The cartridge design offers other benefits, as well. "For years, we have talked to customers about operating in reverse," says Neeley. "In reverse with a standard undercarriage, the bushing will slide in the sprocket." But SystemOne is much more forgiving. "With the SystemOne undercarriage, the bushing engages and the links will move around the bushing, so it is not sliding. Thus, it is not causing wear on the bushing."
Sprocket life has also increased dramatically. "The sprocket segment itself did not change in design. But given the fact that the bushing is no longer sliding on the sprocket, you can go through two chains before you would have to replace a sprocket segment," says Neeley. "The same is true for the idler. That is a major savings."
SystemOne is also more tolerant of tight track. "Tight track is still bad, but it is not as detrimental," says Neeley.
The cartridges still allow the track to be removed for tractor repairs. SystemOne does not require a master link; the chain may be opened up using your own portable press or one from the dealer. It can be disassembled at any one of the box sections. "There is a master link that is available through the parts department," says Neeley. "It will soon be introduced on the machines at the factory."
Of course, the cartridge design is only one component of SystemOne. The whole undercarriage was redesigned from the ground up. All of the links - inside, outside, left and right - are exactly the same. Orientation is the only difference. "Because that link is a straight link, it is a stronger link," says Neeley. "It can withstand a lot more stresses than the offset link."
Rollers feature an increased flange diameter. According to Caterpillar, this provides optimum guiding and allows roller life to be extended to match chain life. In addition, the center tread idler contacts only the bushings and not the links, which eliminates link scalloping. The idler will also last longer because it contacts a rotating bushing instead of a link rail.
Overall, Caterpillar claims the SystemOne undercarriage can cut O&O costs 35% to 70%, and increase life expectancy by 50% or more.
A cost-effective choice
Most manufacturers continue to offer traditional undercarriage components, since the newer technologies may not make sense in every situation.
"We still offer sealed and lubed undercarriage for the non-abrasive areas," says Drescher. "It is a lower cost. Of course, you get a little less life, but it depends on where you are in your machine lifetime. If you are going to keep the tractor quite a bit longer, you might go with another SC-2 package. If not, you may put something else on that readily fits on the same track frame. There are no modifications necessary to do that."
The newer technology does require a higher upfront investment. "If I am going to do a retrofit from the standard undercarriage to the SystemOne, I am looking at an approximately 30% (premium), plus or minus a little bit depending upon the model size," says Neeley.
But if you are going to operate the machine for any length of time, this cost premium is quickly recovered. "We have seen people cut their cost per hour in half, even though they have spent 30% more for that undercarriage," Neeley points out.
Advanced undercarriage management
Effectively managing your undercarriage will help you to extend component life no matter what system you are using. "We have a lot more user-friendly management packages for undercarriages than we had even a couple of years ago," says Drescher.
Neeley agrees, "The tools are significantly different than what we started with when Caterpillar began our Custom Track Service (CTS) in 1959."
One of the most recent tools is an ultrasonic measurement device. "Instead of having to take calipers or take measurements with old hand tools, [dealer service technicians] can do it a little quicker with this ultrasonic tool and come up with results faster for the customer. It will tell them where they are in the process," Drescher explains. "And that tool will link to our Parts Expert program, which gives the customer a printout of where he is at."
There can be other advantages, as well. "The benefit of the ultrasonic tool is it pairs up with our undercarriage management software to download right to a distributor's product support laptop," says Mike Kunin, manager, undercarriage, Komatsu America Corp. "It does the calculations for them and produces an hours remaining wear report."