In the past year, John Deere has been rolling out excavators under its new performance-tier model naming system.
In this episode of The Dirt, we find out what’s behind the new strategy and what operators and owners need to know about the new machines. Justin Steger, John Deere’s solutions marketing manager, demystifies the naming, which gets rid of the “series” nomenclature of the past and replaces it with, in most cases, P-Tier models.
Steger also lays out what new features and technology accompanies the tier models, including options on some of the excavators to add Deere’s Smart Grade machine control technology.
So if you want to be in the know on the latest in Deere excavators and what those single “P” and “G” letters on the machines mean, check out this week’s episode of The Dirt.
Equipment World serves up weekly videos on the latest in construction equipment, work trucks and pickup trucks – everything contractors need to get their work done. Subscribe and visit us at equipmentworld.com!
In This Episode:
00:00 - Intro: What’s New About the P-Tier Excavators?
00:31 - New John Deere Naming Conventions
03:26 - SmartGrade Grade Control
09:35 - Overdig Protection
12:07 - P-Tier Aftertreatment
14:55 - Biggest Upgrades to the P-Tier Excavators
18:07 - Final Thoughts
Bryan Furnace (00:00):
Hi everybody. Welcome back to Equipment World. You're watching the Dirt. I'm your host, Brian, and today we're here to talk about John Deere's new P-Tier series excavators. I don't know, we're going to learn about the nomenclature together. So without further ado, we're going to talk with Justin over at John Deere who's going to walk us through what exactly the P-Tier is, and more importantly, what are some of the features with the new P-Tier excavators. What are some of the major changes that the P series are bringing to the John Deere excavator lineup?
Justin Steger (00:35):
If we talk about what our product updates have been kind of really over the course of the last year or so, it starts with the change to performance tiering. So previously, we had G series excavators and we would continue down the alphabet. And at CONEXPO 2020, we rolled out as a construction division our performance tiering strategy. So these new excavators will be a mix of G-Tier and P-Tier excavators, and majority are P-Tier. And really the way to think about it is, in North America, our customers are very productivity focused. They're very features and option focused. The P-Tier is really designed around bringing productivity, features, technology, all of those things altogether in one package with the machines. And then as we think of different tiers, just think of different levels of technology or different power trains and things like that. But majority of our excavators right now are P-Tier excavators.
Bryan Furnace (01:37):
So going forward, will the nomenclature no longer be a Deere 330 G? It will be a 330 G-Tier or a P-Tier depending on kind of which trim package I guess you could almost call it.
Justin Steger (01:53):
Yeah, that's one way to think about it. If you take our 350, for example, we had a 350 GLC. Now as we bring our new model of excavator out, it's going to be a 550 P-Tier Generation A. So it will always live as a 350 P-Tier. And then as we make updates, it'll be Generation A, Generation B, Generation C.
Bryan Furnace (02:15):
Okay, perfect. Thank you for clarifying that. It's kind of been interesting. I've noticed a lot of the manufacturers over the last year or so have started to do a little bit of a nomenclature shuffle and they've started to kind of re-strategize how they're thinking about their equipment lineup. So this is super helpful. As an operator, I can tell you this is super helpful to know this information.
Justin Steger (02:36):
Yeah, it's definitely got kind of an automotive feel from trim level packaging, but then it also just gives an opportunity to bundle things the way we manufacture machines around what the customers want. If you want something that's rugged and reliable. A G-Tier would also work really good for a rental customer, doesn't have all the options, the bells, the whistles, and all the costs associated with that, great, we've got an option for you. If you want that exceptional performance, some technology, some of the features, the P-Tier is really where you want to be. And then as we think of developing into the future, things like electrification on other machine forms, other advanced features, that's really where we get into the X-Tier, that top tier performance tier that we offer.
Bryan Furnace (03:26):
So it does occur to me, one of the reasons manufacturers including Deere are starting to think about these things differently is because of the technology packages that are included that didn't used to be there. So on that note, can you talk about some of the features that your Smart Grade grade control system is going to offer customers?
Justin Steger (03:44):
Yeah. So first of all, we're really, really excited with our P-Tier excavators to add an additional model of excavator that offers the smartgrade grade control technology. So we currently offer it on our 210, our 350. We're adding the 380 and then we've got it on the 470 as well. So four models now with P-Tier that will offer the smart grade technology. The best part is that it's extremely flexible. We can get 2D guidance that's got a lower cost, more of an indicate system. We can do 2D control or what we call smart grade ready, and then we can go all the way to 3D control, which is our smart grade nomenclature or name for that feature.
When you get into that too is as long as you've got some level of grade control technology installed from the factory, you can upgrade that at any time. So as customers businesses grow, maybe you started out with a lower cost solution, that 2D guidance, and you see the value or you've got a job coming up where you're going to move to 3D job site models and you see the value or you're running it on other pieces of machinery and your fleet, you can upgrade that anytime without having to upgrade the machine.
