Machine Matters: Form really does follow function

“The best place to succeed is where you are with what you have.”
– Charles Schwab

Chuck was probably referring to investing but his advice is working for wheel loader manufacturers too. More than 3,300 wheel loaders between 150 and 250 horsepower were financed in the U.S. in 2006, according to Equipment Data Associates, a division of Randall-Reilly Publishing. Enjoying the success of the past several years, equipment manufacturers are using what they have – several years of vigorous growth and EPA-mandated Tier 3 engines – as an opportunity to upgrade their wheel loaders with larger cabs, easier service points and advanced machine control systems.

This season features a healthy crop of new and upgraded midsize 175-to-250 horsepower wheel loaders with even more brains, beauty and agility.

Wheel loader health and wellness
Checking the machine’s temperature and pulse each morning is getting easier with the new control and sensor systems being built into this group of wheel loaders.

The logic is to make the daily routine equipment checks a simple habit. “The easier it is to perform daily maintenance and service, the more likely it’s going to get done,” Dave Wolf, marketing manager for Case Construction Equipment, points out. “No tools are needed for the operator to do his morning routine.”

Fluid level gauges and grease fittings can be reached from ground level so operators can check and adjust fluid levels before even getting in the cab. And Wolf also observes that if the morning check list is easy to perform, there is a greater chance that it will get done. Fifteen minutes of preventive maintenance in the morning is cheap insurance for the rest of the day.

Improved electronic monitoring systems on these wheel loaders read, record and display the machine’s wellbeing and the operator’s commands. Data displays real-time on the cab monitor and can be downloaded later to a computer for future reports. Systems can be programmed to send alerts to pagers, cell phones and other wireless devices to advise if equipment needs immediate attention. The same electronic systems will diagnose machine component activity and report how the past few hours have felt. Knowing when a machine hiccups gives the service department the opportunity to schedule an examination before the hiccup becomes something serious and expensive.

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When maintenance is required, getting to the guts of the machine is also getting easier. Engine access panels are opening wider and easier and cleaning debris out of redesigned cooling systems can be as simple as switching the fan to reverse.

Manufacturers are tuning their equipment and extending the length of time between suggested service intervals.

Comfort and consistency
A skilled wheel loader operator is a valuable asset and keeping him comfortable is a good investment in his productivity and your bottom line. Wheel loaders now come with larger cabs and automotive style appointments, but comfort doesn’t just mean drink holders and bigger seats.

Rich Knudson, medium size wheel loader marketing representative at Caterpillar, talks about Cat’s emphasis on controls continuity – controls and functions are comparable in each Cat H Series wheel loader to allow the operator to confidently run any size. “If an operator has been working on a Cat 950H and needs to step up to a 980H, he can do it without missing a beat,” Knutson says. Familiarity with a manufacturer’s control functions and cab environment lets the operator quickly transfer his skills from machine to machine, eliminating any time needed to get acquainted with a new piece of equipment.

Of course, creature comforts are always good and this class of wheel loaders is getting almost cushy. Cabs built to dampen noise and vibrations feature ample air-ride seats with lumbar support, ergonomically designed fingertip controls, more legroom, floor-to-ceiling glass front panels, in-cab cooler boxes for snacks, lots of directional air conditioning vents and audio options.

Intending technology
Advanced control systems are making it easier for the operator to communicate his commands to the machine and do tasks that require a finer touch. Dave O’Keeffe, wheel loader product manager for John Deere, says electronically controlled features on wheel loaders let them do tasks the machine couldn’t do mechanically. “The operator gets a better level of precision and much more accurate results with the computer’s guidance,” he says.

Rob Warden, product manager for Komatsu wheel loaders, talks about the machines’ ability to read and respond to the operator’s intentions. “Our simplified operating systems understand what the operator intends to do and adjusts itself to do the job.” Synchronizing the operator’s commands with the machine’s skills leads to more accurate work and faster cycle times.

“Advanced technology on Komatsu’s wheel loaders saves our customers money by making the equipment as productive as possible in many applications,” Warden says. “Maximizing our machine’s productivity and flexibility can actually minimize the number of machines a contractor needs.”

Increasing the kinds of precision tasks a machine can do is also leading to some innovative jobs for this wheel loader class. Knudson says he is seeing skilled operators use Cat’s 950H loaders dig basements for new home construction in places where an excavator had been used before.

And advanced, efficient controls let operators work longer shifts, observes Chad Ellis, product manager for Doosan. Fewer maintenance stops mean less money spent on repairs and more hours for the operator and machine.

Volvo’s Jack Bolton, hauler/loader product marketing manager, sees another potentially cost saving use for machines fitted with machine monitoring systems. “Technology lets us create reports for the owners on how the machine has been operating, speeds it has traveled, if there have been any high temperatures in certain components. Twenty years ago we didn’t have the visibility on how efficient the equipment was and we would measure its efficiency in hours,” Bolton says. “Now we have better insight on how the machines are running. Analyzing this information helps owners ‘right-size’ their equipment to the job. Having too much machine is as costly as having too small a machine, and the reports created by the electronic monitoring systems help the contractor select the right size equipment for the job.”

