It is not easy being a leading equipment supplier in the world. According to the company, Caterpillar has been able to keep its No. 1 status intact for many years because it is constantly finding ways to improve its products.
A major part of the improvement process involves extensive feedback from equipment users. Equipment operators are “on the front line” when product improvements and updates are being considered. That is why Caterpillar and its dealer network place huge emphasis on facilitating open lines of communication between design engineers and end users.
In 2003, Caterpillar hosted an “Operator Benchmark Study” in Tucson, AZ, with the goal of learning what is most important to track loader operators. The study had operators run current Caterpillar machines, current competitive machines and some of the older Cat track loaders. Afterward, operators filled out surveys and participated in focus group discussions. All the information that was obtained from the study will be used to help design engineers make product improvements for a new series of Cat track loaders.
Ransome CAT had two operators from its territory take part in the study. They were Dale Sensenig, of Lyons & Hohl, a Honeybrook, PA-based site contractor, and Paul Wright, Schlouch Inc., of Blandon, PA. The members of the track loader product group were impressed with the talent of these two men and subsequently contacted Ransome for more help with its study.
Later in the year, Ransome CAT had two visitors, who traveled from Grenoble, France, to observe Sensenig and Wright as they put the loaders through their paces. The product group brought Mike Oudyn and Igor Strashny, design engineers who work on Caterpillar’s C-Series of track-type loaders, to videotape both operators in typical truck loading situations.
“It is really flattering to have engineers come over from Europe to speak with our customers and get ideas from them. It really says something about the quality of operators in our area, and how well Ransome customers utilize their machines,” said Lee Pearson, of Ransome CAT.
“A good operator will make every move count. In truck loading, there are a number of factors that are key to maintaining high-cycle times. Things like truck position, total distance the loader actually travels during a dig cycle and efficient bucket and loader arm movements can all have big impacts on your level of productivity,” explained Pearson.
At Lyons & Hohl’s job site, Sensenig also demonstrated Ransome CAT’s first 963C Tier II track loader and said he was eager to volunteer as a test pilot for “anything new” the track loader group is developing. All Lyons & Hohl’s operators who had a hand at operating this machine were very impressed with the improvements and feedback on the 963C Tier II was very positive.
Released at the very end of the third quarter 2003, the 963C and 953C track loaders included some updates. The biggest change was their compliance with EPA Tier II emissions requirements. Both machines are now powered by Caterpillar 3126B ATAAC (Air to Air Aftercooler) diesel engines.
In addition to the engine and style changes, the track loaders’ operator compartment was totally redesigned. The dashboard profile was reduced to improve forward visibility and productivity. The loaders also have electronic throttles and parking brakes that are positioned right at the operator’s left hand by the hydrostatic drive lever.
Another improvement is the addition of a Cat air suspension seat with new side-to-side isolation. This feature allows the seat to move approximately 2 in. in each direction left-to-right and it greatly improves operator comfort and ride during turning and direction changes.
In addition to the video of the truck loading, Oudyn and Strashny took measurements and filmed operator movements inside the cab. All this information will be used in evaluating performance enhancements to the loader linkages, operator’s station and overall future machine designs.
The Tier II 953C and 963C represent the latest in track loader design technology. The loaders are designed to be more rugged and durable than their predecessors. The loaders also have a new, modern paint scheme designed to make them stand out as a true industry leader, according to the company.
Track loaders have often been referred to as a “one machine workforce.” The versatile 953C and 963C can be seen on nearly every job site in Ransome territory. They are machines that can function as loader and a dozer and typically excel in landclearing, backfilling, site preparation, demolition, waste handling applications, finish grading and material load and carry operations.
One of the track loader’s most basic applications is truck loading. On residential and commercial site projects controlling dirt stockpiles is always challenging. Track loaders can be seen on sites of all sizes because it is one machine used to prepare a building pad, load excess topsoil and fill dirt for transportation off-site.
Ransome Cat’s customers in southeastern Pennsylvania, southern New Jersey and northern Delaware consistently push these versatile machines to their limits day in and day out, which makes Ransome a top performer.
Local operators spoke and Caterpillar listened so it could continue building a track loader that is versatile, powerful, productive and keeps the operator in mind.