Deep in the Plains of southern Kansas, among the oil rigs and wind turbines, there thrives a new contender in the quarry. And though smaller than the loader it replaced, Cornejo & Sons of Wichita, Kan., is quickly learning that the 944K Hybrid Wheel Loader shouldn’t be underestimated.
The 944K features an engine that’s coupled with a hybrid-electric drive. When the operator lets off the accelerator to slow the loader, the hybrid-electric drive recaptures energy. This lessens the load on the engine and further reduces fuel consumption.
The Durbin Quarry of Moline, Kan., is much like any other quarry — production is demanded and downtime isn’t an option. Helping ensure the team reaches its ambitious goals is Adam Ware, Site Manager for Cornejo & Sons. “We’re about a one-million-ton-per-year quarry, with production capacity of 800 tons per hour.”
HYBRID MACHINE MEETS EXPECTATIONS
“I first saw the 944K back in 2011 at CONEXPO-CON/AGG? in Las Vegas,” explains Jeff Bremer, MBA, Area Equipment Manager for Cornejo & Sons. “We were all intrigued with the technology, so even though it was a new size for Deere, we kept it in our minds.” After a demo machine lived up to expectations, Bremer added a model to the fleet full time. “We brought a prototype machine in last summer, and it’s been a good unit. We’ve had minimal downtime, and most any maintenance has been scheduled.”
Since adding the 944K to its fleet, Cornejo & Sons has experienced a steady return on its investment. “The 944K meets our production requirements as well as our previous piece of equipment, and at a lower cost,” says Ware. “The other machine burned about 24 gallons of fuel an hour, where the 944K burns around nine.”
Thanks to its EPA Interim Tier 4 (IT4)/EU Stage IIIB PowerTech? engine and hybrid-electric drive, the machine is more fuel efficient when compared to conventional drives. Brushless A/C generators and motors, water-cooled resistors, and solid-state powered electronics deliver reliable, long-term performance. Additionally, reduced engine-speed range extends wear life compared to conventional drives.
TIRE-SAVING TRACTION CONTROL
Additional cost savings comes from reduced tire wear. The 944K’s standard traction control automatically limits torque to any wheel when slippage occurs. And, four-setting rimpull control enables operators to easily optimize traction when crowding against a load.
“Any time you slip a wheel, it’s going to cost you — tires are expensive these days,” says Mark Beitz, Cornejo & Son’s primary 944K operator. “It doesn’t seem to have much wheel slip at all, if any. I’ve had it in some situations where it was quite muddy, and I thought it did real well.”
Fuel-saving Hybrid Technology
The 944K Wheel Loader features an engine that’s coupled with a hybrid-electric drive. When you let off the accelerator to slow the loader, the hybrid-electric drive recaptures energy. This lessens engine load and reduces fuel consumption.
Fuel-saving Hybrid Technology
Beitz was initially unsure if the 944K would be up to the task. “I figured it wouldn’t be able to dig in this environment as well. But the power on it has pretty much impressed me. It just goes in and digs. You don’t have to worry about getting a full bucket. It’s quick and agile, too — it does great.”
Power isn’t this machine’s only strong point. The 944K’s flow-sharing hydraulic system boasts fast cycle and boom-raise times. Each boom and bucket function has its own hydraulic pump that increases operator efficiency. “As far as the hydraulics, they’re probably quicker than any that I’ve run,” says Beitz. “The quicker you can get that bucket in the air, the faster you can go to the truck, and that’ll increase your cycle times.”
Bremer knows that, for many, embracing new heavy equipment and technology is easier said than done. But the guarantee of 24/7 backing from the John Deere factory and dealer support networks quickly puts to rest whatever fears he had.
“As a company, we like to be on the forefront of technology whenever it fits our applications — there’s just intrinsic value in new technologies,” Bremer explains. “One of the biggest reasons we decided to go with the 944K is because of our relationship with Deere from a corporate standpoint, as well as with our local dealer, Murphy Tractor. That confidence allowed us to step off into the new size and the new technology.”