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post #61 of 114 (permalink) Old 02-18-2010, 08:21 AM
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Re: The push button Combine [ & Tractor ]

Excellent post ROM.

However, there is two sides to the story, which I'm sure you are aware.

The other side is the buyers or operators of the machines that are asked for their input. There have been many threads over the years on several forum boards about cab design and layout. If you read those threads, you'll see just how disconnected the buyer/operator is with "human engineering" factors. The demand is for larger cabs so the family and pets can ride. The demand is for less operator input and more "auto..." functions so the operator does not have to break concentration from the cell phone or gameboy. Essentially the demand is to make the cab the only access point on the machine for the human. IE: if the manufacturers were make the fuel inlet right next to the cab ladder, it would suit most just fine. The demand is to eliminate as much human involvment as possible with the maintainence and function of the machines today.

Fuel and go. The skills needed to physically monitor the machine, even to maintain it, are disappearing fast. Seldom today will you find an owner of a new/newer machine that knows, or even wants to know/learn the important check points for a morning maintainence routine. Fuel and go.

The buyers today want smoother riding stations to facilitate laptop work. They want perfect climate control and a completely dust and dirt free environment.

The manufacturers no longer ask owners of 3 year old machines what they would like to see to get them into a new machine. They stick to the buyers of the brand new machines and ask them what their wants and desires are to keep them in their brand. The emphasis is no longer on machine evolution and function, but has moved toward human comfort and removal of human influence.

People no longer want to monitor/maintain or even operate the machine. They want the "automatic" functions to take over more and more. If something goes wrong, the machine is to shut down now all by itself. Downloadable codes and history are what is desired, not human knowledge and diagnosis abilities.

For the most part, manufacturers are building the machines that their chosen group of survey takers have demanded.

That's also why I am still running an old 1987 cih 1680.
That's my opinion fwliaw.

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post #62 of 114 (permalink) Old 02-19-2010, 11:54 PM Thread Starter
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Re: The push button Combine [ & Tractor ]

You have some interesting thinking there on the hidden psychology that drives the various manufacturer's marketing strategies, Doorknob, which I admit that I hadn't really given any thought to.
The big wheels at the top of these combine / tractor manufacturing companies are after all supposedly human and subject to all the various quirks of the mind that each and every one of us more common and uncultured proles supposedly suffer from and they are just as likely to fall victim to and believe their own propaganda as their supposedly more naive customers.

And that over a long period will mean that the heads of a major manufacturer will eventually lose the plot and that ultimately means "finis" for that company.

[ I have often observed that a lot of very senior executives, politicians or society leaders are no smarter nor more competent or skilled than many other people I know.
They have developed a corporate cunning essential to their survival in the corporate jungle and just try to act that way!
The difference between a lot of senior executives and other lower ranking individuals is that at certain critical points in their lives they were in just the right spot or made a particular decision that placed them where they were elevated above their peers whether they actually were the best choice or not.
In other words, luck and not necessarily intelligence or competence has played an inordinate role in the lives of most senior and not so senior executives and leaders of our society in elevating them to those high positions. ]

The "average" lifetime of major companies and corporations of all types in the USA is forty years.
The company founder[s] create and build the company and pass on, the second generation of committed executives further build the company up and the third generation p**s it all up against the wall due to incompetence and / or hubris.

Or my mother's oftimes quoted old german saying ; "Clogs to clogs in three generations".

Try counting up the ag machinery manufacturers [ and very significant corporations of all types ] who rose to great heights and then quietly disappeared over the last half century and you might fill a page or two or more.

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post #63 of 114 (permalink) Old 02-24-2010, 06:56 AM Thread Starter
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Re: The push button Combine [ & Tractor ]

Part story and part practical so your choice if you want to read this!

