Back with a Bang

Kato re­turns with brand-new MR HD514 ex­ca­va­tor

Farms & Farm Machinery - - Contents -

There was a TV com­mer­cial way back in the 1970s that ran on ru­ral TV sta­tions push­ing a cer­tain agri­cul­ture/live­stock busi­ness and the ad­ver­tise­ment was based around “trust”. The very suc­cess­ful ad­ver­tise­ment ended with the words: “When you know the man who owns the store, runs the store, he’s the man you can trust.”

Fast for­ward al­most 50 years and those words came back to haunt me when I caught up with a real good old mate of mine who de­picts that ad­ver­tis­ing cam­paign to a tee.

Bruce Pen­nells, man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of Aus­tralian Ham­mer Sup­plies, not only owns the store but runs a bril­liant, al­most ver­ti­cally in­te­grated busi­ness from his In­gle­burn yard in Western Syd­ney, which in­cludes sev­eral Kub­ota deal­er­ships, Aus­tralian Ham­mer Sup­plies (and Hire), Aus­tralian Bucket Sup­plies and now has the Kato deal­er­ship just to top it off (just in case he gets bored).

Bruce once worked for the com­pany which im­ported Kato ex­ca­va­tors into the coun­try way back in the late 70s and 80s. His ex­per­tise in sales and un­der­stand­ing the mar­ket, client needs and the in­dus­try helped place Ban­bury Engi­neer­ing in the top sales bracket of ex­ca­va­tors in Australia at an un­prece­dented 80 per cent mar­ket share; un­heard of th­ese days but back then that’s how suc­cess­ful and pop­u­lar Kato ex­ca­va­tors were in Australia.

Sto­ries like this are usu­ally now quite rare, where you have a self-made man who has worked from the bot­tom and up the lad­der of suc­cess, grasp­ing ev­ery op­por­tu­nity to un­der­stand ev­ery as­pect of the in­dus­try, cre­ate trust and loy­alty with staff and clients and the abil­ity to de­velop a great fam­ily busi­ness where he is ably as­sisted and sup­ported by his lovely wife Julie and two sons Christo­pher (Aus­tralian Bucket Sup­plies) and Mitchell (Aus­tralian Ham­mer Sup­plies Hire).

In an­other life I had a great as­so­ci­a­tion with Kato ex­ca­va­tors. I owned a heap of them, demon­strated for Ban­bury, Kato and Krupp at all the earth­mov­ing ex­hi­bi­tions, set up their field days, hauled new ma­chines to their right­ful own­ers all over the state, and even con­vinced them to spon­sor our ex-Al­lan Mof­fatt Monza un­der the Kato ban­ner.

So when Bruce Pen­nells re­cently ad­vised me that he was ex­pect­ing his first Kato ex­ca­va­tor into Australia and was also trad­ing in his first Kato as well, he reck­oned he just had to give me the scoop.


A quick trip down to the big smoke from ru­ral Queens­land found us in the yard at In­gle­burn – meet and greets all round – and then out to in­spect the new Kato deal­er­ship and the very first trade-in un­der the Kato ban­ner.

It is of­ten said that some things in life are just meant to hap­pen and I can at­test to that ex­actly. You see, way back in 2016 I found a re­ally neat and straight late-1970s/early-80s Kato HD550G ex­ca­va­tor in a yard in Lith­gow, NSW. Ge­orge Pearce was the owner – I just hap­pened to know him from the old days. Well, Ge­orge de­cided to trade it in and here it was in the yard.

If that was not enough, Bruce ad­vised me that he had ac­tu­ally sold that ma­chine to Ge­orge back in 1982 as a used ex­ca­va­tor with a Krupp ham­mer and now has it back in his own yard; and Ge­orge sup­plied Bruce with the orig­i­nal sales re­ceipt is­sued with the ma­chine from al­most 40 years ago.

Bruce is in the process of restor­ing the Kato HD550G and will proudly dis­play it out­side the en­trance to the new Kato deal­er­ship in In­gle­burn. Once we had checked out the yard we jumped in the Cruiser and headed off to ‘Snobs Hill’ over on the North Shore of Syd­ney.

The first new Kato ex­ca­va­tor de­liv­ered from the Aus­tralian Ham­mer Sup­plies yard was a MR HD514 bladed 14-ton­ner and was de­liv­ered to its proud owner, Marty Ryan of Old Bourne Con­struc­tions, on a de­mo­li­tion/con­struc­tion site on Syd­ney’s North Shore. There was a ru­mour cir­cu­lat­ing that the MR in the Kato MR 514HD stood for “Marty Ryan” but that is still to be con­firmed.


The first thing I no­ticed is that the colours and liv­ery have changed since 1982. Gone is the square-shaped cab and mitred­off cor­ners around the bum; gone is the bulky high-set en­gine which blocked the view of the op­er­a­tor; the crea­ture comforts are over­whelm­ing; and gone is the ap­ple box seat­ing so pop­u­lar in the day.

What I did find was a very neat, com­pact, well-de­signed, bladed ex­ca­va­tor sit­ting there with Ron­nie’s Road Trip name on the keys. At last, after 40 years, I’m back in the driver’s seat of a new Kato!


First im­pres­sions are last­ing so they say, and it came as no sur­prise to me that once I climbed those tracks and po­si­tioned my bum in the cap­tain’s chair, that Marty Ryan was go­ing to have a heap of trou­ble get­ting me out of it.

