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Scott Hastings gets to grips with Cat’s at Desford

Digger Blogger | 19:13, Tue September 25 2012

On Wednesday 19th September regular Digger Blog reader and plant operator Scott Hastings, was invited by his local dealer Britcom Cat Compact, to attend their customer day at Caterpillar’s stunning facility in Desford. In this post Scott gives us his views on the latest kit he tried out during his “stick time”.

The day started with a meet and greet in the large indoor meeting area upstairs, which offers a great view out onto the demonstration area. This was followed by a demonstration of the machines in the Cat Compact range, including the 300.9D micro excavator, which was displayed with a breaker attachment. This was followed in by the 301.4C mini excavator, 302.7D and the ever popular 308 CR 8 ton class machine, which we saw in both its D guise and the latest E series model, which features a swing boom and in my opinion, is a very well built machine, offering a great cab and good access to the engine.

Various skid steers from the range were then displayed, sporting an array of Cat attachments, which really showed off the machines versatility, including muck grabs, patch planers and mulchers. Next to enter the arena was one of the latest offerings from the Cat telehandler range.

After lunch we were treated to a factory tour of the wheeled loader and backhoe loader production lines, which gave us an interesting insight into the manufacturing process and to see exactly what goes into the making of these machines. After the tour was completed, we headed back outside to the demonstration area for the highlight of the day, which was the “stick time” event, which enabled the assembled guests to try out the various machines in a close to real life scenario. My first choice of machine to try out was the 432F backhoe loader, as I had never had very much to do with Cat backhoe loaders during the 12 years that I have been operating, and I was keen to see what they are like to operate, especially as this model was fitted with pilot controls.

On climbing into the machine my first impressions were, that it had a very spacious cab with great visibility out of all the windows and some impressive legroom. The machine was set up for digging a trench, so I spun around the seat, set the revs to half power and set to work.

The machine had plenty of power in the dig, and I was initially caught out by the speed of the slew as it is very quick, however I soon got into the swing of things, and discovered that the controls are very smooth and precise, I also thought that having the extending dipper function as a thumb control on the right hand lever was a nice touch too.

After digging the trench, I decided it was time for a bit of backfilling work, so I pulled on the jack leg controls which feature an automatic raise function, and spring back into the neutral position once the legs are fully up. I thought this was a great idea, as it means you no longer have to lean over to the right hand side of the seat to hold onto the levers until the legs are fully up! This machine only had a standard front bucket on it, as the usual demo fleet machine was away having a sideshift fitted. I selected first gear and powered into the spoil heap, again the machine demonstrated that it had plenty of power, and I filled the bucket with ease, as I progressed with the backfilling duties I was once again impressed with the all round vision and the machines impressive turning circle.

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Next up, I was offered some time on the new E Series 312, having operated a 312C Series machine on muckshifting work in the past and finding it punched way above its weight, I was really keen to see how the E Series compared and to see what all the fuss was about.

On climbing into the cab the first thing to catch my eye was the all new colour monitor, which is linked to wide angle rear view camera. All the switches are close to hand and after getting comfortable, I selected the machines ECO mode as this was suggested to be the most economical setting for the machine. I, like many others, often find these ECO settings on any make of machine to be too slow, and this was no different. I think most operators who are under pressure on sites to turn out maximum production, will just jump in and turn the dial up to maximum revs, which is exactly what I did on the E Series after trying the ECO mode.

Once the machine was set in its maximum power setting, I found it to be incredibly smooth on the controls and somewhere I could quite happily spend an 8 hour plus day. The 312E on the demo fleet is fitted with the new style Cat digging bucket which is very easy to fill, and I found the muck just fell into it whilst digging into the stockpile. A lot has been said about the E Series since its introduction, especially about its perceived big rear end, but with all the mirrors set correctly and the rear view camera fitted, I didn’t really find it to be a problem. Let’s be honest, how many times as an operator do you ever look over the back of the machine from the rear cab window? Not very often I would have to say.

I really enjoyed my visit to Cat and would like to thank Michelle Tate from Britcom Cat compact and the Demo team at Caterpillar UK in Desford.

And the Digger Blog would like to thank Scott for sharing his experiences and photo's from the day, for us all to enjoy.


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