Making Your Skid Steer Work For You

Published on Mon, 07/26/2021 - 8:49am

 Making Your Skid Steer Work For You.

 By Maura Keller.

 Today’s skid steer and compact track loaders are so versatile because of the wide range of attachments that can be used with them, the products that ranchers and farmers are interested in almost have no limit.

As Kevin Coleman, SSL/CTL product application specialist at Caterpillar says the type of attachment to select really depends on the tasks that need to be completed on the farm or ranch.  

Many of the attachments that are regularly used include: augers, Smart Backhoe attachment, Smart Grader blade, Smart Dozer, bale spear, bale grab, silage defacer, brush cutter, mulching head, trencher, broom, snow attachments, hydraulically adjustable forks, side discharge bucket, grapple bucket, and multi-purpose (or clam or 4-in-1) bucket.

According to Diane Salzman, manager of sales, marketing and customer service at Berlon, the skid steer attachment technology is constantly changing.  

“The mini skid industry is rapidly growing and changing, there are so many different style machines for homeowners/hobby farmers, and all the attachments needed for those as well,” Salzman says. “The skid steer industry changes so fast as well, the machines are getting bigger, and the advancements made in the technology in the machines is constantly changing. We keep in touch with our dealer network to stay on top of all the changes being made so we can align our attachments with the machine’s changes.”

Berlon manufactures buckets and attachments for skid loaders, compact tractors, wheel loaders and mini skids, all of which are made in the USA. The company prides itself on partnering with dealers, online retailers, and the end-user to determine the best work-tool solution to get the job done, and back it up with customer service and support.

Berlon’s leading products would be pallet forks, which are offered in lifting capacities from 2500 pounds to 10,000 pounds, low profile dirt buckets, grapples and all attachments for the vastly growing mini skid industry.

Coleman at Caterpillar says that skid steer and compact track loaders along with their attachments have evolved to take versatility to the next level. All Cat D3 Series SSL and CTL models have as standard, Smart Technology which delivers a higher level of integration between the machine and the line of Cat Smart Attachments; the Smart Backhoe, the Smart Grader Blade with Assist, and the Smart Dozer Blade with Assist.

“This industry first advanced machine technology allows the machine and connected Smart Attachment to recognize each other and then and tailors the machine’s existing joystick controls and in-cab operator information to match the tool and the task,” Coleman says.

So how does this work? Coleman says the three things that embody the new Smart Technology and Smart Attachments are: attachment recognition, tailored controls, and special information/ control screens. 

• Smart Technology starts with ‘Plug & Play’ attachment recognition which means the machine understands when a Smart Attachment is connected. It also knows which of the available Smart Attachments is connected. With the press of button, the operator can enter the Attachment Control mode.

• Now in the Attachment Control mode, the machine’s existing in-cab joystick controls are changed from the normal drive/implement control functionality and are now tailored to meet the exact control needs for the Smart Attachment that has been attached. This allows the machine’s joystick controls to be tailored to now provide specific control actions for the recognized Smart Attachment.  No need for extra controls for the attachment or using multiple buttons and switches to control some of the complex hydro-mechanical tools.

• The Smart Technology also provides additional control and/or information to the operator via special display screen(s) on the in-cab Advanced Display monitor. With a simple press of the button again, the operator returns to Machine Control mode and the joysticks return to their original drive and implement functionality.

Minnesota-based Erskine Attachments is a long-standing manufacturer of skid steers and subsequent attachments. Originally, Erskine was founded in 1948 as a manufacturer of rotary and hydraulic snow blowers, but in September 1999, the Bobcat company purchased Erskine resulting in Erskine producing over 6,000 attachments a year. In 2002, Erskine continued to advance their attachment tool technologies and new products under new ownership.

Today, the Erskine team works hard to develop some of the most innovative and high-quality attachments for skid steer, mini skid steer, compact tractor and ATV/UTV equipment. From dump boxes to grapples to land levelers, Erskine’s skid steer attachment product lineup is expansive.