Sleep tight
“Fuel economy, productivity, and reliable equipment are things that keep contractors up at night,” Knudson says. Bob Wickwire, product manager at Terex, agrees. “We have to get the owner-operator’s expenses down. The high cost of fuel is here to stay and will probably only go up,” Wickwire says. “Technology is bringing better communication between the engine and transmission and gives the operator economy and power as he needs them. That saves him money.”

Technology is making the earth and material moving process more efficient and productive by letting the machine and the operator work as a unit. Like Chuck says, success comes with making the most of what you have.

Here are this season’s midsize models.

Case 721E, 821E
Case is rolling out their new midsize wheel loaders starting with the 721E and 821E Series models. The company is putting operator comfort and easy maintenance front and center on these new machines.

The redesigned cabs feature floor-to-ceiling windows for an unobstructed view of the front tires and bucket edge. The Case engine sits low and behind the rear axle, so the rear hood slopes at a steep angle for better visibility behind the machine.

Case’s fully electronic 6.7-liter, common rail fuel injected Tier 3 engines are cooled with a cube-shaped mid-mount cooling module that brings in clean air to all four coolers at the same time. An optional reverse fan blows out stray debris on demand. The one-piece electric lift hood gives full ground level access to the engine and daily maintenance checkpoints.

With four work modes and three power curves, the E Series runs in max, standard and economy modes. In the auto mode, the machines electronically adjust themselves to maximize the amount of material moved and retain optimal fuel efficiency. The 721 E wheel loader has 172 horsepower; the larger 821E wheel loader has 198 horsepower.

Caterpillar 950H and 962H
Caterpillar’s H Series wheel loaders focus on operator efficiency and easy servicing. Controls in each size H Series wheel loader mirror each other so the operator can quickly step into any H Series cab and confidently run the machine.

The 950H and 962H Series midsize wheel loader models share Cat’s C7 ACERT engine, which produces 197 horsepower in the 950H and 211 horsepower in the 962H. A non-metallic shield separates the engine and cooling system on the 950H and 962H. Clean air draws from the rear of the machine and a hydraulically driven, variable speed fan exhausts it out the sides and top of the hood. Perforated outer panels and a corrugated grill discourage debris from collecting.

Both midsize wheel loaders feature a load-sensing hydraulic system that automatically adjusts to operating conditions. Caterpillar says both the 950H and 962H wheel loaders deliver 20 percent greater lift force than earlier G2 models.

John Deere 644J
Deere just began production of their updated 644J wheel loader featuring a John Deere PowerTech 6068H, 6.8-liter, 232-horsepower Tier 3 engine. Deere’s Quad-Cool package is new for the 644J. Quad-Cool’s side-by-side cooling components sit in a four-sided box formation, letting cool air flow in to them from all sides. The 644J comes standard with a hydraulically driven, proportionally controlled, cool-on-demand fan and an optional reversing cooling fan automatically blows out debris every 30 minutes.

The sealed switch module gives the operator fingertip control for several functions, including a programmable clutch cut-off, predetermined maximum dump height and return-to-carry lower boom positions. The Deere 644J comes with either a single-lever joystick or two-lever fingertip pilot-operated controls. Both controls include Deere’s Quick Shift feature. Analog gauges and LED indicators on the in-cab monitor keep the operator and service technicians aware of the loader’s operations.

Doosan DL 300
The DL 300 from Doosan Infracore (formerly Doosan Daewoo) has a six-cylinder, 217-horsepower engine. The machine features three transmission work modes – manual, automatic, and semi-automatic with a kick down for first gear. The DL300’s standard limited slip differentials on front and rear axles improve the machine’s performance in soft or muddy terrains.

Double-filtered air ducts and air conditioning vents surround an operator seat that is 15 percent larger than its Mega 300 series predecessor. The central LCD monitor panel displays the DL300’s operating status and can be connected to a laptop computer to perform a complete diagnostic engine and transmission checks. The hydraulic load sensing steering system has been redesigned for smooth steering at low engine speeds. Cabin noise level is 71 decibels.

Doosan’s hydraulically driven, electronically controlled cooling system continuously monitors engine temperature and automatically adjusts the fan speed to minimize noise and improve fuel efficiency. The standard reversible fan cleans debris from the cooling system on demand.

JCB 456
JCB increases the cab space of its updated 456 wheel loader by 60 percent, growing from 70 cubic feet to 105 cubic feet. The automotive style cab also has a larger three-section curved, laminated windshield for increased visibility.

The six-cylinder, liquid cooled direct injection diesel engine produces 215 horsepower. The engine cooling system improves airflow through the coolers and the engine fan in the hinged rear grill pulls air from the top panel and blows it out through the rear grill. A reversible fan is available as an option.

Daily maintenance checks can be done at ground level and on one side. An optional factory-installed full auto-lubrication system can be added. The 456’s electronic monitoring system constantly checks the machine’s performance and warns of any potential system failure. The data is stored and downloaded to a laptop computer for future maintenance and servicing.

Hyundai HL760-7A
Rated at 205 net horsepower, the Hyundai HL760-7A has a turbocharged, air-cooled, electronically controlled diesel engine. A hydraulic cooling fan automatically senses engine and coolant temperatures and cools on demand.

