Xcentric from the Basque countryPublished 7/3 at 17:02
‘Necessity is the mother of invention’ they say, and often they are right. This age old adage is a perfect illustration of the story of Spanish based Xcentric Ripper, whose eponymous flagship product was indeed born out of dire necessity. When the 2008 banking meltdown paralysed the global construction industry, the Spanish market (by that time already in recession) just spiralled downwards. But thanks to the resourcefulness and resilience of Xcentric Ripper’s indomitable founder Javier Aracama, the company eventually managed to turn adversity into a triumph. Andrei Bushmarin reports.
The city of Vitoria-Gasteiz is the official capital of the province Alava and, being the seat of the government, it is the de facto capital of the entire Basque country. Second in size only to Bilbao, Vitoria is a vibrant multicultural city, and home to many local and global businesses including Xcentric Ripper International.
Rock solid man
Javier Aracama belongs to that particular breed of people whom we typically refer to as ‘self-made’. People like him tend to choose their own way in life rather than just follow a well beaten track. He was only 25, fresh from the Eibar Engineering School, when he founded his company Grado Cero Sistemas in 1990. The fledgling enterprise started out offering steel milling services to local suppliers of machines and tools. It was not before long that Javier noticed the subpar quality of quick couplers existing in the Spanish market at that time. So Javier developed his own version in 1991, with the new product really hitting the spot for users. Quick hitches and excavator buckets designed and built in-house lay the foundation for the company’s continued success in the domestic market for the next 15 years.
Xcentric Ripper vs Grim Reaper
Grado Cero was on a roll in 2008 when the infamous global credit crunch began to rear its ugly head in earnest. All of a sudden Spain’s entire construction industry ground to a screeching halt, with no bank daring grant a loan for a construction project. Within months Grado Cero’s monthly output plummeted to single digits, and the manufacturer found itself on the brink of a financial abyss. Going international was the only viable solution, but that required a truly unique product. Inventive as ever, Javier came up with the idea of a work tool that would soon become known as the Xcentric Ripper. The underlying ambition behind this innovation was to create an excavator attachment that could outperform a hydraulic breaker in most applications. It took six months of tests and trials to tweak and fine tune the product, and in 2009, the XR35 model was launched onto the market. Australia was the first country to get a taste of the new machine, followed by France, Canada, Netherlands and Russia; and so Xcentric Ripper International began its march across the globe.
Making an impact
Unlike the conventional rippers based on the principle of vibration, Xcentrics are designed to make an impact, both literally and figuratively. It is made possible thanks to the manufacturer’s patented ‘Impact Energy Accumulation Technology’ built around an airbag accumulator in the tool’s shank. Pressurized up to 5bar, the accumulator accelerates the downward movement of the attachment resulting in a powerful impact.
In order to test its products in the making, Grado Cero acquired local excavation contractor Finerlan in 2010. Using the Finerlan fleet of excavators, the manufacturer trials new attachments in the most challenging, sometimes brutal, conditions. The Xcentric rippers are suitable for 8t to 150t carriers and now come in two series: the Standard and the Mining. Both feature the same ‘Impact Energy Accumulation Technology’, the main difference being that the mining attachments operate at lower frequency while generating higher impact force to provide consistently high performance in hard rock applications. It takes time to educate customers on the technology’s capabilities and benefits but, according to the manufacturer, everyone eventually becomes a convert. Javier Aracama puts it like this: “Xcentric ripper is the machine that everyone needs even if they might not realize it just yet.”
In the mid-2010s, Grado Cero decided to complement the Xcentric range with crushing and screening buckets. A logical evolution for the Spanish manufacturer, it allowed the company to become a one stop supplier of stone extraction, crushing and screening solutions, with the first crusher bucket being unveiled at Intermat four years ago. By 2019 the crusher bucket line up was expanded to seven models to fit excavators ranging in weight from 13t to 85t. In 2017, a first screening bucket model was designed and delivered to a customer. Also that year, Xcentric crusher buckets were awarded the prestigious ‘Accesit' Prize for innovation at the SMOPYC exhibition in Zaragoza – the most important construction trade show in Spain.
Honouring its agricultural background, Xcentric position itself as ‘farmers that cultivate steel instead of the land’. Farmers are known to be down to earth, honest and hard-working, and this is the message that the manufacturer wants to convey to its customers. The Xcentric Ripper logotype of a stylized woodpecker, which symbolizes quiet elegance and perseverance, is now recognized throughout the world, not in the least thanks to the active use of social media. All attachments are produced at the company's 20,000m2 facility in Vitoria with a staff roster of 80. Another 10, including Javier Aracama, are involved in sales and various administrative activities. The very definition of a hands on manager, Javier handles all international sales himself, which gives him the ability to access first-hand information about a job site and give out the best possible advice.
At the moment Xcentric tools are sold in over 80 countries through a 70 strong dealer network, with customers from France, Benelux, Germany, Canada and Australia being the most regular buyers. As of recently, Xcentric has been enjoying considerable success in China, particularly with crusher buckets. According to the company, the sky is the limit for machinery manufacturers in the ‘Heavenly Empire’ that has been investing heavily in cutting edge technologies and equipment in the past decade. Last year Xcentric’s turnover reached a solid €19M, with rippers, crushing and screening buckets accounting for some 75% of the figure. In early 2019, the manufacturer finalised the design of its first ever drum cutter, with the new attachment being soon available in two modifications to fit 7t to 13t excavators.