"The cost of off-highway electronics has come down over the last decade as the capability has increased," says Jahmy Hindman, wheel loader product marketing manager, Deere & Company. "These advances have allowed companies to adopt technologies like onboard payload weighing, automatic ride control, keyless start, auto-idle and auto-shutdown, tire pressure monitoring and programmable return to dig."
For instance, auto-idle allows the engine to idle at ultra-low speeds when the wheel loader is not being used. "This is controlled electronically in Deere wheel loaders and reduces idle fuel consumption by as much as 25%," says Hindman. "In addition, we have implemented an electronically controlled auto-shutdown feature. It turns the engine off after an operator-specified amount of low-idle time has elapsed... Of course, for those colder climates that require the engine to run for heat generation, this option can be turned off, as well."
The integration of cutting edge electronics into wheel loaders has always been a top priority, asserts Nick Rogers, product specialist, Liebherr Construction Equipment Co. "We recognize that through multiple types of hardware and software, we are able to produce a machine that will be more efficient, easier to diagnose, faster to set or change parameters, and exceptional to operate," he states. "Liebherr has been able to produce a machine with features that are either electronic or electronically actuated to enhance the productivity of the machine, as well as the comfort, safety and ease of operation for the operator."
Productivity is further enhanced by giving the operator more control. "The operator can set parameters, adjust settings, recognize any operating issues and easily operate the multi-function joystick, which is electronic-over-hydraulic controlled," says Rogers.
Control at your fingertips
Electronics often actuate and monitor return-to-dig, return-to-carry, slip control and automatic gear kickdown options. "The boom suspension (or ride control) is the option that has yielded the most production gains in many applications," says Mike Dayton, Volvo Construction. "It reduces spillage on load and carry operations, and allows the operator to travel at high speeds while remaining in control and operating safely."
Some electronic systems also allow the operator to customize the responsiveness of the controls. For example, Doug Phillips, Volvo Construction, notes, "We can speed up or slow down the controls with a simple V-Cads programming tool."
Liebherr recently integrated a touch screen multi-use display in its L550 to L586 large-sized wheel loaders. According to Rogers, this electronic touch screen display allows the operator to set or change machine operation settings, check temperatures, levels and pressures during operation and control the climate in the operator's station, along with many other features.
Kawasaki's onboard monitor allows the operator to custom tailor machine operation, as well. "The operator or technician can make adjustments to the ride control system, the stick steering system or the brake de-clutch system through the monitor," says Gary Bell, vice president, general manager, Kawasaki Construction Machinery. "You can modify the machine's characteristics to suit the operator."
Onboard payload systems, such as those found on John Deere loaders, further empower the operator. "In truck loading applications, an onboard payload scale improves productivity by making sure the truck is loaded to the correct weight the first time," says Hindman. "This avoids having the truck come back from the weigh bridge if it is loaded too heavy per state DOT regulations. This can improve operational load-out efficiency by 5% to 10%, depending upon the operation."