On May 17, John Deere and Hitachi Construction Machinery invited industry journalists to their joint footprint in Kernersville, N.C., which manufactures excavators for both groups, to tour the expanded facility and be on hand for the unveiling of a pair of new machines.
The 1 million sq ft manufacturing facility in Kernersville employs a workforce of over 800 employees in the production of 13- to 47-metric ton excavator models. Due to weather constraints on the day-of, a schedule that was meant to open with a tour of the facilities, followed by a test demo, was flipped, and the machines hit the dirt first thing.
Three new products were on the docket, the first of which is Deere's new 345G LC excavator, the major selling point of which is a reduced tailswing in a larger machine with increased lift capacity, more reach, deeper dig depth and greater breakout forces compared to the 245G LC. The excavator is intended for work in road building, underground, building, landscaping and site-development applications. On hand also was a 350G LC outfitted with a new Grade Guidance system. Topcon-enabled, the system is factory-installed and is fully integrated into JD Link, with both 2D and 3D options. This guidance system is a precrusor to Grade Control, which is expected to bow in 2019 on the 210 model, followed shortly by the 350 and 470 excavator models. The third product was discussed but not present: the new 190G W excavator, a wheeled machine that apparently offers the traction and stability of a tracked machine.
It was an odd-feeling day, the temperature remaining mild but the threat of rain always in the offing, leaving the air thick and muggy. Nonetheless, there was little to no wind, making a drone-op demonstration of the new connected surveying technology possible. Observatory and positioning data can be relayed through a single interface, allowing a site foreman to keep a real-time eye on everything on site. There was wrinkle in that this demonstration was somewhat hampered by the close and this excessive noise of the test excavators (in addition to a small trencher and mid-size dozer) as they refilled and smoothed over the dirt dug during the initial demonstration.
Playtime followed for the editors as they attempted, not entirely feebly, to dig in with some hands-on "stick time. (The 360-degree shots show the new interior of the Deere models, one of which includes managing editor Brian W. Budzynski.)
The facility tour was leisurely and thankfully air conditioned. The facility is split into two large structures, one where the welding and main assembly work is performed and another which is a dust-free environment where precast and on-site-assembed parts are put together and tested for operability.
Deere and Hitachi are celebrating the 30th anniversary of their formal partnership, though their relationship dates back to the 1960s, when Hitachi Construction Machinery and Deere & Company collaborated to reach an original equipment manufacturer (OEM) supply agreement in 1983 for the manufacturing of construction excavators.