including parts and service, had a record year in the last financial year. One of the major talking points is the growth of our service/maintenance contracts portfolio. We now have more machines on service/maintenance contracts than ever before,” says Vaughan.
A benefit of Babcock’s service contracts is that they are flexible and tailored to meet each customer’s unique needs. “A major advantage of Babcock’s repair and maintenance (R&M) contracts is increased machine uptime. The machines are serviced by experts, thus the scheduled downtime related to maintenance is kept to a minimum. Machines are also serviced according to OEM specifications all the time, resulting in longer asset lifecycles,” says Mannix.
Volvo machines on service and R&M contracts are monitored via CareTrack, Volvo CE’s telematics system. CareTrack gives Babcock a wide range of machine monitoring information designed to save customers time and money.
Fleet owners can also take advantage of Volvo Financial Services’ flexible finance options. Volvo Financial Services, the global captive finance company of the Volvo Group, started operating in South Africa in 2017, and has over the years seen increased growth of its portfolio.
Since its inception in 2017, Volvo Financial Services South Africa has continued to go beyond traditional financing to offer Babcock’s customers access to fast and flexible finance solutions. As part of Volvo Group, Volvo Financial Services has in-depth knowledge of the yellow metal equipment market, allowing the captive financial service provider to offer clients a customised solution.
By offering a direct portal to tailor-made financing, Volvo Financial Services helps Babcock customers address financial challenges and grow their equipment fleets, through a personal hands-on approach that extends far beyond conventional financing services.