To compete in the off-highway equipment market OEMs must continually invest in new equipment designs to meet ever-increasing emission regulations, equipment accuracy and aesthetic model refreshes. Out of necessity, the majority of product development budget is required for the first two—but what about the rest of the equipment? OEMs’ annual product refreshes still need to be implemented across equipment in line with new industry trends, and with the average life of a heavily used piece of off-highway equipment averaging about 10 years or less, the cost of replacing components is unavoidable.
OEMs can satisfy both increasing emissions requirements and keeping up with new product innovations by focusing their attention on the areas of the equipment that impact the operator experience on a larger scale. For the operator using the equipment, perception of quality typically begins at the point of access, whether it’s an entry door or an access panel. If the hardware holding the door closed is difficult to operate or not ergonomic in function, this perception can reflect on the piece of equipment as a whole.
Integrating proven core hardware solutions allows OEMs to refresh components across new equipment designs, while offsetting costs associated with environmental compliance upgrades and new technology trends. Pre-engineered standardized components, for instance, offer minimal design impact to overall design costs. Designing in a standardized mechanism also allows OEMs to tool up one solution and use it across multiple platforms, significantly reducing the product validation process. Remote access solutions, for example, offer a simple solution for access to entry doors and panels across a piece of off-highway equipment.
Remote access solutions, like rotary latching systems, allow the designer to install latch points where they make the most ergonomic or aesthetic sense, but the latch itself can be located elsewhere within the equipment for optimal mechanical and security purposes. Rotary latches offer design flexibility in that they are available in virtually any modification to meet the needs of the application, and when combined with an actuator and cable, allow the designer to modify the connected actuator to offer better mechanical advantage and fit OEM styling.
Another area where OEMs can enhance the operator experience with standardized mechanisms is within the cab. The autonomous vehicle trend in the automotive industry is already a reality for off-highway OEMs, who are upgrading cab interiors to accommodate new operator preferences and enhance comfort. Operators using autonomous vehicles are spending more time observing the operation of equipment, using onboard systems and display screens. By incorporating display mounting solutions with factory-adjusted torque that can be dialed in to application and the preferences of the operator, OEMs can provide a more ergonomic viewing experience. The ability to position a screen according to the operator’s height or against sun glare can significantly improve the viewing area as well as the safety of the operator.
Regardless of environmental regulations, OEMs must continue to launch new products and make improvements to existing equipment models. By integrating proven core mechanisms, like rotary latching systems and display mounting solutions, OEMs can stay ahead of design trends and reduce design costs, while delivering consistent operation, updated styling and an enhanced operation experience that sets them ahead of the competition.
Bob Straka, Business Development Manager for Southco’s Transportation Strategic Business Unit, wrote this article for Off-Highway Engineering as part of the annual Executive Viewpoints series appearing in the June 2016 issue.