The evenings and nights were quiet and pleasant after the long hot summer days as the two of us sat on the grass alongside of the Swedish gliding team's caravan at the 1973 world gliding competitions at Waikerie in the state of South Australia.
Pentii, the Swedish Team Manager told me a little of his life story.
He was a Finn by birth but when Stalin's USSR invaded the independent Finland in the Winter War of November 1939, Pentii's parents took their small son to the border right up at the top of the Gulf of Bothnia and passed him over to their Swedish cousins to bring him up as a Swedish citizen.

[ Long after I found out that Pentii was also a Colonel in the Swedish army reserve and he was also the head of the entire very large Volvo European truck operations and maintenance division. ]

With extraordinary courage and skill the small Finnish nation of just a couple of million people defeated and destroyed Stalin's massive soviet invasion force.
The Germans then tried to use the reluctant Finns to open another front against the Russians and to envelope and over run Leningrad.
The Finns refused and Germans failed to overrun Leningrad.
The result was the longest at 872 days and most deadly siege in history with over 4.5 million [ known ] dead in the siege and battles surrounding Leningrad.
Finland signed a firm peace treaty with Stalin in late 1944 but the cost of preventing Russian domination was very high.
Finland lost over 10% of her territory and over 30% of her industrial capacity as the Russians took over Vipurii, the main Finnish industrial centre.
As Pentii told me on those warm summer nights long ago, a part of the reparations the Finns had to pay to the Russians was to build and provide the hundreds of thousands of rail cars to rebuild the rolling stock on the decrepit and nearly totally destroyed and worn out Russian rail system and they had to do it in about 5 years.
Now this was from a country with only a couple of million population and no steel or heavy manufacturing industry, their major industrial complex now in Russian hands and an economy crippled by a long disastrous and costly war.
Failure meant a Russian invasion and communist rule over all of the Finnish people.

So why am I quoting this bit of history?

Well the Finns won in the end!

As Pentii proudly told me, on the last day in the last hour the last rail wagon rolled onto the Russian rail network and Stalin stood his invasion armies down.
His excuse for the invasion of Finland was gone and the Americans had atomic armed B36 Super Fortress bombers patrolling along the Russian borders.
Not a good time to start another war.
And then the Russians found out just what sort of bargain they had got.
Nothing on those rail wagons was Russian standard.
The wheel bearings, bearing housings and axles were odd sizes,
The doors were non standard.
The door pivots were an odd size and configuration and so it went on right through all those hundreds of thousands of Finnish built rail wagons and the only place the Russians could get spares from, were the Finns!
The Russians paid and paid and paid for those rail wagon spares over the many years following and the Finns made a nice tidy profit that paid for those rail wagons and the rebuilding of their industrial base.

The Russians learnt from this and when Mao Tse Tung had to have some tens of thousands of trucks after the communist victory in China the Russians supplied their fraternal chinese brothers with the trucks at a good price per truck.
Then the Chinese found that every bolt, nut and screw in those trucks was a left hand thread!
And who was the only supplier of expensive left handed spares, the Russians of course!

So what has all this to do with Push Button Combines?

Take a look around you and probably nearly every single item you can see, feel, hear, touch, eat, drink and use will have a set of standards or a number of sets of standards that carefully details how those items are made, the materials and quality standards that must be met to sell those items and so on.

Standards, the criteria that any and everything we use in our modern society must or should meet are fundamental to our society continuing to operate.
Without formal standards that create the interchangeability of bolts and nuts and steel and wood and paint and trust that we place in something that meets a standard and the knowledge that we can trust a building, a bridge or an airliner or food because it is made or built to a standard using materials that are made to meet a standard and financed using money and financial instruments that must meet strict standards then without all those myriad of standards influencing and controlling every aspects of our everyday lives, our modern civilisation collapses.

Samuel Colt was about the first industrialist to standardise using standard, interchangeable parts on his revolvers so the parts could be made in batches and were then all interchangeable.
So the production of Colt revolvers jumped dramatically and the costs were reduced.

The British when their great rail expansion began, very quickly learn't that unless you could run your trains on other's lines and vice versa, then you were out of business very quickly so the British standard gauge of 4ft 8 1/2 inches was agreed on and the British and British colonial rail systems were then built and expanded at a phenomenal rate.

