Is running at 100% capacity without suffering grain losses and damage even possible with the day-to-day challenges of getting a crop out of the field on time? That’s a balancing act manufacturers are challenged to meet. Today’s combines, however, are so well engineered that they can come close to those targets, provided you are willing to invest in the day-to-day diligence needed to evaluate your harvester’s performance and to fine-tune its operation to support the new generation of advanced technology.
Machinery breakdowns are costly, and they are especially so during planting and harvesting season, when getting seed in the ground and grain out of the field in a timely fashion are critical to maximizing yield through a reduction of total cost of ownership. Skipping daily maintenance is a common mistake that can cause downtime. For instance, it is important to grease all lube points daily and check engine oil and fluids such as transmission fluid and urea or diesel exhaust fluid. Furthermore, with the new Tier 4 engines, there are issues with people who use a cheaper urea or diesel exhaust fluid and that can cause problems with the exhaust and after-treatment systems. Farmers also should regularly replace fuel filters and check chains, gearboxes and belts for wear and replace when wear is excessive. On gravity wagons, wheels should be checked for tightness and alignment before going to the field.
During the daily maintenance check it is important not only replace a part that has failed but also check or replace other parts that may have caused the initial failure. Examples include replacing a drive chain when the sprocket was shot or replacing a belt when the pulley was bad. Replacing only the parts that are broken is a temporary fix that can cost money in downtime. When customers don’t replace all the things we recommend need replacing, nine times out of 10 they will come back with bigger problems we’ll end up having to fix.
Unplanned downtime due to maintenance is one of the culprits to reduced profits, however today, operators have access to a range of technology and enhanced components that are designed to deliver value, improve productivity and simplify the harvesting process that positively impacts profits. The three big categories that continue to capture the most interest within the combine industry are advances in electrification, digitalization and operator comfort.
Engineers are designing machines that work faster and more efficiently, which also increases the output of the crop, meaning more crops in less time. These enhancements are not only impacting new equipment but within the aftermarket industry as well. For instance, self-propelled combine harvester’s adoption has become a major trend among various agricultural operations. These intelligent combine harvesters are competent in monitoring grain flow rate and yield loss in real-time. As a result, grain growers are making a seismic shift to intelligent combine harvesters over conventional combine harvesters. In addition to monitoring productivity, there are sensors that can be added to enable the operator to recognize problems with the tire pressure equally as quickly as persons in the danger zone of machines and warn of collisions in good time by means of acoustic signals and messages on a master control display.
These types of IoT enhancement within combines has made the demand for productivity even greater. Since autonomous machines are still in concept, operators are spending more and more time in the cab. So, naturally, there is also a focus on all-day comfort for the operator. A comfortable air-ride seat and the steering column adjust fully needs to be optimized for productivity. Operation of the machines must be fairly straightforward whether the operator uses electronic joysticks, handles with control buttons, switches, or an onboard IQAN system developed by Parker. Operator comfort also includes the climate control system keeps the temperature perfect. But, issues do arise with air conditioning systems, unfortunately. Waiting to order the replacement part can cause significant equipment downtime or vehicle operator discomfort. Having the ability to repair the existing assembly with the correct components can be both a time and cost saver. So next time you need to repair an A/C system within a combine, consider Parker’s hose tube assemblies.
The last item to consider when replacing components should be the implementation of electric components, which can dramatically increase profits. For instance, Parker’s compact EHA delivers powerful, reliable linear movement. Compact EHA is a fully self-contained electro-hydraulic actuator that combines high power density with lightweight, low sound level and small envelope. Simple “plug 'n play” functionality makes Compact EHA the ideal solution for applications where other conventional linear movement technologies lack the power, speed and durability of compact hydraulics. Another electrification option could include the addition of an electric linear actuator, which can be used to adjust the position of the cutter bar, the speed of the knives on the bar and/or grain tank covers. The benefits of electric linear actuators include:
Since electrical power is readily available and is in fact needed to create fluid power, it seemed a logical place to start when considering component options for a combine.
The busiest time of year is harvest. And Parker is here to help. We understand that there is a lot of preparations that need to be made before combines and tractors hit the fields. And when harvest begins, every hour spent in the field improves yields. Visit our off-road machinery industry page, to identify products and solutions you need to optimize your equipment for harvest.