Kobelco marks 90th year making construction equipment

Marcia Doyle
The start of it all: the 50K.The start of it all: the 50K.

Ninety years ago, what is now Kobelco Construction Machinery built the 50K electric mining shovel, an anniversary the company says paved the way for its entire construction equipment line.

Produced by Kobe Steel, which was founded in 1905, the 50K shovel began the company’s shovel production, which expanded to include electric and mechanical draglines and a “mechanical excavator (northwest type)” through the early 1950s, according to a Kobelco timeline.

The Kobelco SK140SRLC-7 was introduced this spring.The Kobelco SK140SRLC-7 was introduced this spring. Kobelco hybrid prototype on display at the 2006 Intermat trade show.Kobelco hybrid prototype on display at the 2006 Intermat trade show.

Kobelco says it was the first major excavator manufacturer to start hybrid development, which began in 1999. At the 2006 Intermat, the company displayed a hybrid excavator prototype and produced the 80H hybrid excavator in 2010.

Notable milestones include:

  • 1955: Acquires crane technology through an agreement with Harnischfeger.
  • 1962: Signs technical agreement with the French manufacture Poclain.
  • 1963: The TY45, Kobelco’s first hydraulic wheel excavator.
  • 1967: The first H208 crawler excavator
  • 1968: The 10A compact excavator, which Kobelco says is Japan’s first.
  • 1973: LK Series wheel loaders
  • 1982: Sales subsidiary Kobelco America established in Houston,Texas.
  • 1988: American manufacturing subsidiary Kobelco Construction Machinery established in Calhoun, Georgia.
  • 1994: 100,000 hydraulic excavator built
  • 1995: The two U.S.-based companies Kobelco America and Kobelco Construction Machinery merge, creating a new company Kobelco America Incorporated.
  • 1996: The “Beetle” series of short rear tail swing compact excavator starts production
  • 2001: Global alliance agreement with CNH Global (Holland) of Fiat Group.
  • 2002: Kobelco America becomes Kobelco Construction Machinery America.
  • 2004: Crane division made into an independent company, Kobelco Crane, a wholly owned subsidiary of Kobe Steel.
  • 2012: Global alliance with CHN Global and Fiat Group ends.

The company now has around 480 dealers in more than 100 countries.