Modern excavators are loaded with productivity enhancing features, but if you don’t understand the advantages built into your particular machines, you can’t exploit them. Every manufacturer offers it own unique nuances. It is well worth your time to investigate the features and technology and how they can cut cycle times.

“The rule of thumb on excavators, cycle time is king,” says Matthew Hendry, John Deere Construction. “To maximize performance, you want to make sure you are getting as fast of cycles as you can get. With a 20-ton machine, you are probably looking at a 9- to 10-second cycle time if you are doing things right. You go up to an 85-ton machine, and you are probably looking at an 18-second cycle time. The bigger machines are a bit slower.”

Shorter cycle times reduce cost. “If you start lengthening cycle time, then your cost is going up and your production is dropping,” says Hendry.

There are many universal tips that can increase effectiveness, regardless of make and model. “Experienced operators can tell you there are many tricks to maximize productivity and decrease the cost of operating any type of construction equipment,” says Rob Brittain, product manager, Link-Belt Excavators. “Having the bucket teeth at the proper angle when digging maximizes productivity. Having the proper tools to assist in lifting applications saves time. You have more lifting power when the boom arm is tucked in closer to the machine. To be efficient, consider a quick coupler to shorten the time required to swap out tools.”

Understand unique features
“The most important thing an operator can do to maximize the productivity of any machine is to know the equipment, and that starts with reading the operator’s manual,” says Brittain.

Different machines may respond better to different techniques. “John Deere and Hitachi excavators have a very strong arm,” says Hendry. “We do a lot of our digging cycle with arm input as opposed to bucket curl. It is actually a faster cycle… With our excavators, you get about a 50° down angle on your teeth on the bucket. You arm in and boom up just enough to keep from stalling the arm. At about the 90° phase of the arm coming in, that bucket is about 95% full. Our machines will fill that bucket with just arm force.”

Read more: Dig Into Excavator Productivity