JCB agriculture growth on fast track

SAVANNAH, Ga. — A faster, smoother ride is only part of the story for JCB in agriculture.

Known better in Western Canada for its construction equipment, JC Bamford’s history in agriculture stretches back to its first product, a dump wagon, which its founder created in 1945. The company’s worldwide sales are now about US $11.5 billion annually.

Twenty-four years ago, JCB sped back into agriculture with the world’s fastest production tractor, the fully suspended, disc-braked Fastrac.

Material handling is a large part of what JCB does in its construction division, as well as in agriculture in the rest of the world outside of North America.

However, that is changing for the privately held British company. JCB has doubled its agricultural business in North America in the past five years and intends to keep up the pace, said Richard Fox-Marrs, the company’s director of global agriculture.

“Internationally, we are No. 1 in agricultural material handling,” he said, adding that the company is focusing on its North American market growth in that area.

The company builds its side-entry, skid-steer loaders in a plant in Savannah, Georgia, one of 22 on four continents. The loaders use a single lift arm and will accept competitors’ standardized compact attachments.

The skid steers and compact track loaders are becoming a much bigger part of JCB’s growth in agriculture.

While the company isn’t as well known in North America for its backhoes or compact loaders, the machines are a standard in Europe and other parts of the world.

“For a backhoe, or (compact loader), people say, ‘we’ll get in a JCB to lift or dig it out,’ ” said Tim Burnhope of JCB’s worldwide development group, based in Staffordshire, U.K.

For 2015, its smaller loaders have Tier Four Final compliant 1.9 and 2.5 litre Kohler diesel engines, which JCB helped develop. In the bigger-framed version, the company’s own Ecomax 4.4 liter engines are resident.

Both use small, “single can” emissions systems that have no post-exhaust treatment, said Fox-Marrs during a dealer training event in Savannah recently.

JCB’s agricultural side has long been led by its 42 m.p.h. Fastrac tractor.

The latest model, the 4000 series, is still fast and rides smoother than any other tractor in the market, but has added emissions-compliant horsepower and other refinements.

Now with up to 320 horsepower in the 3000 series and one of the largest cabs in the industry, the fixed-frame tractor is known for its speed, suspension, ABS braking and four-wheel steering.

The suspension system is able to squat down for loading three-point hitch and mountable equipment.

The new 4220 model has up to 235 h.p. from its Agco-Power engine, backed up with a new CVT transmission with multiple operator-selectable modes, depending on the work at hand.

Dan Schmidt of the company’s agriculture division said the new cab’s design was based on farmer requests so that it would “be like a combine’s cab. Bigger even. With a wide view. And an air-ride seat that swivels a lot.

“That’s what we gave them with 50 degrees of swivel right (and 20 to the left). If you need to look behind the machine, you swivel around. It’s more like looking to the side then, easy on the neck.”

The Fastrac machine’s front and rear suspension provides a ride that makes the tractor a successful four-wheel-drive sprayer chassis when the booms and tanks are mounted to the frame.

Field speeds of 26 m.p.h. are possible with the front axle levelling system, which keeps the ride height even, no matter what implement is attached or mounted or how full a tank might be.

Fox-Marrs said the side to side levelling, along with a fore and aft system, means rough fields and fast operating speeds are “always comfortable, and that translates into more productivity. The control it gives means the machine is safer, too.”

Telematics have been a bigger deal in the North American and European construction industry for several years, but the ability to remotely monitor and manage farm machinery is also becoming popular. JCB has brought it, as well as GPS guidance, to the new Fastrac line.

A new 38 U.S. gallon per minute hydraulic axial piston pump is new for the 4000. A secondary, dedicated gear pump handles steering, so there are no capacity issues when the machine is taxed during a turn.

A rear three-point hitch is standard and boosted by 30 percent for this year, up to 17,600 pounds. An optional front lift can carry 7,700 lb. Front power take-off is also available.

The new machine is pre-drilled for a front end loader, and an optional sun roof allows the operator to view the loader at work, up high. The company also kept a pair of windows that open.

“(It’s) something farmers wanted,” said Ray Bingley of JCB.

Bingley said a small, articulated telescoping boom pay loader, the TM220, is another addition to the agricultural lineup.

“It really took off in ag, farmers really like the higher, centred cab position (compared to low, offset telehandlers, which JCB also makes),” he said.

The new, Kohler-powered 74 h.p. telescopic wheel loader replaces the paired arms on a wheel, or pay, loader with a telehandler’s mono-arm.

The company offers a larger version, but the new smaller one is compact enough to fit a variety of farming applications and still be big enough to take on buckets up to 6.5 cubic yards.

Fox-Marrs said telehandlers are still new for ag in North America.

“They use front end loaders, skid steers. Telehandlers are really suited to ag. High lifts, bales, bulk bags, feed. The ability to place things safely. With useful buckets,” he said. “We think farm size and productivity increases will drive the adoption of this machine. Farming is materials handling.”

The TM220 also offers crab, four wheel and two wheel steering, which allows it to work in tight spaces. The boom can reach up 15 feet and out 10 feet. It can also lift 4,400 pounds.

Contact michael.raine@producer.com

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