RER continues its series of interviews with earthmoving manufacturers with Jason Archbold, marketing manager, Bobcat Co. who talks about automatic ride control, the reversing fan option, smarter horsepower, and why younger operators prefer hand controls.

RER: What are the latest technological developments with your equipment?

Archbold: For Bobcat skid steer and compact track loaders, several new technological developments have been added to the machines in recent years which provide operators better comfort and performance.

Automatic ride control, launched on the M2-Series loaders allows operators to use a switch inside the cab to toggle between auto and off. When auto mode is selected, the system will work at any travel speed. The automatic ride control function is activated by detecting increased hydraulic lift arm pressure when the loader is carrying material. It will automatically deactivate when hydraulic lift arm pressure is reduced – such as grading when there is no load in a bucket. This reduces material spillage, allowing operators to travel at faster speeds for increased productivity. Thanks to its dampening effect, the option also increases comfort by offering a smoother ride, and is optimized for each Bobcat loader frame size. This improves ease of operation for the operator as it engages when needed and disengages when not needed regardless of machine speed.

The reversing fan option, also launched for use with M2-Series loaders, allows operators to temporarily reverse the cooling fan direction – for several seconds – to blow dust and small debris from the radiator and rear screens. The reversing fan option helps minimize downtime and can reduce the cooling area cleaning frequency. Operators can choose from the following three operating modes:

  • Automatic: Reverses fan direction at a regular frequency to keep the loader’s engine coolant and hydraulic oil at proper operating temperatures
  • Manual: Purges material at the operator’s discretion
  • Off

The new R-Series compact excavators, launched at CONEXPO 2017, provides many technological updates to operators. Just like Bobcat Selectable Joystick Controls, R-Series compact excavator fingertip controls allow for precise work and ease of use. A new secondary thumb toggle lets operators switch between the second auxiliary hydraulics and the boom-offset without letting go of the joystick. That means operators don’t have to stop what they are doing to search for the switch since it’s located on the left joystick.

What trends do you see and do you expect to see in earthmoving equipment in the near future?

Connected machines, also known as telematics, is the next big thing coming with compact equipment. A connected machine can provide machine location, diagnostics, maintenance reminders and more.

In addition to connected machines, we are seeing a shift toward “smarter” horsepower in compact excavators. As new compact excavators are launched there is a trend toward less horsepower, but performance continues to be the same or better. In the popular 2-3-ton size class Bobcat Company offers the R-Series E35 in a 24.8 horsepower or 33.5 horsepower model. This provides customers with options – depending on job needs – to select a compact excavator in this size class.

There was a lot of interesting technology at the Conexpo show, such as use of drone technology in earthmoving equipment, virtual reality training and more sophisticated use of telematics. What were some of the new technological advancements you have made?

At ConExpo 2017, Bobcat used a virtual reality station to provide attendees a real look at how a Bobcat loader works. Not only is this useful to show how our technologies work, but it’s also a good way to train new operators or test new technologies before they are in the field. This provides the advantage of speeding up the product development process and providing new training methods.

Are you finding increased demand for any particular kinds of machines from the rental market?

With younger operators entering the market there is a trend toward all hand controls like Bobcat Selectable Joystick Controls compared to traditional hand and foot controls. Younger operators didn’t necessarily grow up with hand and foot controls, and because of this prefer solely to use their hands to operate compact loaders. This is not only easier for them, but also reduces fatigue and increases productivity because of the ease of use and added operator comfort.

There is also a shift toward the adoption of compact track loaders in rental fleets as they can be used in conditions where a skid-steer loader may not be able to operate, such as wet or soft ground conditions. The acceptance of compact track loaders in the rental industry means a greater utilization of customer’s rental dollars, and greater performance in many applications.

What kind of knowledge of technology is necessary for rental companies to help their contractor customers?

Contractors who rent compact equipment may know what technology is out there, but that does not necessarily mean they know how to use it or know what it could mean for their business. If a rental company can provide a good background of machine features, including new technologies, it will help the customer achieve the full value of the machine (for a better user experience). This means maximizing the rental dollars used, but also will help minimize damage to a machine that may happen if the customer does not understand how to use the features and technologies correctly.

How have machines improved (or not improved) with the advent of Tier 4 technology?

Tier 4 technology allows manufacturers like Bobcat Company to design and build more efficient compact equipment. Tier 4 emission technologies help increase performance, such as boosting torque output from the engine. In addition, new technologies lower operating costs for better fuel efficiency. A more thorough combustion process produces cleaner exhaust, while less engine noise increases operator comfort.

Are earthmoving machines more fuel efficient than in the past? If so, how, and to what degree?

Machines are more fuel efficient today, especially as technology plays a larger role. With smarter horsepower, you often get the same horsepower and engine displacement but delivering more performance without sacrificing fuel efficiency. Additionally, we are seeing smaller horsepower engines in popular size classes like the 3-metric-ton class (Bobcat E32 and E35). These machines provide high quality performance, but at a smaller horsepower thus lowering fuel consumption.

      Bobcat Company also provides an auto-idle function for compact excavators and loaders. When machine functions aren’t used for approximately four seconds (or an adjustable time period with the Bobcat Deluxe Instrumentation Panel), the machine automatically idles the engine until work resumes reducing fuel consumption. When the joystick controls or travel is initiated, the excavator or loader automatically returns to the previously set throttle position.