"They can operate in all weather conditions," he says. "If it's raining, they can continue to work. The same can be said for working in dusty and snowy environments. Without a cab, they may have to take a day off. Contractors can justify the added expense with more productivity."
Enclosed cabs also offer a cleaner, quieter work environment by minimizing dust and significantly lowering the noise level.
Many manufacturers offer sound-proofing options to further maximize noise reduction. For example, the optional acoustical kit offered by John Deere reduces noise by about 5 dB, which makes it more than 50% quieter than the same skid steer without the kit. The $140 option (list price) includes a better headliner and additional sound reduction materials throughout the cab interior, absorbing noise and more effectively separating the operator from the engine compartment.
In addition to reducing operator stress and fatigue, a quieter cab facilitates use of options such as radios and MP3 players. "Twenty years ago, you didn't need a radio because the machine was too loud to hear it," says Hughes. "Now, technology has progressed to the point where we're able to quiet the machines. Operators want to listen to music. It keeps them going through the day. It goes back to those creature comforts of your home and your car that you want in a loader."
Another increasingly popular creature comfort is the suspension seat, which adjusts to the operator's weight. And for the ultimate in comfort, Case offers a deluxe heated cloth seat with lumbar support, listing at $290. "This option keeps the operator warm from the inside out," says Hughes.
Direct productivity boosters
While cab options such as radios and heated seats offer indirect productivity benefits, others more directly affect the ability to get more work done.
Quick-attach/detach mounting systems - which list in the neighborhood of $1,000 - make switching between attachments as easy as pressing a button in that climate-controlled cab. "Our mounting system is great for contractors who need to switch between attachments several times a day," says Rostberg. "With the flip of a switch, an attachment can be disengaged and a different attachment engaged, making the process quick and easy."
Ride control - which senses the weight in the bucket and smooths the ride - is another easily justified option. In addition to improving material retention, it can reduce operator fatigue so you can get more done in a day, as well as limit shock to the skid-steer structure, coupler, hydraulic system and attachment.
"The loader arms float with a full bucket of dirt," says Hughes. "You don't get front to back porpoising. It's more comfortable for the operator and more productive. When the load stays more level, you keep more dirt in the bucket and you have less spillage."
"The loader arms act like a shock absorber, allowing for higher operating speeds, better material retention and increased operator comfort," adds Verdon.
Low-effort servo and joystick controls also offer direct productivity benefits. Not only can they ease operation, they make it less physically demanding and fatiguing to operate a machine vs. traditional hand and foot controls.
"With the old mechanical controls, you have to move your entire arm up to your shoulder... you have to fully extend your arm and body," says Hughes. "With servo controls, you're just moving your forearm to move the lever. And with pilot controls, all you're moving is your fingertips."
Which options are right for you?
Options like ride control, hydraulic quick couplers, etc. are designed to provide operators with the ability to perform a fast and precise job, sometimes avoiding waste associated with rework. "Increased productivity should allow contractors to generate more revenue," says Verdon.
But it's important to know which options will benefit your operation most. When determining if a specific option is a good fit, one of the most important things to consider is the application the machine will primarily be dedicated to perform. "This will help target the right model with the right configuration and the appropriate options," says Verdon.
To select the right product and options, consider the following factors: