A cramped, crowded, urban construction zone hardly seems the place for a 100-ton excavator or dozer. That’s why, in the 1980s, compact versions of these and other standard construction machines started appearing on jobsites.
Aside from their smaller footprint, these machines offer versatility, portability, and lower cost of ownership. And while the compact construction equipment market started its evolution in Asia and Europe, it’s rapidly spreading to other regions as well.
Compact construction equipment refers to any small unit designed to be used on a construction site. Among the vehicles classified as such are mini excavators, compact wheel loaders, multi-terrain loaders, compact track loaders, and skid steer loaders. These are produced by major OEMs, such as John Deere, Bobcat Doosan, Caterpillar, and many others.
Generally, compact construction machines are not defined by size, but by their utility. Compact equipment offers a level of versatility and an ability to perform multiple tasks otherwise undertaken by heavy machinery. They offer a relatively low cost (including less fuel use), are lighter weight and “footprint,” and are easy to transport and operate. Their versatility and portability mean they’re popular as rental machines.
One original equipment manufacturer representative explains it this way in an article for RER Reports:
"While some people look at these machines as simply “downsized” versions of full-size machines, the fact is they’re serious pieces of equipment that are appropriate for a wide variety of smaller jobs. For example, it wouldn’t make any sense to use a full-size excavator to put a hot tub in a backyard, but a piece of compact equipment is just right for this kind of project. There’s a large market for these machines due to the variety of applications they can be used in, and I don’t see that changing."
OEM Equipment Representative
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According to a 2019 report by QY Research, the global compact construction equipment market was valued at more than $10 billion (USD) in 2017 and is likely to reach more than $15 billion by the end of 2025. The global market for compact construction equipment is expected to show a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 6.1% during these years.
Another report by Allied Market Research claims the Asia-Pacific region will have the highest growth rate for compact construction equipment through 2023. This is no surprise when the region is experiencing a boom in urban infrastructure. We can also expect growth in Latin America, as that region’s overall construction industry rebounds.
Even in North America, demand has grown as many construction professionals have recognized the versatility these machines offer, along with their ability to quickly and easily mechanize work that had previously been done — and done more expensively — by hand. They have also recognized that compact construction equipment can be moved easily between jobsites, perhaps on a trailer hitched to a standard pickup truck. This portability adds to the equipment’s versatility and overall attractiveness.
Another of the market trends affecting the growth of compact construction equipment is vehicle electrification.
The electrification of these machines is generally easier than on large construction equipment, and major OEMs are introducing electric options. Volvo, for instance, has launched a range of electric compact excavators and wheel loaders, and will no longer produce diesel versions of these compact models.
Quoted in an article published in OEM Off-Highway magazine, a Volvo representative states:
"It’s easy to understand why this segment has been so attracted to electromobility. Cities want to – and need to – drive down their emissions and as regulations become more prevalent our customer base is increasingly looking for electric machines to meet these requirements. Compact machines are built for inner-city work and if you add in zero exhaust fumes and a quieter, safer work environment, you have a complete package perfectly suited to urban applications."
The compact construction equipment market is growing, owing to these machines’ overall versatility, portability, and cost of ownership. The electrification trend promises to further evolve these machines, making them even more ideal for crowded, urban jobsite environments.
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This article was contributed by the Fluid Gas Handling Team, Parker Hannifin
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