Bryan Furnace (05:00):
Justin Steger (05:01):
So regardless of what we offer from the factory versus what we can upgrade to when the machine's in the customer's hands, really, really flexible solutions here. The other thing that's nice about grade control is very mature on machines such as crawlers, dozers, graders. Excavators aren't quite as mature in this arena.
Bryan Furnace (05:21):
Justin Steger (05:21):
One of the things we hear from excavator operators is, "Oh, I don't need that. I can get within a 10th of a foot, great accuracy just on my own." But the reality is the availability of labor and the availability of skilled labor is becoming a huge industry challenge. And that's no surprise to anyone. That's really where this grade control technology shines. And out of our own curiosity, we ran a little study and we said we're going to keep the same Deere machine with and without grade control and the only thing we're going to change is the operator. So we took a novice operator, someone like myself who doesn't move dirt for a living, and then we put them up against an operator who's been moving dirt for a living for decades and said, "What does the smartgrade control actually provide you?" The results are pretty amazing.
Justin Steger (07:27):
Our novice operator was actually 90% more accurate, so 90% more points on grade within a 10th of a foot compared to without SmartGrade. They also were able to get the job done for our study 30% faster. So you're much more accurate, you're a third faster. That all equates to more jobs per year or more productivity on that job. So we can take a novice operator and make them good. But even better we can take an experienced operator and make them great. So when we run that same study with an experienced operator, that person who's been doing it for decades, they were actually 50% more accurate and 10% quicker. So they've got the experience to be fast. But those points that were within a 10th of a foot as we scan that entire job or test area, they were significantly more accurate. So a lot of positives for grade control technology regardless of operator skill level.
Bryan Furnace (08:31):
That's where people who have watched this show for a while and watched what the Diesel and Iron Channel have come to kind of learn that I'm a big proponent of technology on machines. And that's coming from, I'm an experienced operator in the industry and it just continued. The more machines I run with machine control, especially excavators, the more I realize even as an experienced operator, it lightens my workload. So mentally I am not as taxed at the end of the day from a safety standpoint because I'm not having to focus so hard on keeping perfect grade every single time. It frees up more of my mental capacity to be aware of where my laborers are, where trucks are on the job, overhead obstructions. It frees up that extra brain power for me.
And then at the end of the day, it makes you faster. It does. When you're not having to hold grade 100% on your own, you can absolutely do faster passes. So I 100% will back you up on that. Now that being said, kind of having this labor force issue that we are where you have a lot of not extremely experienced labor on the job, does your machine offer an active overdig protection or is it indicate only?
Justin Steger (09:40):
Yeah, so if you have say 2D guidance, that would be an indicate grade control system, none of the things I'm about to talk about would actually fall under that category. But when you go to 2D smartgrade ready control or 3D control, which is smartgrade, there's two things that the machine will hydraulically limit or prevent you from doing. One, we call overdig protection. So when you set your offsets, whether you're benchmarking or going to a job site model, whatever that elevation is for the lowest point, the machine will not physically dig beyond that unless you override it manually. So exactly what you said, Brian, you don't have to concentrate on, am I at grade? Am I holding grade? Is grade changing along as you're digging or trenching? It takes that off the plate of the operator and lets the machine do that for you.
The other thing is what we call virtual front. And you basically set a virtual wall in the front of, say the windshield of the cab, or if you have a blade machine maybe out towards the edge of the blade as close or as far from the front of the machine as you want the machine to take control, you can set that so that as you're digging and trenching back towards you, the tooth or the cutting edge of the bucket will not come any further than you tell it to. And whether that be for material management reasons, or again maybe you've got a coupler with a bucket where it gets a little long in the front, you don't want to get back into yourself, that's where that feature really shines.
Bryan Furnace (11:18):
Just to clarify, so if I had a set of utilities that I knew exactly where they were in front of me five feet in front of the machine, what you're saying is I can actually reach out there to the closest point that I want the machine to dig to and set that as a cutoff, and then if I continue to pull the joysticks, it will stop at that point before getting into the utilities?
Justin Steger (11:36):
Bryan Furnace (11:37):
Justin Steger (11:39):
Just to be clear, it's not detecting any obstacles or utilities or whatever. It's an operator preference that they can set that virtual front, they can set that limit, or they can completely turn it off if they want to too. It all depends. Cause we know job sites change, obstructions are there one second and they're gone the next, whether it be a person, place or thing. That's where we give a lot of flexibility to the operators and we've got really good feedback.
Bryan Furnace (12:05):
Perfect. So my final question for you is, and this is just a personal thing, how many DPFs are we seeing in the new P-Tier excavators? Are they DPF free? Do we have a couple hanging out there?
Justin Steger (12:18):
Yeah, so this is a really popular topic, whether you're new to final Tier-4 or you've experienced it positively or negatively. I'm guessing that's where your question comes from with-
Bryan Furnace (12:31):
Absolutely. We've all had the nightmare stories.