The problems that are created when something does not meet a standard are illustrated by the Russian / Finnish and Chinese experiences only in this rare case the Finns pulled a very fast one to their great advantage by not sticking to the Russian standards for their rail system as did the Russians later with the trucks supplied to the Chinese.

Combines and tractors have innumerable standards to meet such as PTO sizes, tyres, bearings, shafts, steel qualities, non toxic paint standards, sheet steel quality standards, electrical wiring and voltage and switch standards, belts, pulleys, chains, sprockets, uni joints, splines and so on.
They all have specifications and standards that must be met usually by law and that is society's protection from bad, dangerous and shoddy products and workmanship and the guarantee of intechangeability of so many items we use in our modern society.

Consumer electronics and electronics of all types, telecommunications, radio, TV, computer boards and racks, IC's pins , capacitors, transistors, plugs, wiring and etc and etc all have standards and tight specifications that must be met for our electronics to operate but standards which in some electronic sectors are constantly and rapidly changing as the electronics industry constantly continues to evolve.

There are numerous and evolving standards for data communication and transfer in the electronics / computer industry and one of the basic Ag data transmission standards is the german based ISOBUS system.
More info here on the Ag oriented International Standards Organisation's ; ISOBUS ; http://www.isobus.com/isobus_E/

And for a listing of the ISOBUS goals

ISOBUS standardizes hardware (plugs and cables) and software (the kind of data exchange) under system aspects.
ISOBUS generates universal tractors and terminals.
ISOBUS allows machinery and implements to be used, combined, and coordinated beyond the level of individual manufacturers such that optimal function is guaranteed.
ISOBUS automates machinery- and implement settings for different operations and thus combines the tractor, the mounted implements, and the terminal into a system with the qualities of a self-propelled machine.
ISOBUS extends the possibilities of precision farming through 'more intelligent' functions and GPS data integration.
ISOBUS standardizes order processing by agricultural service providers.
ISOBUS simplifies and standardizes operator prompting on the terminal for all jobs.
ISOBUS ergonomically combines the operation of all mounted implements.
ISOBUS also supports the control of the lighting systems and allows an additional plug to be dispensed with.
ISOBUS makes double information collection and -storage unnecessary.
Thanks to ISOBUS, farmers must support only one system in production.
Thanks to ISOBUS, implement manufacturers are compatible with all tractors.

You will notice that this is a data transfer standards system only and not a computer hardware system standard so we are still stuck with a whole variety of ever changing computer boards, and hardware and software configurations and programming languages both within manufacturer's product ranges and across manufacturers.

The situation we have with the current electronics in combines and tractors is not that different from the situation the Russians found themselves in with their only supplier being the Finns and the required article was not a "standard" product and there were no other options for the Russians to acquire alternative replacements.

We can only get those short production run boards from the one supplier, the combine or tractor manufacturer who consequently can set his own price if the farmer / operator wants to keep his nice high capacity combine operating or as we say in Australia, they "have us by the short and curlies" and that is something nobody gets particularly enamoured with.

As I have posted previously, we need a large capacity mother board or boards with a very large redundant capacity, ie; lots of spare computing and data storage capacity that is hardened against vibration and shock and well protected from dirt, moisture, extraneous electrical pulses and spikes and that is completely standardised so that it can be purchased from a number of sources and uses a standardised down load capability using a DVD or BluRay fully encrypted disc or a card or cube from the manufacturer to down load the necessary combine operating program onto the standardised board if it blows up or causes trouble and has to be replaced by purchasing another replacement board at the local machinery agency for no more than a couple of hundred dollars.

And that is no more than the expectation that the PTO will be a certain size and turn the right way or the machine will use a common type of fuel or the tyres can be brought down at the local tyre joint.
It only needs the manufacturers to get their heads out of the sand, get together and come up with a standard that gives all these necessary criteria for such a universal electronic computer control system to be implemented across all combine and tractor manufacturers.

