When Takeuchi Manufacturing Co. Ltd, first introduced the TB295W, its new, wheeled excavator, it had every reason to be optimistic. Showcased at Munich’s Bauma machinery trade show in April, the unit attracted strong commercial and press interest.
“Because it was our brand-new model, we really wanted to do things the right way,” says Hiroshi Komatsu of Takeuchi’s sales department. “Europe is also a very important market for us, so we were really excited about starting exports from Japan.”
There was one small issue, however. For units smaller than the 9.5-ton TB295W, the company normally loads them into containers, then ships them from the nearest port. For bigger units, Takeuchi drives its machines onto roll- on, roll-off (RoRo) ships, such as those operated by Wallenius Wilhelmsen Logistics (WWL). The TB295W’s size puts it right in between. “The cab is just a bit too tall, so to ship them in a container we have to remove the cab, stretch out the arm, put the unit in the container, then set the cab in behind,” Komatsu says. “That meant higher labour costs at both ends to remove and reattach the cab.” But it was more than just the cost that was a concern for Takeuchi Manufacturing, a company that takes quality very seriously.
“Our market strength is our quality and durability,” Komatsu says. “It’s a Takeuchi policy that we should be number one in quality. We’ve become very well known in the market for this reason, so we can’t afford any damage.”
Takeuchi has European subsidiaries in the UK and France, and eight distributors in the EU.
Although these sales bases have facilities to re-assemble the excavators with high quality, Takeuchi still prefers to use the same high standards of production available at their source-factory in Nagano. The end users who prefer Takeuchi can discern the little difference.
The sales team at Takeuchi met WWL’s rolling equipment experts and manager Masayasu Sato to look at this problem. “We have been carrying larger Takeuchi units, such as the 14- tonne TB1140 and 16- tonne TB1160W, for many years now,” Sato says. “There’s no doubt that space on a container ship is cheaper, but when we started to go over the total logistics costs, the price of RoRo transportation began to look much more reasonable.” Komatsu agrees. “The northern European market is very important for us, and we knew WWL’s strength there,” he says. “We wanted the quality that they had provided to us, and when we thought about the need to remove and refit the cab, it just seemed smarter to use RoRo vessels. Ocean freight became less of an issue, and the reliability and safety of rolling the units onto the ship, having them securely tied down, then rolling them off in Europe just made more sense in a total cost perspective.”
By July, the first shipments of 22 units were exported from the Pacific Ocean port of Nagoya. Units now leave the hills of Nagano each month for an ocean voyage on a RoRo ship to European customers awaiting their Takeuchi excavators. “It’s been completely trouble-free,” Komatsu says, standing outside the company’s factory on the outskirts of Nagano City. The company is surrounded by rice fields, with a steep hill in the background. Five TB295Ws are lined up near the shipping area. “These are about to head off to Nagoya by truck, where they’ll board a WWL ship for Europe,” he says. “They’re already very popular in Europe in road and motorway construction, because of the high-quality of our products.”
Established in 1963, Takeuchi Manufacturing Co. Ltd is still headed by company founder Akio Takeuchi and based just south of Nagano City, central Japan. The company made headlines in 1971 when it created the world’s first mini-excavator; today it manufactures compact and hydraulic excavators, track loaders and wheel loaders. In total, some 670 employees manufacture and sell about 10,000 units annually. The company has subsidiaries in the US, UK, France and China.
TB295W full hydraulic wheeled excavator
Weight: 9.5 tons
Height: 2.9 meters (top of cab)
Length (in transport position): 6.555 meters
Maximum arm reach: 7.73 meters