Keeping Them Happy

Operator comfort, safety is key on new machines.

There is no category for "operator environment" in the comprehensive 33-page parts list for Unit Crane's Model B crawler shovel from the 1920s.

Accoutrements designed specifically for comfort are handled under "mast assembly" where three part numbers can be conveniently ordered as one: number 2032 would get you a "seat bracket assembly."

As part of the assembly, the pressed steel seat (complete with ventilation holes) is bolted on a heavy horizontal steel bracket, which in turn is bolted directly to the vertical angle iron that makes up half of the mast structure.

The mechanical levers to control the bucket or the McCormick-Deering power unit get a few more part numbers on the next page, but that's it: To be an equipment operator in the good old days meant Mother Nature and other environmental issues really impacted your day.

Today, keeping the operator comfortable and safe is part of meeting government regulations as well as increasing productivity. From compaction to pipelaying, today's operator expects comfort in his workplace.

Big machine gets satellite radio

Known for its compact construction equipment, Stone Construction Equipment Inc. has moved into heavier equipment with the introduction of the Rhino 84X vibratory dirt roller. The 84 in. roller joins 43, 54 and 66 in. models in the Rhino line and is powered by a 130 hp Cummins water-cooled diesel engine and Sauer-Danfoss hydraulic components.

"This roller is in response to our customers' requests for larger dirt rollers, rounding out our Rhino vibratory dirt roller line," says Lynne Woodworth, president and CEO. "Stone has a leading position in marketing light equipment, being known particularly for mixers. With the addition of the Rhino 84X, we are expanding our emphasis on our compaction line."

Being one of Stone's first machines with an enclosed cab, ensuring the operator was comfortable was one of the goals with the new roller. The 84X has a fully equipped cab as standard equipment.

The Rhino 84X operator's compartment is ergonomically designed for comfort, easy operation and high visibility. Extra-large doors on both sides make entering and exiting easy. The Rhino cab has oversized windows for added visibility and optimal line-of-sight. The operator can find added comfort in the extra-large three-way adjustable seat with flip-up arm rests. The steering console is also adjustable and can be tilted forward or back depending on operator preference.

Instrumentation in the Rhino's cab includes gauges and controls for hydraulic fluid temperature, water temperature, oil pressure and brake lights, speedometer, and engine tachometer/hour meter, fuel level gauge and more. Operators can be assured of a strong radio reception virtually anywhere in North America, as the Rhino features XM Satellite radio tuning.

Excavating in comfort

Far from Unit Crane's 20 part numbers that comprised the Model B's "shovel control lever assembly," the new SK260LC Acera Mark 8 hydraulic excavator from Kobelco Construction Machinery America Co. Ltd. features the exclusive Intelligent Total Control System (ITCS). The system recognizes the operator's moves and provides smooth hydraulic response. The auto-acceleration system on the SK260LC increases engine rpm and hydraulic flow in proportion to the operator's movement of the control levers, resulting in even acceleration for precise operations. To extend engine life and reduce fuel costs, the auto-deceleration system reduces engine rpms after four seconds of operator inactivity.

The SK260LC is equipped with a six-cylinder FPT (formerly Iveco Motors) Tier III diesel engine with intercooler turbocharger. The engine features 597 ft.-lbs. of net torque at 1,200 rpm, a 14% increase. The SK260LC is designed for applications requiring maximum power, from digging trenches to placing trench boxes, to backfilling, clearing sites and loading trucks.

While ITCS takes some of the stress away from the operator, the excavator's spacious cab combines operational control, maximum comfort, easy egress and a clear view of the worksite for optimum performance.

"All major controls — including the hydraulics for powering a wide range of tools and attachments, mode selection switches and heavy-lift and independent travel switches — are located on the right side of the cab for easy access to critical functions," says Paul Golevicz, brand marketing manager, Kobelco.

The seven-position suspension seat can be adjusted to fit the comfort requirements of nearly every operator. Viscous silicon cab mounts help to minimize vibration and shock to the cab.

Pipelayer has excavator configuration

Volvo Construction Equipment's patented Pipelayer represents a technical advance over traditional pipelaying dozers with a side-based boom, the basic design of which originated in the 1930s and has changed little since. Volvo's new class of pipelaying machines targeting contractors in the on-shore oil and gas industry. It is expected to be available in North America in the second quarter of 2008.

With its excavator configuration, the new Volvo provides a 360-degree swing with full lifting performance and functionality at all radius positions — a function not possible with conventional pipelayers. Dozer side-based booms are limited to a fixed position for lifting off one side only with boom mountings on the outside of the track roller frames, limiting stability.

The Volvo Pipelayer has a wider gauge, lower center of gravity, and a lifting platform where the boom is mounted inboard of the track frame and closer to the machine's centerline.

The Volvo class of purpose-built pipelaying equipment includes five models. Lift capacities range from 20 to 150 metric tons, originating from a patented adaptation of Volvo excavators combined with modern lifting technology.

Volvo Pipelayers have longer booms that offer higher hook height for better work positioning — or working further away from the trench to avoid caving in side walls. Boom lengths range from 30 to 38 ft., depending on model size, compared to typical dozer side-based booms of 20 to 28 ft.

Safety is a major design factor

Volvo Pipelayers are fitted with the modern on-board Load Management System (LMS) that is designed to enable the operator to better determine what he can safely pick up depending on the angle of the boom, the cab's position relative to the tracks, and the incline on which the machine is operating.

Load charts are constantly updated for 360-degree rotation and infinite machine geometries up to a 35-degree grade slope. The system matches and coordinates these factors to current operating conditions via a graphic display on a monitor in the cab, including a wide variety of warning and operational aids. Load-indicating light bars, located on the boom tips, provide visible warning to the operator, adjacent operators and ground personnel to optimize safety.

Traditional side-based booms that are only rated for flat, level ground operation are not generally available with on-board monitoring.

Visibility is substantially improved over conventional machines thanks to elevated cabs and an asymmetric boom design. The wide gauge of the Pipelayer allows the straddling of the trench.

Dozer side-based booms do not swing through positions. Positioning a load with these conventional machines often requires jockeying the entire machine by twisting and turning the tracks. The Volvo Pipelayer positions its load smoothly by simply swinging the upper structure, just like an excavator. The result is precise, efficient load positioning that increases both productivity and safety.

The Volvo Pipelayer is equipped with the Volvo Care Cab, an operator environment known for its spaciousness, visibility, ergonomic controls and climate control — a quantum leap from the "perch" of conventional side-based boom pipelaying dozers exposed to the weather. The features of the Volvo Care Cab increase operator comfort and efficiency and are especially welcome on demanding pipeline projects where site conditions can be extremely harsh.