4 Skid Steer Tech Trends

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Construction Technology & Software

A Caterpillar skid steer with smart backhoe attachment
A Caterpillar D3 Series skid steer with the Smart Backhoe attachment.

Some of the latest technology for skid steer loaders feeds into four trends, based on offerings from industry bellwethers Caterpillar and John Deere.

The two full-line OEMs have incorporated tech features for telematics use, operator comfort, grade control, and “smart” attachments.

Telematics use

“We’ve seen industry trends lean more towards remote access to critical machine information,” says Luke Gribble, solutions marketing manager for John Deere.

As many skid steer makers do, Deere offers its own telematics solution to provide operators with vital machine information.

“This type of solution helps our operators stay on top of machine monitoring, which ultimately helps the machine run better and extend the lifespan,” Gribble says. “JDLink [telematics] also helps operators quickly connect with their local dealer for machine check-ups and flag potential maintenance cycles in advance to increase overall uptime and productivity.”

Operator comfort

Gribble says technology surrounding operator comfort is another trending area.

“Operators want to be comfortable and confident they can work through any condition without sacrificing safety on the job. As comfortable cab conditions and improved camera technology becomes a standard in compact equipment, it will become an important factor to help with increasing productivity on the job site,” Gribble says.

Automating common, repetitive tasks also fits the comfort equation. Features once reserved for wheel loaders, excavators, graders, and dozers have worked their way down into skid steers.

“The EH Boom Performance Package on our large frame G Series skid steers automates repetitive tasks, improving job site efficiency and safety,” Gribble says. “This package offers several features to help trim cycle times, speed production, and improve job site awareness by automating repetitive functions.”

Help with grade control

Two of Deere’s large-frame skid steer loaders (330G and 332G) are available with optional onboard grade indication that provides cross-slope (roll) and main fall slope (pitch) of the machine on the in-cab monitor display.

“These are viewable as either degrees or percentages and allow real-time grade checks from the cab of the machine that reduces the need for an individual outside the cab to check grade,” Gribble says. “This is a fully integrated solution meaning that no additional hardware or software is required.”

Smart attachments

The latest Caterpillar skid steer models, the D3 Series, supports a line of what it calls Smart Attachments.

“This advanced machine technology allows the machine to recognize when a Smart Attachment is connected and tailor the controls and operator information to match the tool and the task,” says Kevin Coleman, a senior product specialist for Cat. “This integration allows for better machine utilization and a better finished product by delivering easy, intuitive operation of these new grading and excavating attachments.”

Coleman says three items make the smart technology and attachments work: attachment recognition, tailored controls, and special information/control screens.

“Smart technology starts with ‘Plug & Play’ attachment recognition, which means the machine understands when a smart attachment is connected,” Coleman says. “It also knows which smart attachment is connected. With the press of button, the operator can enter the Attachment Control mode.”

“Once in the Attachment Control mode, the machine’s existing joystick controls are changed from the traditional drive/implement control functionality and are instead now converted to meet the control needs for the specific smart attachment that has been attached,” Coleman says. 

“This allows the machine’s joystick controls to be tailored to now provide specific control actions for the recognized smart attachment, and it eliminates the need for extra controls or complex button/trigger/switch pressing to control what traditionally are difficult to operate and control hydro-mechanical tools,” according to Coleman.

“This intuitive control allows the operator to focus on using and manipulating the attachment in a way that is more natural without having to focus on intricate button and control presses to operate the attachment.”

Additional control and information for the operator can be found on special display screens on the in-cab advanced display monitor, Coleman says.

“With a simple press of the button again, the operator returns to Machine Control mode and the joysticks return to their original drive and implement control functionality.”

Caterpillar Smart Attachments include a Smart Backhoe and Smart Grader with Assist.