But it doesn’t end there. For mini skid steers, Erskine boasts innovative attachments that run the gamut from tree removal to trenches to backhoes.

To help consumers select the best attachments for their needs, Erskine features a wealth of knowledgeable product specialists to help identify the ideal attachments that meets consumers’ needs and budget.

Finding What Works
When it comes to skid steer attachments, Salzman says most consumers are looking for that durable, well built, made in the USA product. And they will sacrifice price over high construction. 

“The majority of our customer base uses their equipment daily and they work it hard,” Salzman says. “They do not want breakdowns and repairs, so reliability is of high importance to them.  They are drawn to the latest and greatest in terms of technology and expect good quality materials for the price.”

When selecting the best attachments for skid steers, Salzman advises producers to make sure they are getting the right product for their application. The Berlon team takes the time to ask the right questions and make sure the consumer will be happy with their purchase.  

“Machine size, application and future uses are very important in making the decisions on what product to buy,” Salzman says. “Customer service, follow up and knowledge are very important to our customers.”

One key mistake to avoid making is purchasing a bucket or attachment that is either too small or too big for their machine or not the right attachment for their application.

“Helping to educate the customer on attachments is the biggest part of our job, to ensure customer satisfaction,” Salzman says.

Indeed, Tharen Peterson, attachments product specialist at Caterpillar, says that much like the machine side of things, producers are looking for partners. At least they should be.

“When we say partner, we mean support, reliability, and an overall understanding of the producer’s business,” Peterson says. “Producers expect their investment in equipment, including attachments, to last. Cat attachments are performance matched to our machines. That means Cat builds our attachments to last as well as perform to the full capabilities of the machine.”
And remember, the best attachment is one that helps get the job done faster, easier, better, and/or safer.  

In addition, Coleman says that when considering an attachment, quality and compatibility should be considered.

“Lots of attachment manufacturers exists, but the steel and components used to manufacture them may not be what you expect in terms of reliability and longevity. In addition, most hydro-mechanical attachments have certain flow and pressure range requirements so understanding the host machine’s auxiliary flow and pressure capability should be a focus,” Coleman says.

Looking Ahead
Technological advancements continue to enhance the skid steer attachment segment of the industry. As Coleman explains, today’s machines provide an architecture to allow the machine to have adjustments that can be made to tailor the machine drive and implement response to the operator’s task, attachment, or experience level.

“It also provides the capability for features such as Speed Sensitive Ride Control, Creeper mode, Dual Self Leveling, Work Tool Positioner and Return-to-Dig features,” Coleman says. In addition, Electronic Dual Self-Leveling system electronically and automatically levels the loader linkage when raising and lowering the lift arms. The system ensures optimum material retention and control whether truck loading material or handling palletized products.

The Return-to-Dig feature that Caterpillar offers allows the operator to fully lower the loader arms and return the attachment (bucket or other attachments) to a pre-selected angle with the touch of a button. This allows operator to focus on other aspects of the work cycle instead of managing the loader functions, resulting in peak productivity, especially in truck loading and material handling applications.

The Work Tool Positioner feature allows the operator to select and set the desired working angle (tilt position) of any attachment. The attachment can then be returned to the pre-selected angle with the touch of a button providing better control and finish quality in applications where a repetitive attachment angle is desired for maximum productivity and consistency (i.e....fork operation, trenching, brooming,  bucket back drag angle, etc.).

“Load retention is an important consideration in any kind of application, especially during operations that require travel while carrying material,” Coleman says. “The Speed Sensitive Ride Control system helps provide a smooth ride while maximizing load retention. With the on-board electronics monitoring the travel speed, the Speed Sensitive Ride Control system automatically engages when the machine reaches its activation speed.”

This provides optimal ride performance and material retention during material transport when working at higher operating speeds, even in rough terrain. The system then disengages at travel speeds below activation speed to provide maximum digging and load placement performance. “The operator can ‘work smarter, not harder’ by allowing him to focus on the job at hand,” Coleman says, “without thinking about when to engage/disengage the system.”