It’s com­fort­able, has great vi­sion, has sim­plis­tic but ef­fec­tive dash lay­out, is equipped with the largest mon­i­tor I’ve ever seen

in a dig­ger of this size, all of the op­er­a­tors con­trols are at your fin­ger­tips, and there’s per­fect vi­sion to the blade … not just good but Kato has got this one spot on with a sub­ject that just hap­pens to be my ‘big­gest bitch­ing ses­sion’ with any bladed ex­ca­va­tor man­u­fac­turer.

You have to in­clude the op­er­a­tor when de­sign­ing this blade and this is per­fect. Blade control, smooth op­er­a­tion, seat­ing and cor­ner tip vi­sion to the blade are cru­cial in to­day’s de­sign and Kato has nailed it.

Fail­ure of the op­er­a­tor to fi­nal trim with the blade on any job with this Kato is def­i­nitely not due to a de­sign is­sue … bet­ter go back to ‘shovel and rake classes and keep dream­ing’ be­cause you aren’t good enough.


Tucked in neatly be­hind the driver’s cabin is the nice lit­tle fi­bre­glass door which opens up to the ra­di­a­tor, in­ter­cooler, air-con­di­tioner unit, bat­ter­ies, air fil­ter and electrics. All are ac­ces­si­ble in this close-ra­dius ma­chine, as is a lit­tle pipe holder per­fectly de­signed and po­si­tioned to hold your grease gun in place in the ver­ti­cal. There’s no more slop­ping around caus­ing dam­age to bat­ter­ies or leav­ing a per­ma­nent trail cov­er­ing ev­ery­thing within cooee with grease – it’s sim­ple, ef­fec­tive and costs noth­ing to make but makes life sim­pler once you are in the pad­dock.

Up in the en­gine bay you will find a pow­er­ful, fuel-ef­fi­cient, smooth four-cylin­der Isuzu 2.95-litre turbo-charged, di­rect injection, in­ter­cooled diesel en­gine. Cou­pled with the hy­draulics on this new rig, it’s a per­fect match for a big day’s work with­out ef­fort.

On the far side of the ma­chine are two other locked doors. The rear door houses the fuel fil­ters – hy­draulic pumps are all eas­ily ac­ces­si­ble – and the front door houses the hy­draulics and valve banks, the fuel tank (all locked away from theft) and an­other small three-way lever which al­lows the op­er­a­tor to flick a switch and change op­er­a­tor con­trols from ISO to what­ever suits them on the day.

It’s all safe, ef­fec­tive and min­imises train­ing days for a new op­er­a­tor to get used to the ma­chine be­fore let­ting them loose on the job.


I was for­tu­nate to get a good half day on the Kato MR HD514. I ti­died up, loaded out and trimmed the site with this lit­tle beauty. Stock­piles of top­soil mixed with tree roots and tim­ber de­mo­li­tion ma­te­rial needed sort­ing and load­ing, so there was no ground en­gag­ing re­quired but what I did find is that this Kato is quick, quiet and smooth.

Rak­ing through the soil and sep­a­rat­ing all the crap with the Aus­tralian Bucket Sup­plies bucket at­tached, this was my op­por­tu­nity to see how the lit­tle Kato per­formed in a lighter work­ing role.

Whilst Marty hauled the truck and dog loaded with veg­e­ta­tion waste to the de­pot, it gave me the chance to trim up with the blade, push a lit­tle more and ex­tend the bal­ance of the dig­ger to the lim­its with no su­per­vi­sion. This Kato didn’t dis­ap­point in any way.


It was dif­fi­cult for me not to feel a touch sen­ti­men­tal dur­ing this half-day demo. After all, for many years I was an in­te­gral part of the Kato team and its de­vel­op­ment in those early years of ex­ca­va­tors and hammers in Australia.

Brothers Thiess opened up the ex­ca­va­tor mar­ket in Australia by im­port­ing the Kato brand way back in the 60s; Ban­bury Engi­neer­ing in­her­ited the deal­er­ship and took Kato to un­prece­dented heights with 80 per cent mar­ket share.

The demise of the Kato brand didn’t come be­cause of price struc­ture, de­sign, re­li­a­bil­ity, lack of per­for­mance, ser­vice or spare parts avail­abil­ity. It was purely a com­pany takeover/re­struc­ture thing that should never have hap­pened.

Those board­room de­ci­sions cer­tainly hurt the thou­sands of Kato own­ers and it opened the door for Ko­matsu, Cater­pil­lar, Linkbelt (Su­mit­omo), Mit­subishi and Case to move in a get a foothold in the Aussie mar­ket.

Kato bought the first suc­cess­ful mini-ex­ca­va­tor into Australia, first bladed dig­gers ever seen, and was the first ex­ca­va­tor ever to hold a hy­draulic ham­mer (Krupp) off its dip­per arm in Aus­tralian con­struc­tion his­tory.

The Kato brand is what the Aus­tralian ex­ca­va­tor mar­ket was built on … and Kato is back.

Bruce Pen­nells from Aus­tralian Ham­mer Sup­plies has worked tire­lessly to make his mark on our in­dus­try from a sales­man in the store, to be­ing the man who owns and runs the store.

Kato Ex­ca­va­tors and Aus­tralian Ham­mer Sup­plies – both are win­ners in my eyes.

Op­po­site page:Kato MR HD514 ex­ca­va­tor is built tough Above: A very well bal­anced bladed ex­ca­va­tor

1. Hy­draulics and fuel all locked away 2. Isuzu 2.9-litre turbo en­gine3. The blade rams are fully cov­ered4. The per­fect rear at­tach­ment

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