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Riding in Comfort

Riding in Comfort

A heated front windshield is available on the JCB 3CX backhoe loader to help dissipate frost and ice build-up. AutoPREHEAT, an option, can be set to warm the cab and engine block automatically, up to 30 minutes before starting the engine. Comfort features in the cab include a fully adjustable suspension seat

Riding in Comfort

The sculpted mechanical-suspension, high-back seat on the John Deere 130G excavator has 12.5" of travel, sliding with or independent of the joystick console. An air suspension heated seat is optional. A multi-language, LCD monitor and a rotary dial lets you select work mode, access operating info, check maintenance intervals, source diagnostic codes, adjust cab temperature, and tune the radio. Short-throw pilot joysticks are designed to be ergonomically correct. Control mode is selectable between backhoe- and SAE-style. Push buttons in the right-side lever allow predictable control of auxiliary hydraulic flow for operating attachments. An optional sliding switch provides proportional speed control.

The National Association of Home Builders recently reported that the number of unfilled jobs in the construction sector reached a post recession high of 273,000. So it is no surprise that employers are having a hard time finding and keeping workers.

"The share of small businesses reporting they have at least one job hard to fill rose to the highest level in (a recent) survey's 45-year history," states Sarah House, senior economist for the Wells Fargo Securities Economics Group.
Besides increasing wages, employers are taking other steps to help in their efforts to recruit and retain. One area that might be overlooked is providing employees - both current and prospective - the best tools to work with. And with all tools, from small hand tools to heavy machinery, part of what makes one better than another, is how comfortable and convenient they are to operate.

The Cab Is Key
When the job entails sitting in an enclosure for hours at a time, it is important to help ensure the operator's body is not unduly strained, and manufacturers are putting a lot of focus on developing features and innovations towards that end.

When purchasing or renting machinery, items to investigate include the entryway - size, location, opening type and access to - head, foot and legroom, arm and wrist rests, type of seat, heating and cooling options and sightlines to the bucket corners, the edge of the tracks, and the jobsite ahead and behind.

Some machines offer a choice of controls on the same model so that you can select the type your operators prefer. The options include different patterns on the joysticks (ISO, H, SAE, Backhoe, ISO with programmable detents) mechanical hand and foot controls.

Easing Operations
Convenience features include a pressurized cab, keyless start, the ability to store different operator codes and sets of preferences (including boom/bucket and propel speeds, creep modes, and control pattern), rearview camera, heated seat, courtesy lighting that stays on after machine shutdown and then automatically turns itself off.

Riding in Comfort

For increased visibility, the Hitachi ZW80 wheel loader features a pillarless design, front floor-to-ceiling windows and a lower window. If the forward/reverse lever is not in neutral, the engine cannot start.

Riding in Comfort

The sliding front door on the SSV skid steers can be opened regardless of the loader position. A pressurized cab is designed to keep out dust, flying debris, and insects, and reduce noise levels. The front sections of both side windows slide open towards the back of the cab. Their grilles are installed on the inside to allow easier cleaning of the outer glass surfaces.

Riding in Comfort

Inside the cab of the SSV series are a suspension seat, ISO pilot controls, a 12V socket that can be used for recharging mobile phones and powering other small electronic devices, a wide mirror in the middle of the cabin and nine air vents. Switch panels on the front posts provide access to important functions. A dial throttle lets you set a constant engine speed, instead of trying to maintain one with the foot throttle, for jobs that require it such as cold planning, trenching, and snow blowing.

And don't forget about the operator's safety. An ROPS (roll-over protective structure) cab complies with ISO3471, and an FOPS (falling object protective structure cab) complies with ISO3449.

More Considerations
Caterpillar recently put out a list of machine features that their experts say can help an employer attract and keep employees.

These include more glass to improve views overhead, to attachments and to the ground, along with sloped hoods, additional mirrors and cameras to give operators line of sight to other equipment and workers even in tight quarters.
"Operators who aren't constantly bending and straining to see, experience less fatigue and stress, with greater efficiency and productivity as a result," the guide states. "When they can continuously upgrade their performance and feel good about their work, they're more likely to stay in your employ."

Innovative display technologies give operators the ability to, via onboard screens and dashboards, "review and adjust settings and reduce machine failures. Some manufacturers offer a split-screen mode that can display machine information and the rearview camera simultaneously." Working in a high-tech surrounding is seen by the equipment manufacturer as a way to reward employees.

Another feature attractive to experienced operators are smooth, low-effort controls, whose responsiveness and functionality have been continually improving. Also, video-type controllers - multiple buttons that can be controlled with either a finger or a thumb, are appearing more and more.

"As young operators enter the construction workforce, fleets with this type of equipment can be a strong selling feature for your company," reports the manufacturer. "Similarly, investing in these types of features can be one way to keep the most skilled operators on your team."

Riding in Comfort

Controls on the Kubota U55-4 excavator feature a two-pattern selection system - a switch under the seat lets the operator shift between ISO pattern and SAE backhoe pattern. The entrance (on left-hand side) is 1' 10.4" wide. The front window slides up with the help of a gas-assist mechanism.

Riding in Comfort

The ZW50 wheel loader has access to the cab on both sides of the machine. A rubber-mounted operator frame contributes to reduced decibel levels.

And of course, all the cab comforts possible, which they say is so important that some employers promote it in their operator recruiting and employment communications.

Taking Control
A little extra advice comes from a compact wheel loader product application specialist for the equipment manufacturer (known as the blogger CompactLoader) that all operators can heed.

"The simplest way to help alleviate end-of-day aches and pains is to adjust your seat and cab controls to allow for full range of motion, lumbar support and comfortable positioning before you begin operating," he relates. "This is especially important if you're operating a machine that is used by other operators throughout the work week, as they may have changed the settings."

Some of his specific suggestions:
• With seat adjustments - some air suspension seats have an indicator that shows if you are properly adjusted or not. And the blogger recommends adjustable armrests, lumbar support and recline capabilities.
• The positioning of joysticks, which allow operators to do so many tasks these days, is very important for comfort; it should feel "natural to how your hand typically sits."
• Steering should not require much force at all. And a 'quick steer' feature "boosts the steering flow so you only have to turn the knob about 15 percent in either direction to turn the machine."
• He also recommends a 'ride control' feature to provide an easier ride and better material retention, and 'cylinder snubbing' (also known as 'cylinder damping') that "slows down the implements before you hit full stroke or kick-out position to eliminate any jerking motions."

CompactLoader concludes "Having numb legs and an aching back should no longer be an inevitable part of your day. We hope machine ergonomics is (now) a priority."

As seen in LC/DBM magazine, October 2018.

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November 20, 2019, 2:02 pm PDT

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