Leading the Compacts - Interview with Bobcat regional director Gaby Rhayem
S Neogy, January 14, 2022
With a constant focus on innovation, technology and the interests of the customer, Bobcat has managed to maintain its leading position in the compact equipment segment and is looking to raise the bar higher with its new models and initiatives, says Gaby Rhayem, regional director of Bobcat Middle East and Africa
WOCME: What is the position of Bobcat in the market today and what are the factors behind it?
Gaby Rhayem: Today if we look at the compact equipment business overall, Bobcat continues to lead the market.
We are proud to maintain this position despite all the issues we've faced first in 2020, and then in 2021 in terms of supply chain problems and increase in logistics costs. We've been able to introduce a lot of new models in 2021 despite the adverse situations – we’ve totally renewed our telehandler range, skid-steer loaders, tracked loaders, mini excavators and backhoe loader model line-ups in the market with great success. We are very pleased with how well customers have received our new models and this has made us very excited for the immediate future.
With all the new launches and revamping we did in our model range, Bobcat continues to stay innovative and maintain its leading position in the compact equipment market.
WOCME: Speaking of innovation, Bobcat started its "Next is Now" initiative in 2020 with a spate of new model launches. What is this initiative and what does it mean for present and future Bobcat models?
GR: ‘Next is Now’ is the way Bobcat envisions the future of our equipment and of the compact segment as a whole. And we are working towards realising that future vision in the present moment. To make this happen, we are developing new technically innovative models and solutions and bringing them to market.
Among the things we are working on more and more is what we call "Max Control", which translates into bringing in new technologies in order to make operating our machines easier, safer, more convenient, efficient and more advanced.
Under Max Control, for instance, we are finding ways to operate our machines with mobile phones and tablets, which we see increasingly happening in places like Europe, where we have introduced the technology already.
We are also seeing rapidly rising uptake for our telematics solutions such as "IQ", with which you can manage your fleet sitting in your office, at home or just about anywhere. The IQ solution is something that is being used quite extensively by the big rental companies, who are finding it extremely useful to manage their fleets with.
Among the latest developments in the field of innovation at Bobcat is our all-electric compact tracked loader. This futuristic model was shown off to rave reviews at the recently-held CES event in Las Vegas, USA, and has already won awards for innovation.
And this is something that we will increasingly see with Bobcat going forward - the application of modern technologies, such as IoT, connected technologies, green innovations, automation and electrification - as well as new ways of working and thinking about our machines.
We are already selling our 1-tonne electric mini excavator and now we will go much more into such products and technologies on all our ranges.
Of course, the Middle East market is not totally ready at the moment for such innovations and machines, but in places like Europe this future has already arrived. And I’m sure the Middle East will follow suit and adopt these technologies sooner than later. And when that happens, we at Bobcat will already be prepared with tried, tested and proven machines, systems and technologies.
In Europe many customers have already bought such machines from us and this change is coming in the Middle East too - and quickly. Covid-19 has accelerated the adoption of modern technologies in our region, as it has everywhere else. So things like remote technologies are increasingly relevant here and are no longer thought about as fit only for the more advanced Western markets.
In fact, at Bobcat we're planning to bring in our head of innovation to the region early this year to demonstrate to our customers the Max Control products that Bobcat has developed, and also talk about innovation to our distributors. Of course, this all depends on how the pandemic situation pans out and how easy it is to travel.
WOCME: Supply chain issues have impacted the entire construction equipment industry. What is Bobcat doing to reduce the impact of this on its operations and on customers?
GR: The situation with the global supply chain has become complicated under the impact of the pandemic - and this goes for the entire equipment industry and, indeed, across industries.
In our case, we have put in places certain measures to deal with the situation. We are generally buying all components largely in advance, so that we do not have any issues or shortages in 2022 and can keep production going smoothly for better delivery to our customers.
It is unprecedented that you buy so much of your components in advance in such quantities like we are doing - such as procuring the steel needed to keep production going at a factory for one entire year. But this where we are today. We prefer to invest in advance to not come up short when it comes to delivering to our customers.
Our focus is on delivering our machines to our dealers and customers and ensuring that they are not inconvenienced. No customer appreciates having to wait for the machines to be delivered when there’s a job to be done and there is pressure on the contractor over delays. We intend to do all we can to support our customers in 2022 so that they do not have to face such situations.
WOCME: Coming to the models in Bobcat's range, can you pick out the three most important ones and tell us about them?
GR: The S450 skid-steer loader is an instant choice. The S450 has long been the undisputed king of the segment. And now we have the new model of the S450 in the market with a revamped look, better controls and all-round improvement in robustness and serviceability in a machine that was already the benchmark in the segment.
Everyone is talking about the new S450 and there is fantastic acceptance of the new model among our customers. It's the runaway market leader among skid-steers in the Middle East and I'm very proud of the new look of the revamped model. We think it's an amazing piece of compact equipment - and the market tends to agree.
The second important model is Bobcat's new telehandler with an 18-metre reach. We've been able to get a great response from the market for this machine. Customers agree that the cabin is among its standout features, as well as the performance and utility.
It is a machine that provides top comfort to the operator and great usability. When you step into the cabin, you see that we are a few levels up compared to the rest of the market.
Operating the machine has been made even simpler, with only one joystick controlling most of the important functions - whether going forward or reverse and operating the boom functions.
It is a machine with high levels of safety and security. There is also the Sideshift feature on the machine. We offer an extensive range of attachments to make it suitable for a variety of jobs - such as access platforms that are fixed or extendable or rotating.
Meanwhile we've also introduced the rotary telehandler models, which increase the versatility of the telehandler even further, making the machine even more capable in terms of attachments - and able to work better in more confined space as well as in a greater variety of jobs.
The third machine I would like to highlight is the Bobcat T590 compact tracked loader. This is a very, very popular model in the Middle East and we are again leading the market here in the region with the help of this machine. The T590 is used extensively in jobs such as landscaping and beach cleaning, and it is capable of operating a plethora of attachments.
And this is one aspect that we consider our forte - attachments. Many of our machines are like the Swiss Army Knives of the construction equipment world. Our philosophy is that Bobcat may the name for a machine but we sell solutions! We have over 160 attachments available with Bobcat machines for applications ranging from construction and landscaping to maintenance, municipal jobs and agriculture.
In fact, we do not simply sell a machine to a customer. We ask them about their requirements and functions - and then we recommend the most suitable machine and attachment combinations. We are not just an equipment manufacturer; we are solution providers and reliable partners for our customers.