Case-New Holland tried out their 6-string baler prototype on wheat straw for several weeks in August and September in the Coulee City area.
Tony Diederich, the CNH Field Test Analyst, said the new baler is built on a frame similar to the old 5-string baler, but the twine box capacity and the bale chamber have both been redesigned to accommodate 6 strings and the electronics have been refined. Pointing out the imaginary dividing lines on a nearby straw bale, Diederich describes how the even number of strings makes the bale much easier to control during sheering and compression for export.
CNH expects the new baler to reach market sometime next year under both New Holland and Case brand names. The new 6-string BB960A will replace New Holland’s 5-string BB960 model and compete directly with AgCo’s Hesston brand for the first time. The Case’s LBX432, will begin to replace the baler line lost after Case-IH and New Holland merged in November 1999.
At that time, the Justice Department estimated New Holland’s big baler market share at about 16 percent and Case-IH’s share at about 31 percent. To satisfy the Justice Department’s antitrust concerns Case sold its half interest in Hay and Forage Industries, which now manufactures big balers solely for AgCo’s Hesston brand. CNH has since lost market share after some farmers switched brands fearing discontinuation of duplicate products.
Diedrich rotates with several field test analysts between the field and home in Pennsylvania as the service truck and prototypes are trucked around to various test locations. “It is my job to be the eyes and ears and hands of the engineer who cannot be here.” He collects data and sends it back to the engineers and decision makers. They then send back their instructions and Diederich makes the adjustment or puts on the experimental parts. At home he runs tests in the lab and is debriefed in conversations with the engineers in addition to the data sent back.
Watching test driver Robert Coates at work, Diederich described the process. Occasionally a part may not meet goals or it might be too expensive or apparently similar parts will have widely different longevity and cost. He noted this process will continue until production and decision makers must balance the risks of producing at current point of development vs. postponing production another year.
“I think it’s at least 10 times better than the Hesston,” said the gravelly voiced Coates. “I literally tried plugging it up and you can’t,” he said adjusting his tattered white T-shirt. Coates wondered if the rotary feeder shattered dry straw too much, but his employer, Scott Isaak, thought the rotary feeder on the prototype handled straw “the same or slightly better” because moves it in smoothly rather than slapping at the straw like packer forks tend to do.
Coates appreciated the smoother ride provided by the tandem axel design and how he could bale “right straight across” a steep hillside after locking the steerable rear wheels in line. He also liked how the monitor automatically engaged the hydraulics that regulate bale tension and told the operator when the flywheel brake was on, so there was less for the operator to have to remember.
Overall Isaak compared the prototype favorably with the Hesston 4790. “It’s making a nice bale; we know they weigh 950 lbs,” he said in a cell phone conversation from his red F250 extended cab. Before switching to New Hollands Isaak said he would have to see how the production model held up under real conditions.
“When I first got this job I told my dad ‘now I’m going to go build the best machine ever,’” Diederich said. “What you do is make it pretty good everywhere and probably perfect nowhere.” A wide smile flashes beneath his reddish brown mustache. “The crops and demands that we have are so different.”