John Deere’s new K-Series wheel loaders are the result of a close collaboration with wheel loader customers involving not only traditional demos and tests, but also high-tech gear such as virtual reality simulators. The customers, collectively known as the Customer Advocacy Group (CAG), directly influenced many key features on the new 2- to 8-cu. yd. (1.5 to 6.1 cu m) loaders.
“John Deere has been a tremendous supporter of people’s opinion,” said Fred Moffitt, CAG member and an equipment operator at Collinson Stone Co. in Milan, Ill. “They went outside their own loop and got operators’ and managers’ opinions and I think they got the right kind of input they needed to build the loader we need.”
Moffitt and the rest of the group helped Deere engineers come up with dramatic updates to the company’s line of 4WD loaders, including electronic innovations and cab improvements, to go along with launching a new utility-sized loader and Tier III emissions certification of the largest models.
The K-Series includes eight models and a new member of the line, the 2.75-cu. yd. (2.1 cu m) 524K, a utility-sized unit not previously offered. Additionally, the 544K through 844K will now have joystick steering available.
All K-Series 4WD loaders include keyless start, seat-mounted controls, expanded sealed switch module and a new LCD monitor with a multi-function interface.
The keyless start feature enables operators to start the loader with the push of a button. It also has a security mode, which prevents unauthorized engine starting until a code is entered on the sealed switch module keypad. Special codes can be set for the owner, operator and transport, as extra deterrents to theft.
The LCD monitor provides screen displays of machine parameters, an operator check sheet, real-time fuel usage and extensive diagnostics.
“John Deere has designed a new color monitoring system for the operator to have fingertip control over everything that goes on within the cab of the loader, and it’s very easy to use and very operator friendly,” said Craig Raske, a CAG member from Knife River Corporation in Sauk Rapids, Minn.
The monitor also displays payload weighing data, due to an embedded John Deere payload weighing scale powered by Loadrite.
“The payload scale was an important item for us,” said David Morrison, a CAG member from Aulick Leasing Inc., Rapid City, S.D. “The loader we worked with was equipped with one, and it was handy not only in loading trucks correctly, but also because we used the scale with a counter to keep track of our daily production. It’s a big plus.”
An optional rear obstacle detection system provides an alert if any object is in the loader’s direct path while backing up. It is combined with a rear-camera, which displays through the LCD monitor above for increased awareness, especially in high-traffic areas or close-quarter working conditions.
“The rear camera and radar detection system we worked with them on is an option right now, but I think it should be on every machine one day because it’s really beneficial,” Moffitt said. “I’ve got people around me all the time and I was able to look at the monitor and tell what was going on behind me without turning and looking. It’s also adjustable, in that you can set it to work closer or further out.”
Finally, the K-Series monitors are going to help operators and technicians diagnose potential issues faster, leading to more uptime and lower maintenance costs.
“The easy-to-use diagnostic menu on our monitors allows technicians to get diagnostic information quickly and from one place without hooking up a laptop or using gauges in most cases,” said Jahmy Hindman, product marketing manager for wheel loaders, John Deere Construction & Forestry.
“It also puts the operator in a much better position to increase uptime by keeping a close watch on speeds, pressures and operating temperatures and by effectively communicating to the shop or dealer on issues to minimize trips to the machine due to incorrect tools or parts,” Hindman said.
“We’ve worked with the CAG members to make major enhancements to the cabs in terms of roominess, lower noise levels and ergonomics,” Hindman said. “Stepping into a K-Series cab, an operator will experience the difference immediately.”
Part of that difference comes from elaborate simulations involving virtual reality technology.
“We spent time changing the dash to get more legroom, and I really enjoyed that because I got to do it through the virtual reality simulation,” Moffitt said. “I’m just amazed at how well everything fit together when the final product was released.”
Shift pedals have been moved forward and the front console size reduced to provide extra room in the cab. A new, streamlined steering column and front windshield configuration provide more visibility than ever before. Cab noise also has been decreased.
“On the K-Series, we have a new seat and the hydraulic levers and the joystick steering move with you, which we like very much,” Moffitt said.
Tier III Engines and Quad Cool System
With John Deere PowerTech Tier III engines added to the 724K through 844K models, K-Series 4WD loaders from the 444K and up are now Tier III certified.
The 444K through the 844K are now equipped with Deere’s Quad Cool system. This system places the radiator, transmission, hydraulic and air-to-air coolers in a separate compartment for efficiency and decreased debris build-up. An optional reversing fan automatically back-blows every 30 minutes to help keep the cores clean.
“Customers are finding the Quad Cool system really easy to clean and maintain, adding to the Deere legacy of keeping equipment up and running,” Hindman said.
In addition, the 644K now has Deere’s Powerllel Linkage, which delivers both powerful digging forces and parallel lift.
“The 644K provides z-bar like digging performance and parallel lift for those applications demanding versatility,” Hindman said. “The power in the Powerllel Linkage comes from an innovative design that allows load forces to work with — not against — the boom.”
Another feature on the 544K through 844K are NeverGrease Pins.
These pins have a sealed design that never needs greasing, leading to significant cost and time savings, according to the manufacturer.
For more information, visit www.JohnDeere.com.