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The weather was cold, but the reception most definitely was not last week in Peoria.
For nine years now, Equipment World editors have been selecting what we consider the elite. The product introductions that go above and beyond the typical upgrade and truly move the needle forward in this industry. For these products, we reserve our Innovation Awards.
Our Innovation Awards are designed to recognize bold thinking and creative engineering that produces real value for the end user. And with these awards, we want to pay tribute to all the behind-the-scenes engineers and designers who create these products – and to the companies that support their visions.
While Caterpillar is no stranger to this award — winning previously for the ACERT engine, SystemOne undercarriage, M-Series motor grader and D7E — this year does mark a first, since it’s the first time we’ve given two awards in the same year to one manufacturer, for the 336E H hydraulic excavator and the 966 K XE wheel loader.
Caterpillar made quite a splash with the 336E H when it introduced it at a press conference in October. Choosing a hydraulic hybrid path instead of electric hybrid, this machine got our attention because of it’s fuel efficiency gains — which could be as high as 50 percent when compared to Cat’s D Series machine — and customer payback on the increased cost of the system could be in as little as two years.
On the 966K XE wheel loader, the design team had a multi-layered mission. Not only did they have their eye on achieving the noteworthy 25 percent fuel efficiency, but they also wanted to optimize the performance, and make things a whole lot easier for operators. Cat’s designers were able to take an older concept used in agricultural machines – the split power continuously variable transmission – and give it a vastly different spin. And when engineers decoupled the engine speed from the ground speed, it opened up new avenues of machine control, even eliminating a control pedal.
At the invitation of Caterpillar, it was my privilege to present these two awards last Thursday to Doug Oberhelman, chairman and CEO; Randy Peterson, advanced technology development manager and the 336E H design team; and Karl Weiss, product manager — medium wheel loaders and the 966K XE team.
Thanks, everyone, for letting me be a part of your celebration!