More than Just a Cab

The interface technologies and systems an operator uses are of vital importance, but perhaps more important is the overlooked cab itself.

Cat2Caterpillar Inc.At the intersection of design and safety is the operator cab. No place is more important to be aesthetically and functionally optimized to create an enjoyable operator experience while assuring, in the event of an accident, the operator is protected.

Oftentimes, the cab’s actual structure can seem forgotten amidst the fancier bells and whistles of the operator interface technology advancements, but there are several important considerations undertaken by cab manufacturers that should not go unnoticed.

"Like with any machine or component or system in a machine, it starts with the requirements," says Paul Taylor, Senior Manager for Material Handling and Underground at Caterpillar Inc., and formerly the worldwide new product introduction manager for the articulated trucks segment. "Requirements come from three places: Voice of the Customer, Voice of the Business, and Voice of Regulations." The three unique perspectives from customer, business and regulation allow a designer to make critical product decisions to fulfill expectations.

The Caterpillar 740 GC articulated dump truck.The Caterpillar 740 GC articulated dump truck.Caterpillar Inc.Taylor highlights Cat's development process for reevaluating the cab structure for the 745 articulated truck that features an external spinal-ROPS (roll-over protective structure). After extensive interviews with expert operators from around the world, Cat brought 12 together for a number of workshops to determine features that each skilled operator enjoyed and disliked from various types of equipment.

Approximately 40 hours of in-cab footage was reviewed to verify how cab operators actually worked inside a cab to correlate movements and actions with the operator-requested functionalities. The Voice of Business, Taylor points out, involved gathering a large amount of information from the competition to evaluate differentiating features and possible areas of improvement. And lastly, the Voice of Regulation deals largely with visibility. "You have to, for example, have the A and B pillars of the cab structure restrict a certain amount of visibility. If they get too big, visibility regulations won't be met," explains Taylor.


There are few safety measures more important for operator and ground-worker safety than cab visibility. A blind-spot is a dangerous thing, and technology providers and OEMs work hand-in-hand to eliminate any opportunity for injury. While a top-mounted 360-degree camera or object-detection systems are great back-up systems for worker protection, ultimately the first line of defense is the operator’s own eyes to avoid dangerous situations from the onset. Read about the latest in object and proximity detection systems online at

The two-person cab for Caterpillar's 740 GC articulated dump truck features its 'external spinal-ROPS' system.The two-person cab for Caterpillar's 740 GC articulated dump truck features its "external spinal-ROPS" system.Caterpillar Inc.In 2018, Caterpillar Inc. launched its latest 740 GC articulated dump truck (ADT) which featured the “external spinal-ROPS” that can be found on other Cat ADTs in the range. A bonded rear-quarter glass incorporated into the cab’s design allows a structural pillar to be removed for enhanced rear visibility. "A number of things led to the spinal-style cab structure, including video footage of operators maneuvering around the C post to see," says Taylor. The feedback and video footage led Cat to consider different designs to improve the visibility in the back corners of the cab.

When it comes to visibility, a cab manufacture must strike a fine balance between the structural integrity of the cab, its ROPS/FOPS system (roll-over protective structure/falling object protective structure), overall weight and an actual reduction in materials to leave plenty of room for viewing spaces.


Because the operator cab’s interface and advanced technologies are constantly evolving, that impacts and informs the design evolution of the cab structure itself. This makes for an extremely diverse and constantly changing cab industry. To answer this industry challenge, three cab manufacturers—Lochmann Kabinen GmbH, Siac S.p.A. and KML GmbH—presented together at one bauma 2019 booth to explain their product portfolio and future strategic goals.

KML cabinKML cabinKML GmbHThe joint holding company, SIAC-Lochmann AG acquired KML GmbH back in 2017. The aim of the three companies combined formation was “to have high-quality cabs for a wide range of applications developed by the respective specialist company.”

Lochmann Kabinen specializes in medium-sized series manufacturing between 50 and 500 cab units; Siac is geared toward industrial production and concentrates on large series manufacturing over 500 units; and KML Kabinen manufactures high-tech cabins in single units, smaller series and large cabins up to about 100 units.

"Despite the diversification of the individual companies, we want to share our development competences and production resources together in order to be able to offer our customers optimal cabin solutions and individually suitable production resources," says Stefan Lochmann, Managing Director at Lochmann Kabinen GmbH.

An exploded version of the CAB Concept Cluster's Smart CAB for agricultural applications.An exploded version of the CAB Concept Cluster's Smart CAB for agricultural applications.CCCThis is not the first time several manufacturers did a joint presentation at bauma regarding the operator environment. Three years ago, the CAB Concept Cluster (CCC) launched its Genius CAB at bauma 2016, the first collaborative proof-of-concept cab system designed by 13 OEM suppliers and industry experts. The goal of the CCC was to create and demonstrate the design efficiencies that could be achieved without OEM specifications dictating the parameters after a vehicle is already designed.

One of the cab’s founding members was FRITZMEIER Cabs which supplied an integrated SoftCab hybrid structure solution made of welded special aluminum profiles. The structure design led to a weight reduction of 30%. EXO-ROPS steel elements can be added to the cab and configured for weight classes between 10 and 50 tonnes.

The cab was built in a modular fashion to reduce time requirements and costs resulting from development. The second generation of the Genius CAB—the Smart CABlaunched at Agritechnica 2017. The cab’s steel structure, including substructure groups, such as glazing and cladding parts, is based on a serial-tested product by FRITZMEIER.

Broadening cab capabilities

As the pace of operator interface technologies has quickened, several cab manufacturers have realized that being able to design, prototype, test, and manufacture a fully integrated cab system is essential for faster time-to-delivery for OEM customers.

GS Global Resources (GSGR) announced its acquisition of ADC Custom Products (now renamed ADC Equipment Innovations)—a leader in ROPS and FOPS systems for heavy-duty equipment—back in February of 2018.

GSGR offers a broad product portfolio and engineering expertise ranging from hydraulic to electronic, mechanical and software capabilities. With this acquisition, GS Global Resources is able to offer a single point-of-contact for OEM customers in search of fully-integrated cabs.

“We’ve always delivered pragmatic system and component design, innovative and reliable technologies, as well as production and market support through a single point of engineering accountability,” GS Global Resources President John Thornton says. “Now ADC Equipment Innovations makes interacting with us even easier for customers.

“Acquiring this highly-specialized technical knowledge of designing and building structures to protect machine operators reduces cost, decreases engineering effort and time, and streamlines manufacturing processes for OEMs,” Thornton adds.

Just a couple of months later, MSK Group of Finland expanded its reach in Europe with the acquisition of Matec GmbH, a cab manufacturer operating in Germany and Slovakia with well-known OEM clients such as Volvo Construction Equipment, Liebherr and Komatsu.

Constructed Genius CABs at FRITZMEIER.Constructed Genius CABs at FRITZMEIER.FRITZMEIER CabsSo, while the shiny objects and screens being launched at a rapid pace may catch the attention of operators, it is vital for OEMs to continue to champion the cab’s structure itself, both from a safety perspective, but more importantly from a fully-integrated cab system perspective. The time and cost savings that can be realized by working with a cab expert, as well as the optimized design that can be accomplished by working with them early on in a vehicle’s design can make all the difference for an operator.

A relatively recent consideration factoring into cab design is “future-proofing” as integrated technologies continue to change and update. “If you look forward, there will be a lot of improvements focused on productivity in terms of how to make iron smarter, whether that means diagnostics or prognostics, performance reporting, or semi- to fully autonomous systems and features,” explains Taylor.