Cover story: Hyundai mini excavators

By: Cameron Officer, Photography by: Cameron Officer

Two Hyundai mini excavators have joined InfraCore’s excavator fleet and are earning their keep on a variety of different utility maintenance tasks

If you’re after the perfect illustration of just how adaptable Hyundai’s mini excavators are to a variety of tasks, InfraCore in Rotorua can provide a great example.

As the Rotorua Lakes Council affiliated contracting company tasked with maintaining, operating, and building public assets in and around Rotorua and further afield, InfraCore looks after all manner of infrastructure, meaning its 150 or so staff work in a wide variety of locations on a multitude of projects.

The new Hyundai R35Z-9 mini excavator

This often means that similar machinery with similar capabilities can be deployed a few kilometres from each other but be working in completely different environments. As it happens, stormwater and land drainage supervisor, Warren Insley, can show me this scenario straightaway.

Our first stop is at some wetlands that run close to the city’s famous lakefront near Holdens Bay. Warren explains that the site hasn’t been accessible to InfraCore for many years, but now that the landowners have granted access, a big tidy-up of the waterways is required.

"We need to make sure all the drains are clear and run cleanly; there has been a lot of rubbish building up through this area, so we need to clear these drains as they lead directly into the lake," says Warren.

To do the job, InfraCore has brought in its new Hyundai R35Z-9 mini excavator.

"The Hyundai mini digger we’re using here is perfect for the job," Warren continues. "Because it’s just a little 3.5-tonner, it’s light enough to use on the wetlands and not get bogged down. The banks of the stream are very soft, so you wouldn’t want a larger machine in here.

"But even though it’s a small machine, we’re ripping through the job really well. Our operator has only been here a few hours and already you can see the water is running clear as he makes his way along the banks and pulls out all the overgrowth."

Small machines, big jobs

At nearly double the operating weight of the 3.5-tonner, Hyundai’s R60CR-9 still maintains a compact footprint

While the tidy-up will keep the Hyundai R35Z-9 busy for a day or two, it’s by no means the biggest job on InfraCore’s schedule. Warren says that the company looks after many hundreds of kilometres of drainage; a 63km stretch down at Reporoa, which needs to be checked and maintained on a revolving six-monthly basis is one significant example.

Rotorua’s geothermal environments also bring with them unique challenges for the InfraCore team; specific geothermal ‘red zones’ are no-go areas for staff and machinery, and there are many locations around the region where an excavator that is light on its toes is appreciated.

"We hire in larger diggers where we need them, but the smaller machines are really useful to have as a part of our fleet. Smaller diggers but with plenty of reach; that’s the key," says Warren.

At nearly double the operating weight of the 3.5-tonner, Hyundai’s R60CR-9 still maintains a compact footprint and is currently proving its worth in a completely different working environment just 10km away from the lakefront.

Up in the Whakarewarewa Forest, InfraCore staff are busy doing the complete opposite  what’s required in the wetlands. Here, they are tasked with removing infrastructure, rather than repairing it.

"We manage 16 blocks in the forest year-round," explains Warren. "It’s a big area—more than 100 hectares—and so we have two crews permanently based in the forest. One of the blocks is now ready for harvesting, so we have to go in and deconstruct the wastewater irrigation system, which was installed about 20 years ago."

The network of pipes runs to around 60km total length, and while the irrigation system lies exposed on the forest floor rather than sub-surface, two decades of growth overhead means that access isn’t straightforward.

Using a mix of bucket and blade, InfraCore’s Hyundai R60CR-9 can retrieve the redundant wastewater pipes from between large trees and beneath overhanging bush. Its small stature and rubber tracks serve to minimise the risk of damage to the surrounding flora; once again, a larger machine wouldn’t work in such a restrictive area.

Operator comfort

The Hyundai R35Z-9 and Hyundai R60CR-9 mini excavators feature roomy, ergonomically designed operator cabs

Despite their size, both the Hyundai R35Z-9 and Hyundai R60CR-9 mini excavators feature roomy, ergonomically designed operator cabs that offer excellent outward vision and reduced noise.

The cab frames meet international ROPS and FOPS regulations, and even at this end of the wider Hyundai machine range, the mini excavators boast convenience specification such as air conditioning and heating, LED information clusters, storage cubbies, integrated USB-capable stereos, and auto diagnosis for their hydraulic systems.

The excavators’ upper and centre frames are also designed to provide optimum structural rigidity and absorb impact stresses, while the machines feature centralised grease fittings and air cleaners under easy-access maintenance panels.

Wear parts such as hydraulic filters, oil, shims, and bushings are long-life components, which provides InfraCore’s fleet manager, Jackie Mitchell, with the assurance of lower whole-of-life costs and consistent performance over a longer period of time.

"We have a large machine fleet, but a lot of our older machinery was inherited when InfraCore was established, so we’re methodically going through the process of replacing some plant. Whenever we do this though, we need to make sure we’re investing in reliable machinery that offers overall low cost of ownership."

Back-up support

Warren Insley and Jackie Mitchell

While the two mini excavators represent the first Hyundai models InfraCore has invested in, Jackie says feedback from the field has been positive, and she has been impressed with Porter Equipment’s back-up support.

"Porters were in constant contact while we got the machines up and running, and they have remained very proactive since then too," she says.

"We don’t have a dedicated diesel mechanic on staff, so we really look to our machinery partners to assist with scheduled servicing, parts supply and advice. Porter Equipment ticks all those boxes for us."

Whether lakeside or mountainside—or anywhere in between—it would appear Hyundai’s versatile mini excavator technology provides the perfect tools to tackle all sorts of tasks. Sometimes even ones that bigger machines just aren’t built for.

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