Engine Notebook: Perkins Engines takes on global challenges

With headquarters in the United Kingdom and plants in Griffin, Georgia, and Curitiba, Brazil, Perkins Engines makes dozens of engine platforms in many variations from 10 to 2,600 horsepower for use in 5,000 applications the world over.

There are some tricky economics involved in selling so many engines into so many regions and markets, says Mike Reinhart, marketing manager for Perkins. “Emissions compliance is a big part of engine design, and the strategies that work for one region may not apply to another. So you can have multiple iterations of the same engine based on the emissions standards of the countries in which you’re selling that engine.”

A good example is the 1100 Series engine. The 1100A models go to nonregulated markets. The 1100B models meet Tier 1 regulations and 1100C units meet Tier 2. The 1100D, which uses components of Caterpillar ACERT technology, is configured for the Tier 3 (U.S.) and Stage IIIa (European Union) markets.

“With the 1100 Series, Perkins can meet the whole spectrum of global emissions requirements with a single engine family,” Reinhart says. The standardization is what matters most to end users. “All of these engines have similar envelopes, mounting points, and connections for fuel, coolant and exhaust gases. And the use of many common components reduces parts variety, inventory levels and servicing costs.”

Why not make one engine that satisfies the strictest requirements and sell that everywhere? “There are some opportunities to meet varying requirements with common design elements,” Reinhart says. “And in those regions with less restrictive standards or no standards at all, customers are reluctant to pay for advanced emissions control features.”

Customers’ buying decisions aren’t entirely driven by emissions compliance as long as the engines meet the standards. Customers do have other expectations that affect buying. Single-sided servicing, for example, is a big selling point for Perkins. The company has also earned a reputation for flexibility in mounting such hardware as PTOs, starters and generators. Emissions hardware can’t get in the way of these advantages.

Perkins’ Prospec VR software allows equipment manufacturers to select from some 400 build options. Using this software with its virtual installation procedures ensures the engine will work with the specified exhaust and cooling systems. For OEMs, this cuts down on development cost and time to market. For end users, it means not having an oil filler that only the service technician with three elbows can reach.

Many design features are determined by engine displacement and output. As an example, Perkins’ larger engines have electronic controls. Smaller engines have mechanical controls. In the middle, there’s a choice. From about 84 to 112 horsepower, engines may come with either electronic or mechanical controls, depending on the intended application, market and customer preference.

Where mechanical controls get the job done, they also keep costs down. Perkins hopes to retain mechanical controls when Tier 4A comes into play. (Tier 4A will be phased in from 2008 through 2015.) There’s a downside to using the simplest, most cost-effective means of achieving compliance, though. “Especially on smaller engines, where technology isn’t immediately obvious, there’s a risk of being commoditized,” said Reinhart.

Even customers in established markets can be leery of new technology, concerned additional emissions control systems will compromise performance. Addressing those concerns, the Perkins’ Tier 3/Stage IIIa 1100D models had up to 43 percent more power and 51 percent more torque, a reduction of up to 5 db (A) in engine noise, and fuel consumption comparable to Tier 2 engines.