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A special day for a new generation
The wedding cake, wedding bells and the festive music may be conspicuous by their absence, but the wedding is still a very special one. On a Thursday afternoon in February in Colmar, the undercarriage and uppercarriage of an R 922 will form a lifelong union, and the 60,000th crawler excavator made by this historic Liebherr production plant in France will be almost ready to roll of the line.
However, all those present will be concentrating far too hard, and will be too tense to even contemplate popping a champagne cork. Today is not just the celebration of a special model. It is also the birthday of the new assembly line for the 8th generation of crawler excavators. A lot of the processes and hand movements are still unfamiliar and demand total concentration from their operators. In any case, a cameraman is on hand to record this doubly historic moment.
We wanted to take a big step forward and really modernize Liebherr’s crawler excavators.
Liebherr-France SAS has invested five million euros in the new production equipment, with three assembly lines running alongside each other here in halls 5 and 6. You can see straight away which line belongs to the older model celebrating its anniversary today.
‘It’s all brand-new’, says Florent Arjaux, Head of Engineering Process Management. ‘The assembly stands, the pneumatically controlled transport rails, material procurement and logistics and digital process management.’ And you can’t miss it: the generous space and well-designed, ergonomic workstations stand out a mile. It’s abundantly clear that a new kind of production philosophy is at work here.
‘We wanted to take a big step forward and really modernize Liebherr’s crawler excavators’, says Thomas Haas, Head of Product Management at Liebherr-France SAS, confirming our first impressions. The 8th generation is a totally new type of crawler excavator designed for earthmoving and for quarry work. Since it is built around a platform base with a range of modular options, we needed an equally flexible and dynamic assembly process.
Whilst the 60,000th crawler excavator enjoys a quiet celebration, it’s all about the new 8th generation. The developers have promised more power, greater productivity and increased safety, as well as maximum comfort for the operator and maintenance staff.
During its introduction phase, the 8th generation will consist of seven models ranging from 22 to 44 tonnes. The R 922 and R 924 have engines that comply with Stage V emissions and have been developed for countries with strict emissions regulations. The other five models, the R 926, R 930, R 934, R 938 and R 945, have a range of engines that suit countries with both strict and less stringent regulations. ‘It’s always about customer focus for us. We can significantly increase the models’ profitability with more powerful engines for shorter load cycles, heavier ballast weights for higher bucket capacities and reduced fuel consumption’, says Thomas Haas.
‘At the heart of the control block are the innovative electronics that control the hydraulics.’
‘Our philosophy is market to market’, explains Thomas Haas, with regard to Liebherr’s development ethos. During the fiveyear development process, product management, development, production and sales were in constant dialogue with one another. There was also plenty of exchange happening within the departments themselves – particularly the Components division. ‘In fact, by working together with colleagues from Biberach, Lindau and Bulle, we were able to adapt the new components to match our requirements very precisely’, says Florent Arjaux. With ‘off-the-peg’ components, that would not have been possible. ‘As a result, we have been able to create different modular platforms really quickly and efficiently, and this has enabled us to have uniform structures in production and a package of components for the various models.
The close collaboration has also helped us massively increase the machinery’s digging power, the undercarriage’s traction, and the swing torque of the uppercarriage, as well as ensure that they complement each other perfectly’, explains Thomas Haas. ‘This helps us achieve a much higher level of performance on the construction site’. Another example is the 8th generation’s new control block, which can be rearranged in sandwich construction to suit all emissions stages, and which can therefore be custom-fitted for all markets. ‘At the heart of the control block are the innovative electronics that control the hydraulics. Besides performance, another important consideration when developing this innovation was to lay the foundation for the continuing digitization of all our machines. Liebherr is well prepared for the construction site 4.0.
However, the 8th generation looks very handy on a ‘conventional’ construction site as well. We redesigned and enlarged access to the uppercarriage and platform to increase safety during maintenance. ‘You can now climb onto it from the side’, says Thomas Haas. The new service concept for the new crawler excavator is particularly user-friendly as all maintenance stations can be accessed from ground level. For optimal control, the machine monitors its engine oil, hydraulic oil, and fuel and carbamide levels, which are also displayed in the driver’s cabin.
When the vehicle is operating, the standard rear and sideview cameras and the optional SkyView 360° camera system provide the driver with optimal panoramic views. The halogen headlights have been completely replaced with LED technology, providing better lighting over longer periods and reducing energy consumption. In addition, assistance systems help the driver recognise obstacles and people, providing a warning if needed and helping to prevent collisions.
However, there’s still some way to go before the R 922 can travel from its celebratory launch in Colmar to work on a construction site. In fact, Liebherr has special plans for the royal blue crawler excavator. ‘It will be part of a roadshow in 2019’, says Thomas Haas. ‘And then it can show customers throughout Europe what the 8th generation is made of.’
Here you will find the 2019 Liebherr Bauma Magazine for download.