“Operator comfort is a big deal,” Goettel says. “Bigger cabs, creature comforts, touch controls… visibility is huge. The more comfortable an operator is, the more productive he is.”
Controls – a sensitive subject
Controls are very important to all skid steer operators. Fortunately, manufacturers realize this and have covered all the bases. "John Deere offers the end user options to provide the control pattern he is most familiar with, and thus, a more productive and comfortable operating environment," Zupancic says. "Choose from a mechanical foot control system, or choose the option to have hands-only mechanical controls configured in the H-pattern. Additionally John Deere offers EH Joystick controls that operate in the ISO control pattern. You can also opt for an EH performance package that will allow the customer to switch the controls from standard ISO configuration into an H pattern configuration."
Bobcat skid steers are available with standard hand/foot controls, which the company invented nearly 50 years ago, as well as the optional Advanced Control System (ACS) which allows switching between standard and H-pattern controls with the flip of a switch. Finally, with optional Selectable Joystick Controls, the operator uses only his hands to control all machine functions.
Electro-hydraulic (EH) switchable controls are available on all Case Alpha Series models as well. "This is especially helpful when you have two or more people running the equipment. Operators can easily switch between control patterns based on preference," Goettel said.
Cabs – size does matter
For today’s North American operator, the environment inside the skid steer is very important, and a spacious cab makes a big difference. To that end, leading manufacturers have been working to get more operating room out of an inherently tight space.
Case’s new Alpha Series skid steers feature 25 percent more room in the cab, plus increased visibility, comfort and control over previous models. Goettel says the cab is sealed and pressurized to reduce noise and dust and is designed with an ultra-narrow wire side screen with more glass surface area to provide 360-degree visibility.
To create a better working environment, Bobcat increased the size of the M-Series cab by 10 percent, improved cab pressurization and redesigned the interior to allow operators to adjust the environment to their individual preferences. "Bobcat M-Series loaders have a best-in-class pressurized cab, with a new one-piece seal that goes all the way around the door and fits into a special curved pocket," Rostberg says. "This minimizes the amount of dirt and dust that might enter the cab, creating more enjoyable working conditions and making it easier to clean the cab.
"Noise is another factor affecting operator comfort, and Bobcat reduced the sound level of M-Series loaders by more than 60 percent," Rostberg adds. "New engine mounts improve isolation to decrease vibration and reduce sound levels. Control levers on the optional Selectable Joystick Controls (SJC) move up and down in conjunction with the seat to reduce arm movement and fatigue as the operator controls the machine. Joystick mounts slide forward or backward to adjust to the preference of each individual operator."
Rostberg adds, "The more comfortable an operator is and the better he can see the task at hand, the more efficient they will be on the jobsite."
With or without the extra bells and whistles, skid steers are constantly evolving to provide operators with more performance and comfort, and you can expect that trend to continue.
"We expect machines to get easier to operate and help customers get their job done more accurately and faster," says Zupancic at Deere. "In the future, we expect to see manufacturers taking advantage of the drive-by-wire technology of EH joystick controls by integrating more push-button automatic features. These could include technologies that allow the machine to recognize previous operator settings, help the operator control the machine more precisely around the jobsite, or automatically move the machine into the right position to complete a task. In the future only the sky is the limit for new features and options that help improve a customer’s productivity, uptime and at a lower daily operating cost."