Spending eight to 10 or 12 hours chopping hay or silage corn can get old pretty fast, according to custom forage harvesters randomly polled at the U.S. Custom Harvesters Inc. annual meeting in March.
That’s one reason many said they put cab comfort toward the top of their lists when buying self-propelled forage harvesters.
“We asked customers what they wanted, and an improvement on the cab was one of the top things,” agrees Brent Raines, Krone western region product group manager.
Yet it’s not just about being comfortable, but about being able to focus on the job at hand: the operation of a machine worth around a half million dollars, he adds.
“If the guy’s comfortable, if his controls and monitoring systems are somewhere where they’re easy to see and easy to get to, it goes a long way toward eliminating or reducing the chance of an accident,” he says.
“The owner-operator really does care about cab comfort,” adds Matt Jaynes, Claas product coordinator. “It keeps the operator focused on chopping; driving a forage harvester is one of the most stressful things there are in the industry.”
The newer cabs from some manufacturers each offers a multi-function handle and color touch-screen monitor, usually using icons so multiple operators can easily adjust to a machine. Some also add bells and whistles to seat and steering-wheel adjustments as well as ways to reduce noise.
The following are highlights of the newer cab features, but you’ll want to do your own cab “test drives” for the sheer fun of it.
The New Holland FR9000 Series has a spacious cab with side windows that slant higher toward the back of the cab so an operator can easily see the spout for unloading, says brand marketing manager David Wagner.
That saves an operator from ending his day with a crick in his neck. The air-ride seat offers angle adjustments for the backrest and armrest. “The (armrest) console is built onto the seat base, so it moves with it. It can be adjusted in relation to the seat to suit the operator’s arm length.”
Also built into the console system is the multi-function handle. It has a “force-based system” allowing the operator to easily accelerate quickly or more gradually based on how far he moves the lever from center.
“The steering wheel has three adjustments for tilt angle and telescope. Depending on what you’re harvesting and how fast you’re going, you want to be positioned to have a different view, whether it’s a hay header or a corn header.”
The New Holland cab also has a portable, refrigerated cooler; an automatic temperature system; cruise control; wipers on all windows plus sunshades on back windows “to keep the sun off your neck,” Wagner says.
“We also dropped the noise level probably four or five decibels with sound-reduction changes.”
The Claas Jaguar 900 Series’ pivoting seat is a new option introduced this year, says Jaynes. “We’re the only one in the industry with a pivoting seat in a forage harvester. Half of your time, you’re looking over your shoulder trying to fill a truck. So, by rotating your seat, you don’t have to rotate your neck all the way past the back of your shoulder.”
All controls on this model are also integrated into the armrest with a multi-function joystick.
“We try to keep everything by the joystick and one monitor so you have very good visibility.” The use of icons can help new drivers adjust quickly to machine functions, Jaynes says.
“Our cam pilot, which is a camera-based system, will drive the machine to follow the windrow.” That reduces stress in dealing with weaving windrows or hills and valleys, he says. Available the last couple of years, this is the first year the feature can be factory-installed.
Most manufacturers use rounded glass in cabs, Jaynes says. “But sound will circulate on round glass, and if you don’t have something to stop it, it ricochets. What sets us apart in cab comfort are our corner posts. Those slim posts protrude from the corners slightly, catch the sound and vent it out the bottom of the cab.”
Another nice touch, he says, is the slanted floor near cab windows to catch water or pop bottles and keep them from rolling around.
Other features include storage compartments, a cell-phone holder and a place to hold fuses and modules in the cab, where it’s cleaner.
The largest and highest cab in the industry, says Brent Raines, is part of the Krone Big X. “We added more glass, we moved our pillars back on our cab and we increased the forward visibility so you could see what was going on with the headers.
“Running a forage harvester is like flying a helicopter. There are a lot of things going on,” he asserts.
The Krone machine also offers a touch-screen monitor placed strategically to the operator’s right side. The steering column was redesigned for ease of operation, too.
“But the big difference is we’ve put a double layer of insulation in the floor of the cab” to reduce the amount of noise coming from feed rolls, he adds. The cab is also mounted independently from the harvesting unit to reduce vibration and lessen an operator’s fatigue.
Other features: a refrigerated, portable cooler; window tints to reduce eye fatigue; and an air-ride seat with lumbar adjustments.