At the beginning of July in 2022, the heavy-duty transport drove up to Weickenhof with the almost one hundred tonne basic machine and its bucket with a capacity of almost 16 m³. The mast and cabin were then installed on site with the help of a crane. After calibration and instruction, driver Berthold Weidner could start loading the raw material loosened by drilling and blasting onto dump trucks such as a Cat 775D. In order to continuously load Skw with it, the company adapted the loading bucket precisely to the limestone, its bulk density and grain shape. “The result is greater efficiency,” says managing director Werner Steinbrecher. In other respects, too, the machine size is geared to the company’s operations and the intake of the raw material by a stationary crusher. The new machine technology is credited with up to 32 % higher productivity and up to 48 % more tonnes per litre of fuel – values that stand up to comparison with its predecessor, a Cat 992K.
Berthold Weidner also operated this until he got a new job with the Cat 992. “It feels like it should consume ten litres less fuel per hour. I reckon with an average of just under 50 l/h,” says the machine operator, assessing the progress compared to before. “The 992 has the lowest cost per tonne of material moved when combined with Cat 775 dump trucks. At the same time, it is the most fuel-efficient wheel loader in its class,” claims Simon Husemann, senior product manager for large equipment at Zeppelin. More concrete details can only follow at a later date. “We will only know more precisely after 6000 operating hours,” says managing director Herbert Bärnreuther.
Machines like the 992 are intended for a service life of 15 000 to 20 000 hours in the company. The robust design is geared to this: improvements to the drive train, transmission, axles and final drive, together with the new Cat engine based on EU Stage V, extend the service life of many components. The automatic, factory-fitted central lubrication system features robust guards in the mast and reduces pin and bushing wear. Improved filtration of the hydraulic system and pump control for the hydraulic pump reduce machine downtime. A new frame design, aimed at a further machine life, accommodates a possible general overhaul at a later date, as the ballast works are aiming for and are currently having carried out for the Cat 992K (see info box). The front tyres of the new wheel loader have been fitted with chains. This is to protect them from cutting edges when the tyres drive over edged stones. The rear tyres run without chains. This should help to use less fuel.
The reversing camera has been upgraded with a 270-degree view and object detection. “The side camera allows the driver to see how close he can position himself to the transport equipment because he can better avoid stones on the ground,” says Simon Husemann. Two ten-inch LED colour monitors and an eight-inch monitor display machine information and operating settings in addition to images from the cameras. The newly designed cab offers a good view of the working environment due to a larger windscreen with more glass area. Added to this is a wraparound platform at the front of the cab to safely clean the windows. With the new joysticks, the operator works electrohydraulically and speed-dependently with power feedback. “Normally I move a machine for about ten years. You know exactly how it reacts to the smallest changes in driving behaviour,” says Berthold Weidner. He still has to get used to the innovations. For example, Z-kinematics are used again in the new series. “The new lifting frame has improved because you can tip the full bucket into the trough better,” are the machine operator’s initial findings. Increased breakout forces ensure more throughput and more efficiency. More rim pull makes for speed when filling the bucket.
Berthold Weidner, who has now been moving construction machinery of this size for 34 years, has a long track record. Because not all machine operators have so much routine in handling heavy iron, they can receive optional support from assistance systems such as operator coaching. It helps the driver to apply the correct working techniques. The system uses short video clips to show how, among other things, to shorten the travel distance correctly, set correct bucket angles, reduce the dump height and use the lift limit switch setting. Berthold Weidner knows all about this – he doesn’t need this assistance. Because the new 992 is already his third loader from Cat.
Into the workshop for a fitness cure
The predecessor of the new Cat 992 has reached almost 17 000 operating hours. But it has not yet been sent into retirement, just because new technology in raw material extraction has been introduced at the Bärnreuther + Deuerlein ballast works. Instead, the Cat 992K wheel loader was given a fitness cure in the form of a power train and hydraulic rebuild. It has to undergo this in the workshop of Zeppelin’s Erlangen branch, which has already carried out 27 such overhauls. The engine, transmission and hydraulic pumps are put on the test bench and overhauled just like the torque converter, side drives and axles. This includes more than 200 tests and inspections as well as the renewal of an average of 4000 parts. Furthermore, it was agreed to additionally replace bolts and bushings. If customers have special requirements, as in this case, they can also be responded to during a rebuild. And so the complete driver’s cabin is also being refurbished with a new seat and joysticks as well as new fittings and switches. Additional LED lights are installed and the machine is spruced up with new stickers. The task of workshop foreman Stefan Schneider and his team is to put the loader in mint condition so that it can then master its loading tasks for the next few years 75 km away from its first place of use in the raw materials company’s further Gräfenberg quarry.
By the time the Cat 992K is assembled for the ballast works, all the important technical innovations concerning the power train have been incorporated, which have in the meantime found their way into series production. Afterwards, the customer gets the full warranty on the power train and the hydraulics. “Thanks to the gentle handling by the driver, the service life can be extended even further. At present, this makes sense especially for an existing machine that has proven itself and is in good condition, for customers who are considering how they can bridge delivery times. In addition, a rebuild is also a cost-effective alternative to a new purchase. That’s why we will be rebuilding another Cat wheel loader in Erlangen in the course of the year,” reports Max Wunder, the service advisor responsible there, who, together with service manager Stefan Trummer, assessed the condition of the Cat 992K and prepared a corresponding offer based on this.
“Today more than ever, companies have to weigh up which solution is the most economical under the current circumstances and align their investments accordingly in order to save on operating costs,” explains Oliver Brockschmidt, Zeppelin branch manager from Erlangen. This led Schotterwerke Bärnreuther + Deuerlein to order an additional new Cat 982 XE and three new Cat 988K XE wheel loaders from Ralph Harbauer, senior sales representative at Zeppelin. In the future, they will then also help to efficiently manage the extraction of raw materials.