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August 2013

A Controlled Choice

Anyone who spends long days in a loader knows that matching control preferences to an operator’s style is critical. When an operator uses a preferred control pattern, productivity increases and there’s considerably less confusion and fatigue. Some operators prefer traditional foot pedals and levers. Others like the flexibility of choosing between hand and foot controls with the Bobcat® Advanced Control System. And another quickly emerging group — composed primarily of younger operators — favors the company’s Selectable Joystick Controls for control of loader and lift arm movements.

Providing a choice of reliable control patterns in Bobcat equipment to meet customer preferences has driven product development efforts for many years. Today, there are four configurations: standard mechanical foot pedals and steering levers, Standard Controls with Power Assist (standard on S850 and T870 loaders), Advanced Control System and the Selectable Joystick Controls, which are rapidly growing in popularity. Together, these options make up the largest selection of control possibilities available from any compact loader manufacturer in the industry.

Continuous advances sharpen competitive edge

One thing is for sure, Bobcat Company is not willing to say “good enough” when it comes to any area of its compact equipment. That’s even more evident with the rollout of the M-Series loaders and excavators in the past three years. One of the latest developments is an update to loader drive controls, which demonstrates a focus on continuous product improvements.

Changes have been made to the drive control software for Bobcat skid-steer and compact track loaders with state-of-the-art Selectable Joystick Controls (SJC) or Standard Controls with Power Assist (SCPA). These advancements provide operators with improved response to joystick movements for smoother and more precise machine movements. The transition between fast and slow joystick movements has been enhanced, resulting in smoother high-speed turns or quick speed changes. Additionally, joystick travel on SJC-equipped loaders was increased to match that of the SCPA system.

The Bobcat SJC option provides more productivity and performance without compromising other key qualities that customers expect of all Bobcat equipment: easy maintenance, durability, versatility, comfort and ease of use. Customers were recently asked to pair the functionality of the controls based on what is the most important to them. Not surprisingly, “overall controllability” rose to the top. This is where Bobcat SJC excels due to several built-in features that assist the operator in the controllability of their machine, including:

Horsepower Management: Automatically adjusts the drive system to maximize pushing and digging power.

Speed Management: Allows operators to “dial in” their required travel speed. Provides even more precise control of the machine.

Drive Response: Provides operators with three settings of machine control responsiveness.

Steering Drift Response: Reduces steering drift to maintain a desired travel path in both forward and reverse directions.

Selectable Patterns: Allows operators to select between “ISO Pattern” and “H-Pattern,” which accommodates multiple operators.

Lift and Tilt Compensation: Enables operator to adjust the control sensitivity of lift and tilt functions.

Foot Throttle: Since the feet are free of controls with SJC, a convenient foot throttle is provided to increase engine speed when needed.

Fingertip Switches: These switches are integrated into the handles to easily control various machine and attachment functions, speed management, horn and signals without the need to release the joysticks.

Customer input drives advances

Bobcat engineers and product specialists spend countless hours in the field identifying ways to improve Bobcat products. Bobcat Company continually partners with customers, seeking their feedback about product updates to help meet and exceed their expectations. Ron Yanish is a great example of this customer input approach.

Yanish is the owner of Ron’s Excavating in Watkins, Minn., and recently spent time with Bobcat loader representatives and engineers. The group partnered to collect data, make observations, test potential changes and ultimately improve Bobcat loader drive controls, particularly the Selectable Joystick Controls. He also was one of the first customers to benefit from the improved controllability on a new loader he purchased. Yanish was able to evaluate changes while working in wide variety of applications, such as residential, commercial, agricultural and utility installations.

“I have a machine that I feel comfortable at full throttle, doing any delicate work and having 100 percent control of the machine. The new joystick controls are fabulous. I have better maneuverability and control with my new T750.”

After gathering feedback from Yanish and several others, Bobcat Company’s primary objective with the latest upgrades to the Selectable Joystick Controls was to improve control responsiveness. It was equally important to achieve this without sacrificing the natural feel to Bobcat loader controls that make them easy and comfortable for operators to manage while reducing fatigue and increasing convenience.

“Selectable” refers to two different patterns controlled by the joysticks: ISO Pattern and H Pattern. The electronic joysticks enable the operator to choose between these two control patterns in one machine by simply pressing a rocker switch. They also allow flexibility in acceleration and deceleration for optimum loader performance.

If an operator prefers running the machine in the ISO Pattern, the left joystick controls drive functions while the right joystick controls lift and tilt functions. When operating the loader in H Pattern, fore-and-aft movement of the left joystick controls the loader’s left-side drive, while side-to-side movement controls lift. Fore-and-aft movement of the right joystick controls the loader’s right-side drive; side-to-side movement controls tilt (similar to the Advanced Control System option when in the hand-control mode).

“What impresses me is Bobcat Company is willing to come out into the field, to the people who are using these machines, and ask for our opinions and feedback,” Yanish says. “They take it, and I’ve seen them make changes with it, and that’s great. There’s always room for improvement. What impresses me is they are willing to keep up with the game. They’re willing to improve what they have.”

High operating hours develop seasoned perspective

Yanish is a Bobcat loader owner who has been in the excavation business for nearly 30 years — the past 17 as a small business owner and Bobcat operator. Having versatile Bobcat loaders and attachments makes it possible for him to easily transition between the different applications.

His first Bobcat purchase 10 years ago was a T300 compact track loader. Prior to that, Yanish operated a different brand of compact loader with over-the-tire steel tracks. He replaced that first Bobcat loader with a second T300. Between the two machines, Yanish accumulated 5,000-plus hours of SJC operating time.

“When we’re working in the dirt, there’s no comparison between a rubber tire loader and compact track loader,” Yanish says. “The compact track loader offers improved traction and flotation; you’re not sinking in as you’re cutting a grade. The ground pressure (pounds per square inch) is just fabulous in a track loader. It’s a must for what we do.”

Yanish’s newest Bobcat loader is an M-Series T750 with an enclosed cab and Roller Suspension™ system. He says the loader cab, improved visibility and smoother ride are noticeable improvements from his previous model. “We do a lot of fine grading for building pads, getting it ready for them to pour concrete,” Yanish says, “and the forward visibility is huge for grading. It makes it a lot easier to see the attachment.”

A pressurized cab also makes a considerable difference for Yanish. “The reduced noise in the cab improves operator comfort. The cab in my T750 stays clean. Since it’s pressurized, you’re not sitting in a cloud of dust inside the machine. And serviceability with the machine is also a big difference. The cooling system is much easier to clean.”

Dealer support breeds confidence

In addition to the opportunity to work with Bobcat Company representatives, Yanish says a big reason for his decision to continue purchasing Bobcat machines is the support he receives from his local Bobcat dealer, Farm Rite Equipment.

“My Bobcat dealer goes out of its way to get us back up and running to avoid downtime, either by getting someone on the job to fix the machine or bringing it to the dealership for immediate service. They’ll do everything in their power to get me a machine to get me back up and running. They always have what I need, parts-wise; they have a good inventory.”