Hitachi Construction Machinery Africa stands as a giant in the continent’s machinery manufacturing sector. We spoke to the company about its latest developments and its presence in the digital support space.
Challenge followed by promise – this is the reality of South African manufacturing at present.
Striding forward as a key player in the space is Hitachi Construction Machinery Africa (HCAF), a subsidiary of its parent company Hitachi Construction Machinery (HCM), that is in turn part of the internationally spanning Hitachi Group.
HCAF supplies the industry with a range of excavators including mini, medium, large and wheeled excavators, wheel loaders, rigid dump trucks. As part of the company’s reliable solutions commitment HCAF also offers reliable parts, outstanding service and 24-hour support to clients throughout Southern Africa, seven days a week. HCAF’s Regional coverage is supported by three subsidiaries including South Africa, Zambia and Mozambique, and the company has four independent dealers.
Hitachi’s been in the global market for over 70 years and strive on precision and quality products. The company tailors its orders to its customers’ specific needs and makes sure that they get the best possible service; the company has changed its department structure to optimise to clients’ needs.
In the past year, HCAF has had to weather the global storm of the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic negatively affected how the company operated and its ways of doing business, however with years of industry experience came the ability to adapt as well as endure.
HCAF managed to pull through the tough times and create plans for remote home-based working, all the while remaining efficient in doing so. During this trying period the company managed to achieve what it wanted to at the end of its financial year in March 2021.
Despite aspects of business remaining challenging, such as not being able to travel to visit various clients beyond South Africa, the market has been picking up and the company remains in a good business space. And into this promising space HCAF ensures that its precision and high quality are present in each of its projects.
A BRIEF HISTORY OF HITACHI
Founded in 1910 by Japanese electrical engineer, Namihei Odaira, the Hitachi Group made its first cable operated power shovel in 1949, became a fully-fledged division in 1951, and an independent group company in 1970. Its Southern African operations are supported by subsidiaries, Hitachi Construction Machinery Africa (HCAF), Hitachi Construction Machinery Southern Africa (HCSA), Hitachi Construction Machinery Zambia (HCMZ) and Hitachi Construction Machinery Mozambique (HCMQ) respectively.
Closer Look: Hitachi
Hitachi Construction Machinery Southern Africa started to operate in 1998. Over the years, Hitachi has grown into a globally respected infrastructure solutions company with more than 320 000 employees around the world and is still propelled by Mr. Odaira’s drive for innovation after more than 100 years. The company leverages its diverse range of expertise to drive its social innovation business by developing and refining new technologies that meet tomorrow’s challenges to create value for future generations.
Today, HCM supplies mini, medium, large and wheeled excavators, wheel loaders, rigid dump trucks, reliable parts, outstanding service and 24-hour support to clients throughout Southern Africa, seven days a week.
EXEMPLIFYING QUALITY SERVICE
ConSite is a key aspect of HCAF’s operations. ConSite is a Hitachi Group remote machine monitoring and reporting system; an integrated, multi-platform application that is used by Hitachi dealers and their customers to provide daily machine monitoring, monthly performance reporting, and machine alarms when a machine’s fault is detected. ConSite was designed in response to growing market demand for tools to aid in reducing the life cycle costs and improving machine up time.
“There are two types of ConSite data reports received by dealers and customers,” Johan Erasmus, Product Support General Manager at HCAF, explains. “Firstly, there is the ConSite Monthly Report; an automated monthly report that summarises all of the relevant machine information.
“It includes a detailed analysis of operational data, mode usage ratios and daily machine hours, location and more. Customers receive these monthly reports direct via email or through the ConSite Pocket mobile application. Monthly reports are also saved in their Owner’s Site account (Global e-Service) for easy reference.”
The second of these data reports is the ConSite Alarm Report. In addition to the monthly reporting, ConSite also helps Hitachi customers in the unlikely event of a machine fault. When this occurs, ConSite will send the Hitachi dealer and their customer an emergency alarm report, to ensure both respond quickly in order to minimise unscheduled downtime.