Justin Steger (12:34):
So for our excavators, basically concentrating on our P-Tier excavators, our 130 through our 470 are going to be final. They're all final Tier-4, but they are going to use DOCTPF to meet the after treatment requirements for final Tier-4 admissions. So they do have DPFs. Where Deere is different is we have what we call our DPF assurance policy. So Deere is going to stand behind that DPF for five years or 10,000 hours, whichever comes first. And this really started as we went from interim Tier-4 to final Tier-4. It's not excavator specific. For all of our final Tier-4 machines. We've got this DPF assurance and really we're saying that for five years and/or 10,000 hours, Deere's got your back. If you have any problems, we're going to replace it. Even better news is we've got some models that have Isuzu engines and a little bit different after treatment technology.
So our reduced tail swinging models are 135, our 245, our 345, and then our largest excavators, the 670 and 870, they are going to use SCR, selective catalyst reduction systems as part of the after treatment and no DPFs. So basically the way I think about it is you either dose DEF into the system and burn that particulate off on the front side before it goes through, or you don't do that and you catch it with a DPF on the backside.
Either way, Deere's got a system for some models where we burn it off on the front end, no DPF on the back end. For the ones where we do catch it on the back end, we've got you five years, 10,000 hours, you're covered.
Bryan Furnace (14:23):
Justin Steger (14:23):
So, really, really solid final Tier-4 strategy. And again, the customer feedback on that has been essentially a non-issue. It's been really positive. So other than do I have to use DEF? Yes, you still have to use DEF.
Bryan Furnace (14:38):
DEF is here to stay. I don't don't know why the industry doesn't realize that DEF is not going anywhere. Neither are DPFs it. It's really how do you guys as manufacturers get those emissions down? You've only got a handful of options. None of these options are going to go away.
Justin Steger (14:52):
That's exactly right.
Bryan Furnace (14:54):
Well, Justin, any final thoughts that you'd like to share on the P-Tier and kind of what differentiates them from the predecessors?
Justin Steger (15:00):
Yeah, Bryan, and this is where I'm really, really excited you're having me on here today. So we're doing things like we're adding grease lubricators to the arm tips. We've improved the arm tip bushing as well as the pin hardness for that arm to bucket joint on our 350, 380 and 470. As you may know, sand conditions are probably the worst nightmare for an excavator.
Bryan Furnace (15:24):
Justin Steger (15:25):
And with these pin and bushing improvements on these models, we're actually seeing like 200% joint life improvements. So that's really, really positive.
Bryan Furnace (15:34):
Wow. Yeah, that's substantial.
Justin Steger (15:35):
And making improvements to even just like the boom foot bushings, kind of all the joints in that front end of the machine, we've improved them with the P-Tier. We've made additional undercarriage improvements, things that affect customers owning and operating costs for all the moving components in an undercarriage that can get pretty expensive, we've made improvements there. And then the biggest one from an owning and operating cost standpoint is on our 210 to 380. We've actually improved our fuel economy by as much as 7%. And the way we've done that is we used to use hydraulically driven fans on all the mid-size models.
On our 210 through 380, we've gone to electronic fans. It's going to reduce the load on the engine. It's going to improve that fuel economy depending on the model by up to 7%. If I think of the fun and exciting new features, the first being a right rear left camera system with additional LED lighting, so it's optional on our 130 through 380, but it's standard on our larger 470, 670 and 870 excavators.
It's all integrated into the main monitor. So that operator, they can choose their camera view however they prefer, but at a glance you've got great 270 degree visibility. We know excavators, especially in underground segments, there's a lot of attachments. So there's a lot of coupler use. We've got optional hydraulic coupler ready now where we're going to put the plumbing to a valve on the end of the stick. Makes it easier to put a coupler on the end of the arm, put your bucket on, your attachments on and go from there. That's great, but where the real value is having the factory integration and also for the controls in the cab. Typically you install a coupler, it gets an aftermarket control box, usually on the right [inaudible 00:17:31] window.
Bryan Furnace (17:31):
Giant suction cupped box over on the side window, a visual obstruction. Yes.
Justin Steger (17:37):
Bryan Furnace (17:38):
Very well versed.
Justin Steger (17:39):
Yep. Wires may or may not look the best for the routing.
Bryan Furnace (17:42):
Justin Steger (17:43):
All of that's integrated into a switch from the factory in the left-hand console. Easy for operators to reach when they need it. Out of the way when they don't want to be touching it. That's something that we're really, really excited to bring to. So tons of great things to talk about when we're talking P-Tier excavators from John Deere.
Bryan Furnace (18:01):
Well Justin, thank you so much for the time and thank you for all the information on the new P-Tier excavators. I appreciate it. Well, there you have it. It's no longer a series. We are now moving to different tiers with the John Deere lineup. So as always, I hope this has been helpful. Thank you again to Justin and John Deere for coming on the show, and we'll catch you guys next time on The Dirt.