Without such a universal system, so many of the new electronically controlled combines and tractors will be just so much junk in another decade or two and that has the capabilities of bankrupting some manufacturers as the farmers stop buying their products just because nobody can afford to pay for such a short life span due to electronic failures that lead to no available replacement boards or just too expensive replacements to justify keeping the machine operating.

But then, manufacturers have never been particularly smart at forecasting just what the farming community will do next mostly because they think they always know from their "surveys" a lot more than the farmer.

In some circles it's called hubris or arrogance and it has broken a lot of big companies
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post #64 of 114 (permalink) Old 02-24-2010, 08:42 AM
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Re: The push button Combine [ & Tractor ]

Another excellent post ROM, thanks.

Personally, after having lunch last sunday with an aftermarket combine parts manufacture, I cant see interchangability and reliability being the focus of the big3 anytime soon.

As you mentioned several times, it is a common theme that shows itself over and over about arrogance and complacency at the top. It is getting worse, not better.

At lunch, we talked a bit about using the modern combine that is designed from the ground up to shell corn and nothing else, to harvest grass and other small seeds. Of course the conversation lead to specialized machinery that has a focused design and purpose build. For some time many years ago, it was better economics to reduce purpose built machinery ownership and lean toward a common machine that can do multiple operations within a reasonable tolerance. The economics today, with the pricetag of these new combines, make it neccissary to take a relook at the purpose build machinery.

You can only change out so much stuff on a half million dollar machine, especially with "proprietary" electronics and parts integration. Perhaps a relook at the modular designs of old is in order?

To be continued.
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post #65 of 114 (permalink) Old 03-01-2010, 08:45 AM
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Re: The push button Combine [ & Tractor ]

Thank you again, ROM, for the time and effort on posting all of this. I really enjoyed the military history references, too.





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post #66 of 114 (permalink) Old 03-01-2010, 09:04 AM
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Re: The push button Combine [ & Tractor ]

Just like what my dad always said when some salesman was trying to sell us a line when we had cows: "they forgot to tell the cow".
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post #67 of 114 (permalink) Old 03-01-2010, 12:11 PM Thread Starter
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Re: The push button Combine [ & Tractor ]

When I started this thread I had no idea that it would exceed 2600 views.
As much as anything it was to sort out my own views on the future of combine and tractor technology by formally writing my ideas down in a public forum, always a very good way to discipline one's thinking.

I think the number of views really indicates that a lot of farmers and operators are both curious and questioning as to where the manufacturers are taking farm machine technology when it comes to a couple of the most expensive and critical pieces of mobile farm equipment, ie; tractors and combines, that most of us will ever own.

My thanks to the other contributors to this thread and to all those who have dropped in to take a look even if they only bounced in and left again but in particular my thanks to those who stayed and took the time to read through my monographs.
I hope some of the material has been of interest and given you food for thought.

And "doorknob", I think you are prescient or a mind reader as sometime soon I am going to let the old mind roam a bit and post on my ideas on the modulisation of combines.
Modular design was already a reality some 40 years ago with the advent of the Steiger and Versatile tractors but never done with the combines and we did that same modulisation on the specialised medic seed harvester that we built back in the 1980's and which I touched on in the Two Rotors thread.

Back on topic and further to my previous post on standardising the computer hardware boards.

A day or so ago I got onto this subject with an old friend now retired who worked for us when he was a budding agricultural researcher and who then went onto barley breeding at our large locally based grain and oilseed research institute which employs some 200 staff.
Selwyn before he retired, eventually finished up as the network supervisor for the Institute's entire extensive computer network so has a very good background experience and knowledge of all the foibles, problems and solutions involved with computer and computer network operation plus a lot of hard practical experience with the actual operation of farm machinery plus some consultancy work in a number of international plant breeding organisations.

