Earthmoving quality at the best price | Infrastructure news

Barloworld SEM is on an expansion drive, backed by a growing dealer network. IMIESA speaks to Barry Fang, business manager for Barloworld SEM, about the road ahead.

The recent launch of the second generation SEM 919 motor grader spearheads a series of new products planned for introduction during 2018. With the 919, Barloworld SEM has taken a novel approach that sets a new benchmark in the earthmoving industry, as this machine comes to market with an unprecedented three-year warranty, or 6 000 hours of utilisation.

“Our offering is significant because the standard new earthmoving machine warranty provided by most original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) is currently twelve months, so that clearly underscores our confidence in the SEM 919 to provide best-in-class availability,” says Fang. A Barloworld Limited group company, Barloworld SEM is the official South African dealer for the SEM product line.

A leading Chinese OEM since 1958, SEM has a well-established presence in the global earthmoving segment and was acquired by Caterpillar Inc as a wholly owned subsidiary in 2008. Prior to this acquisition, SEM traded as Shandong Engineering Machinery Co Ltd The company was subsequently renamed Caterpillar (Qingzhou) Ltd (CQL) in 2014. To further enhance the brand, Caterpillar approved the endorsement ‘SEM – A Caterpillar Brand’ in 2016. All units are manufactured at the Qingzhou facility in China.

Globally, SEM now has an extensive distribution network, and products are sold and supported via Cat-dealer-principal-owned SEM channels. This operates separately from Cat earthmoving and power systems dealers, which in the case of Southern Africa is Barloworld Equipment, Barloworld SEM’s sister company.

“The second generation SEM 919 is a prime example of how Caterpillar and SEM are investing substantial research and development funding into new product roll-outs, based on proven technologies,” Fang explains. “Caterpillar, for example, is widely regarded as the global class leader when it comes to motor graders.”

High productivity, reliability and operator comfort are key performance features of the SEM 919 grader, which has an approximate operating weight of 15 070 kg, a rated output of 140 kW and comes equipped with a new tandem drive system. Power is provided by a Shanghai Diesel Engine, which is modelled on the legendary Cat 3306
power plant.

On the go, the 919’s load-sensing hydraulic system provides consistent and precise blade movement, while the A-frame-designed drawbar ensures optimal strength in all blade positions. In the cab, a world-class industry control layout with low lever effort ensures reduced operator fatigue.

“A feature operators particularly like on the SEM 919 is the machine’s tight turning circle, with a minimum radius of 7.8 m, which is convenient when manoeuvring in narrower road reserves,” says Fang. “The cab mounted on the front frame provides an unobstructed view of the blade and front axle, even during articulation.”

Growth strategy

Within South Africa, Barloworld SEM is responsible for providing sales and after-sales support and has combined this with the appointment of dealer partners nationally, which is an ongoing focus. One of the landmark developments to date is the opening of the Barloworld SEM flagship Isando dealership in Johannesburg during the second half of 2017. Currently, there are six dealer partners, and Barloworld SEM plans to expand this to ten during the course of 2018.

“SEM is a popular choice, and not just because it’s a Caterpillar product, although that does instill major buyer confidence,” says Fang. “Simply put: the SEM value proposition targets customers who place a key emphasis on low initial cost of ownership, but still require a high-quality product that will consistently produce the goods, has a rebuild capability for a second life, and an eventual sound resale value. SEM products deliver in all these respects,” Fang explains.

Market segments targeted include agriculture, municipal services, construction, and material handling in quarrying, mining and general industry.


“Given government’s official procurement policy directed at stimulating growth in the subcontacting sector, we anticipate strong demand from the SMME construction market. For this reason, we’ve developed tailored financing packages with leading banks, which include Cat Financial (underwritten by WesBank) to help grow this important area of the industry,” he continues.

As Fang points out, SEM machines are approximately half the cost of comparable premium-priced OEM products. That means SMME contractors can pay off their SEM units within a year, which maximises their downstream productivity.

“To assist SMMEs, SEM Barloworld will provide a letter of guarantee to subcontractors. This states that finance has been pre-approved, so they can tender with confidence on projects,” adds Fang. Machines can be purchased on an installment sale or, alternatively, on a lease, with balloon payment. Barloworld SEM also has a buy-back policy.

“Barloworld SEM’s objective is to maintain its dealer parts availability at a minimum of 85% and every customer is allocated a product support representative,”
he continues.

Machine population expansion

The current active SEM machine population in South Africa now numbers close to 850, with a further 100-plus units forecast to be sold during 2018.

In addition to the 919 grader, Barloworld SEM’s present line-up comprises seven wheel loader derivatives in the small to medium class, ranging in payload capacity from approximately 1 t to 6 t. The 3 t, 5 t and 6 t payload machines form part of the new D-Series.

Advancements on the previous B-Series generation wheel loaders include improved fuel consumption, and an upgraded engine with the new E-fan. Like all SEM machines, these D-Series models are driven by mechanical engines, which are easy to maintain on-site. “Mechanical engines also tend to be far more tolerant of varying diesel quantities,” says Fang.

One of the best sellers locally is the
SEM 656D wheel loader, with its 5 t rated load capacity. This machine was a winner in the Top 50 Products of China Construction Machinery Awards 2016 and is highly rated internationally for its overall performance. Powered by a Weichai engine, the SEM 656D is around 25% more fuel efficient than the previous generation. The machine also has a new and improved cab fitted with flat glass, which is more affordable to replace locally.


Barloworld SEM’s product line-up has now also been joined by two new dozer models, namely the SEM 816 and 822, weighing in at approximately 18 t and
20 t, respectively. These machines feature a flat tracked undercarriage system equipped with hydrostatic drive. The first units,
which have already been sold, arrived in December 2017.

In terms of future developments, Barloworld SEM is also planning to introduce an 8 t payload wheel loader during
the second quarter of 2017, based on customer demand.

“We will continue to build on the product range as we identify new opportunities,”
Fang concludes.


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