Products mentioned in this article: M Series SP Windrowers
“In addition to fast operation in the field and on highways, M Series tractors also save operators time thanks to simplified maintenance requirements and smart design that provides easy access to most serviceable components.”
This time there would be no compromises, no backward compatibility, no need to adapt the tractor to the requirements of older generation headers. All of the energy and focus of MacDon’s engineers could be channeled to achieve one goal: increased productivity – measured in terms of machine and operator performance.
“Our objective was to increase productivity, not just incrementally but by a large margin,” said Richard Kirkby, MacDon Product Manager for the development of M Series tractors. “We wanted a bigger, faster tractor to meet the increasing demands placed on machines and people by today’s larger farms.”
“We wanted to cut in the field at 10 MPH or more. We wanted faster transport speeds of up to 23 MPH so that operators would spend less time getting to and from fields. We wanted to attach and detach the headers quickly. We wanted a higher and a wider stance on the tractor so that it could handle more crop. We wanted a more comfortable work environment and better visibility for the operator. Basically we wanted it all – a tractor that gave the end user increased productivity, a quieter environment and easier, more intuitive operation.”
One of the first decisions made was to pursue the Dual Direction™ concept, as this was seen as a way to make higher transport speeds possible with the header attached. Without Dual Direction™, which rotates the operator station 180˚ for transport and allows the tractor to be driven with the engine in the front and the header in the back, a windrower can not easily travel on the highway above 16 MPH due to stability issues. By perfecting Dual Direction™ technology the team was able to break through this barrier. (For more, see MacDon’s Dual Direction™ Technology Moves Windrowing Into The Fast Lane in the previous issue of Performance – visit macdon.com to download.)
Another challenge faced by the design team was the tractor’s frame itself, which had to be higher and stronger to match the increased productivity goals for the machine. Cutting more, faster would require larger headers, bigger engines and higher field speeds overall.
“Higher field and highway speeds, of course, placed additional stresses on the frame structure. The goal was to provide the machine with an efficient frame design that both incorporated strength and minimized weight. We also wanted a design that could accommodate changing engine requirements as manufactures came out with newer, larger models.”
According to Kirkby, when MacDon’s design team started work on the M Series tractor in 2001 they were still operating under the tier-1 engine emission standards, but now as the tractor is released it is equipped with a tier-3 engine. The change required redesigning the frame to accommodate a larger cooling system necessary for dissipating the heat generated by the tier-3 engines.
But these adjustments are really only the tip of the iceberg on a tractor where just about everything has been touched in some way. The engineering team even considered shipping issues in their design, and the tractor has been built so that two units can fit in one shipping container – reducing transportation costs for sales outside North America.
“Computer technology also changed significantly during the time we were developing the tractor and we were able to introduce a whole new computerized user interface that gives the operator much more on-the-go control of field adjustments.”
So how did MacDon’s eight-person design team react to winning an AE50?
“The award is a nice validation of the path we embarked on more than six years ago,” said Kirkby who added that the team was particularly happy with the fact that almost all of the goals set by the team were achieved in the finished product. But, despite the accolades the machine has received, Kirkby says what has most pleased the team are the reactions it has received by producers who have had a chance to try it in the field.
“In some cases we’ve had farmers who have demoed a unit refuse to give it back. They’ve basically asked how much do you want and have wanted to write a check on the spot.”