He was scathing about the way that the combine and tractor manufacturers are going about computerising their products with very small production runs of specialised computer hardware and boards.
And somewhat to my surprise, like my own thoughts, he also stressed that the manufacturers should be developing a single large capability, multiple use board that can be brought off the company's parts shelf [ preferably common across companies like most belts and etc] for a couple of hundred dollars and which would then be loaded with the appropriate program via a disc or which ever download system is currently being used for the purpose to run the machine the board is installed in.
Even if that was achieved it still leaves the question of the standardisation of the critical to operation sensors and the even more doubtful part of the computerisation of combines and tractors, finding a standard type and configuration for data transmission of some type around the machine, be it radio or wire, from the sensors to the computer and then to the various operating modules.

Another interesting and constant refrain is how we can or must become more "efficient"!
It is an almost universal quote in all sorts of farmer oriented publications and used extensively by machinery manufacturers in their propaganda to try and sell their newest, latest and most "efficient" machines.

Now just what is meant by being more "efficient"?

This question has puzzled me for most of my past farming life and seeing I am well past my alloted three score and ten years, that for some of the younger types puts me back somewhere around the time of the demise of the dinosaurs.

Is it "efficiency" as in less time used whether machine or manhours for the job, less fuel per acre or was that less fuel per hour or was it most tonnes off or most acres covered per time or alternatively, per litre or was it related to dollar spent or earned and etc and etc.???
Or is it more production per man or per manhour, two different things in real life?
Efficiency is in the eye of the beholder and unless what that claimed better efficiency is exactly related too and spelt out, any claims about "greater efficiency" are just so much hot air and useless propaganda.

Can there be such a thing as being too "efficient??

Well strangely enough, Yes!

Another good friend of mine who has I think about 4 PhD's to his credit, was a member of the board of CYMMT, the world centre for maize and grain breeding in Mexico and at one time was in the running to head the CYMMT board.
I sat with him until a few days ago on a Blue Sky advisory committee for the largest farmer run grains research group in Australia, the Birchip Cropping Group in western Victoria.
As well Tony runs his own grain farm with only casual help a few kilometres from our place and that consists of a few thousand acres and he is constantly on the move around the world attending number of very high powered ag research groups and committees.
Tony recently gave a very good presentation to the BCG main advisory committee on how we can become just too "efficient".

Becoming too "efficient" means that the maximum of use is being extracted from something and that leaves no flexibility or slack in the system or the machine to handle situations where something does not go according to plan or some small item causes a minor disruption to the system or operations.
In that sort of situation there is no slack left in that system to allow the system to continue to operate albeit at a possibly reduced rate.
Instead the system just crashes totally.

The example of a too efficient system used by Tony was the 1998 Longford Gas explosion at the gas processing plant at Longford in eastern Victoria.

The state of Victoria in south eastern Australia in late 1998 relied entirely on just one highly automated and very efficient gas processing plant to process Victoria's entire gas needs from the off shore gas fields in the rugged waters of Bass Strait.
This plant was at an automated and efficiency level where it needed only a couple of persons per shift to operate it.
In September 25th 1998 around midday, the plant blew up killing two staff and seriously injuring another eight persons.
The senior staff of the gas company in Melbourne some three hundred kilometres away did not have a clue as to what to do next or any idea on how the plant actually ran as it was so automated and so efficient and so far away from the flesh pots of the city with just the one plant supplying the entire state that the executives of the large gas company did not bother their tiny brains about it.
The result was 1.3 million households without gas for heating, cooking and hot water for over two weeks.
89,000 businesses basically at a standstill and 150, 000 workers stood down or looking for other employment.
The total cost and losses overall were estimated at $ 13 billion AUD in 1998.

When Longford blew up the whole gas processing system was at it's maximum level of efficiency with no other alternative supply systems anywhere around and no other alternative gas sources.
It used only a miniscule number of essential staff to monitor and run the entire plant.
It was extraordinarily efficient and a real dollar earner for the company but there was no give, no flexibility, no alternative gas supplier in the system to allow for the unexpected when Longford for some reason could not supply all the gas required.

Translate that Longford scenario to some very efficient farms and farmers.
A one man show with big equipment, lots of acres to cover, very well organised and everything carefully calculated out with a tight time table due to both size as in acres to cover, crop type, logistics and weather and land limitations.