The HL760-7A operator can choose from two automatic transmission modes: first through fourth gear, and second through fourth gear. A lever on the left side of the steering column controls the speed and direction of the machine.

Serviceability has been improved by centrally locating the HL760-7A’s electric controllers and fuse box. The hydraulic oil check sight gauge is on the side of the hydraulic tank for the convenient ground level checks. Fuel and oil filters can be changed by spinning a single wing nut.

The wide tinted front windshield with no framing offers increased visibility. Air conditioning keeps the operator comfortable and defrosters on the front windshield and rear window help maintain visibility in cold weather.

Kawasaki 80ZV-2
Operators can choose to work in power mode, which provides additional power for extreme applications, or in the fuel efficient mode for standard applications. Kawasaki’s Idle Management System lets the engine idle at lower speeds to conserve fuel over extended periods of inactivity and increases engine rpm in cold conditions to reduce engine warm-up time.

The Cummins six-cylinder water cooled, in-line direct injection type, turbocharged and air-cooled intercooler diesel engine produces 169 net horsepower. The 80ZV-2 features a walk-thru style cab with easy access from both sides of machine. The flat glass front windshield deflects glare and enhances visibility.

The Machine Operation Diagnostic Module displays operations and diagnostic data, saving the information for later downloading. K-Link, an optional machine management tool, provides on-demand reports on the machine’s location, hours in use, system sensors, engine performance, operating status, and geofence break alerts. K-Link’s customizable reports can be delivered via phone, fax, pager or e-mail.

Komatsu WA380-6
The Komatsu WA380-6 replaces the WA380-5 with the “ecot3” 191-horsepower engine. The dual-mode power select system gives the operator a choice between E Mode for general loading work, and P Mode for jobs that need maximum power. In either mode the Eco Indicator light tells the operator when the machine is operating at maximum fuel efficiency.

By moving the air conditioning unit from behind the operator’s seat and relocating it in the front of the cab, the WA380-6’s walk-through style cab gains additional legroom.

Komatsu’s electronically controlled automatic transmission selects the right gear speed based on conditions. The kick-down switch automatically downshifts from second to first when beginning the digging cycle; in reverse, it automatically upshifts from first to second. The kick-down switch also acts as a power-up switch when the machine is already in first gear and economy mode.

Standard on the WA30-6 is the Komtrax wireless equipment monitoring system. Komtrax keeps a working record of the machine’s fuel consumption, servicing alerts, operating hours and operator performance.

New Holland W170B
New Holland introduces the W170B wheel loader in both standard and tool carrier configurations. The six-cylinder engine rates 169 net horsepower and features electronic, common rail fuel injection. The mid-mounted cooling system has a hydraulically driven suction fan with an optional purge (reverse) feature.

The W170B has four power modes to allow the operator to match the loader’s performance and fuel efficiency with the task. Max works in extreme conditions; standard mode suits normal working conditions; the economy mode fits lift-and-carry operations; and the auto mode lets the machine automatically determine and select the most efficient power curve.

The totally new W170B cab highlights operator comfort and maximum visibility. The W170B offers nearly 50 square feet of glass with no front corner posts to obstruct the operator’s view of the front bucket. The optional load travel stabilizer (LTS) absorbs shocks on rough terrain for faster travel speeds and better material retention.

Volvo L110F and L120F
Volvo unveils their new F Series midsize wheel loaders at Bauma in Munich this spring. Volvo’s 120 wheel loaders have been working with contractors since their introduction in 1989. New features and improvements on the 120 and the younger 110 wheel loaders give Volvo good reason to announce a new model designation.

Volvo’s says its F Series wheel loaders feature torque parallel linkage. TP-linkage lets the updated L110F and L120F Volvos carry loads like a tool carrier and haul bucket materials like a loader. Parallel movement is constant throughout the entire lifting range.

The new Volvo wheel loader cabs are 4 inches longer and 6 inches wider and have a curved, tempered glass floor-to-ceiling windshield for optimal visibility. To reduce vibrations and noise, the cabs are built on viscous, isolated mounts. In-cab noise is reduced to 68 decibels. All the air in the cab is double filtered. On a dusty worksite the operator can choose to continuously re-circulate 90 percent of the cabin air, letting in only 10 percent of outdoor air.

Both models have new maintenance-free rear axle bearings and wet disc brakes. Load sensing hydraulics increase fuel economy by distributing power when and where it is needed. The updated HTE 200 transmission automatically downshifts to first gear when extra power is required.

Contronic software communicates with the operator, alerting him immediately to abnormal machine functions. A service technician can log in to the system and troubleshoot the problem directly onsite.

The L110F and L120F will begin delivery in August 2007.

Terex TL260
The Terex TX260 features a 175- horsepower, direct fuel injected engine. A redesigned rear frame section carries the transverse rear-mounted engine, giving the operator better rear visibility. The hydrostatic four-wheel drive offers infinite variable speed control, dynamic breaking ability and high traction capability. The transverse mounted engine allows better service access and serves as a counterweight, eliminating the need for additional weight and increasing fuel economy.