On top of this, ConSite also includes smart device applications (ConSite Shot and ConSite Pocket) and ConSite Oil Services.
“ConSite Shot is used to perform machine inspections,” Erasmus elaborates. “Better inspection reports can be easily prepared, and it can be shared by the dealer and other employees within the organisation.
“ConSite Shot reports prepared at job sites can be viewed on the ConSite Shot website within Global e-Service on a real-time basis. ConSite Shot is also available for rental business, and dealers and customers can also use this app for the purpose of comparison inspections when the machine is rented out and when the machine returns from rental use.”
The ConSite Pocket mobile app is an additional digital application and one designed with company customers in mind.
“ConSite Pocket provides Hitachi customers a number of benefits that help them with machine monitoring and data sharing,” Erasmus continues. “The key features include allowing customers to download monthly reports for their machines, showing data such as daily working hours and fuel usage, and displaying generated alerts to customers if abnormalities are detected.
“The app also enables our customers to share usage reports and information about technical issues and alerts with Hitachi staff easily, and track machine locations using GPS technology.”
This kind of adoption and incorporation of remote support technology is a growing space within the technology sphere. With an increasingly digital global environment, and especially in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is easy to see why customer support technology will follow the trajectory of growth alongside it.
ConSite Oil system is a hydraulic and engine oil monitoring system, and it provides Hitachi customers a number of benefits that help them with machine monitoring and performance visibility. The system promotes the early detection of hydraulic and engine oil deterioration by utilising proprietary oil condition monitoring sensors, ensuring a reduction in unexpected maintenance, and maximum machine up time is realised. It also reduces operating costs associated with the maintenance and repair of oil related faults through advanced preventative maintenance.
The ConSite Oil system uses sensors to measure engine and hydraulic oil quality, detecting deterioration of the oil, contamination by foreign materials (such as soot and water), oil replacement history, as well as viscosity.
HCAF’s professional and continental presence is stems from its company-wide focus on employee and management training, and the consequential higher level of quality that is born of such individual development. HCAF boasts a company training academy through which employees at all levels can gain knowledge, experience, and refine their individual skillsets to better themselves and the company.
“The vision for HCAF training is to ensure that as many employees, at head office, branches and dealers, are exposed to as much training content as possible,” Sandra Claassen, Training Supervisor at HCAF, informs us. “By so doing, we are increasing and capitalising on the ROI in training resources, like the HCAF Training Centre and the HCAF Training Academy, through our online digital platform.
“The Training Centre is a hub of activity with a continuous stream of artisans attending technical training with our experienced facilitators. The training covers theoretical concepts as well as practical sessions, where invaluable experience is gained on the hydraulic and electric simulator. The simulator is designed to provide practical basic and further training, using industrial components, to provide the confidence to apply the acquired knowledge in the workplace.”
On top of this, the Training Academy Online Training platform offers extensive content, covering compliance, technical, machine specific and IT skills training. The efficient deployment of content and ease of reporting, allows agile learning for users in an intuitive format and in-depth feedback for managers, available on all digital devices.
Dependable equipment and manageable fixed costs are key to helping businesses meet their goals. Hitachi strives to reduce downtime, extend machine life and focus on safety while continuing to meet each client’s particular business needs.
Hitachi’s diverse global group helps the company to innovate solutions that fulfil these requirements so that the machinery continues to deliver long term performance. This is achieved through consistent and ongoing research and development, and producing new, cutting-edge technologies to match the robust performance of Hitachi machinery. Such technologies include integrated data communication systems that deliver near real-time alerts via smart device apps, online reporting for proactive maintenance schedules and emerging solutions based on Internet of Things (IoT) technologies, autonomous vehicles, all of which are further bolstered by continuous training of dealers and client’s employees to ensure proficient use of these tools.