Efficient, Yes!
At risk? Yes, at a very high risk for when something goes wrong, ie; the operator gets sick for a few days, as often there is no slack in that system to allow for the possible delay to operations.
Or the purchase or the acquisition of more acres where the combine's operations will be stretched to the limit to cover the acres in the time allowed by weather and seasons.
Getting more production out of the one machine so more efficient by the propagandist's theories.
A breakdown or a weather hold up and time lost which due to the tightness of the time constraints and the maximising of the combine's output leaves no room for possible delays in the operations and no alternate like another combine is available to continue operations and take up any slack.
Again very "efficient " as in most results for the least cost but fraught with all sorts of potential problems.

So when a machinery salesman tries to sell you a newer and more "efficient" machine, make him spell out exactly what he means when he says it is more "efficient" and don't be afraid to call his bluff.

The more you push the efficiency to the limit in some field, the more you are in all probability running closer to the knife edge.
We must aim for a high level of efficiency in farm operations and in our machinery useage and our farm results but it must be tempered with the knowledge that we must always have the ability to fall back a little and still continue without the trauma of having a complete collapse of the system when even a minor thing goes wrong.

Here ends today's epistle!
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post #68 of 114 (permalink) Old 03-02-2010, 09:56 PM
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Re: The push button Combine [ & Tractor ]

Looking forward to discussion about modular machinery.

In a basic sense, that is what we have with the tractors pulling/pushing/powering an implement. One power unit can power/propell a multitude of implements to fit the job at hand in the location needed, and the conditions present. This also applies to the trucking/transportation system as well. One truck can pull flats, vans, tanks, hoppers,.....etc.

Looking forward with anticipation.
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post #69 of 114 (permalink) Old 03-03-2010, 07:47 PM
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Re: The push button Combine [ & Tractor ]

good posts... however what still bothers me... is the fact that there are no more light switches.. they are run by computures.. the same with pto switches.... also with these new combines.. wires can be chewd and destroyed quite easily... it makes me nervous.. and an example.. a local custom harvester in our area just bought a 9650... it has the auto adjusting seive... now unless im mistaken.. what is he to do when hes harvesting.. and it dont adjust.... and if he cant do it buy hand and must wait thats not helping productivity is it?. also i know with varying feild conditions it would make it much easier on the operator but shouldnt one get out of the combine to check on the job its doing with his own eyes from time to time? how does the newer generation learn to do those things if there fathers never do? its kind of like everyone used to know how to drive a manual.. and change there oil but now not so much.... i would hate to see farming go this way, and as far as my L2 the way it is i love it. a better radio, and a way to adjust the cylinder "in smaller incremints" from the cab like half an inch.. but not tottally it is still important to get outside and get dirty with your combine, poeople who dont do that in my opinon are not farmers, i have no real complaints other then that.. maybe a better seat? o and these auto lube systems... uhh how can you ever look your combine over if you just hit the button? me and you in this generation might do it.. but what about 10 years from now when sales man shows jr how to just hit the button and go? .... please dont be harsh on me cuz im halting progress but... doing things the simple way.. not always the wrong way.... lets leave the high tech stuff to the astronauts
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post #70 of 114 (permalink) Old 03-03-2010, 09:58 PM
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Re: The push button Combine [ & Tractor ]

Quote:a local custom harvester in our area just bought a 9650... it has the auto adjusting seive... now unless im mistaken.. what is he to do when hes harvesting.. and it dont adjust....

I am pretty sure you couldn't get that on a 50, but anyway it doesn't matter. I have it on a 60 and you can manually adjust the sieves should the electric motor fail. Haven't had that issue yet, the biggest problem I've had is the numbers in the cab might not correspond to what they actually are. Not hard to work around, nothing beats the tried old theory of sticking your fingers in the sieves to see how far open they are. But as far as changing them on the go in changing conditions, it is an unbeatable design that I would not like to be without.

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