Though still used for just excavating, compact excavators are being deployed on a variety of tasks, as owners seek greater value from these versatile machines.

Some compact excavator owners are getting inventive and OEMs are getting inventive, too.

Volvo offers a Steelwrist tiltrotator, with plus-and-minus 45 degrees of tilt and 360 degrees of rotation, on excavators of 3.5 tons and over.

John Comrie, Volvo Construction Equipment product manager, says many Volvo customers find “they can do a lot more with a combination of a skid steer or mini track loader paired with a mini excavator, than with one mid-sized backhoe.”

The ability to rotate 360 degrees gives compact excavators greater versatility than backhoe loaders while offering comparable digging and lifting performance and the ability to use a full range of tools and attachments, he says. Backhoes have enjoyed the advantage of higher travel speed, but Comrie points out the Volvo EW60E wheeled compact excavator can now reach 19 mph.

“In the smaller size class, it’s rare to see just a machine and a bucket,” says Todd Dohnal, dealer development manager for Kobelco USA. “Typically, the unit will have an array of attachments.”

“Excavators do not just dig holes these days,” he adds. “They have become one of the most versatile pieces of equipment on the jobsite.”

Read more: The evolving compact excavator: New ways to use this lower-cost, multipurpose tool