The marketing and engineering staffs at AGCO spent the last year working together to take the “oranges” out of the “apple and oranges” choices customers make in buying square balers. The result is a classification system that gives customers an idea of a baler’s capabilities — regardless of what size bale they desire.
Introduced simultaneously at the 2017 World Ag Expo in Tulare, Calif., and National Farm Machinery Show in Louisville, the system ranks square balers according to plunger force, placing balers in Class 1 through Class 8.
Shaun Allred, AGCO’s technical marketing manager for hay and forage products, says the square baler market is rife with confusion, because each manufacturer uses a different model numbering system to denote machine size and capability, and each year model numbers change.
“Hesston alone offers 4 models of large square balers ranging from 3 feet x 3 feet to 4 feet x 4 feet and 6 small square balers to produce 4 sizes from 14 inches x 18 inches to 16 inches x 22 inches,” he explains. “Dairy, beef and equine customers, as well as commercial hay and biomass harvesting operations all have different needs in a baler.”
Allred says although bale size at one point was a good reference point, the modern hay industry involves a wide range of differing needs based on hay density. By using plunger force as the common denominator, balers can be delineated by expected bale density they can produce — regardless of the bale size involved.
“By standardizing the classification system to kilonewtons (kN) of force on the baler plunger, we think the system reduces the amount of research to be done by the customer selecting a new baler. Despite varying model numbers and annual changes to those monikers, a grower can now tell a dealer ‘I need a Class 4 baler for what I do.’”
• Classification system provides “apples to apples” baler comparison.
• Changing model numbers produce less confusion to buyers in a hurry.
• Standardization of measure improves sales talking points.
• Industry adoption of a classification system could level sales playing field.
Allred says plunger force is directly correlated to bale density, regardless of the size of bale or the power of the equipment running the baler, and that allows an “apples to apples” comparison for growers across the industry.
Maximum bale density produced by a baler influences these important buyer decision-making factors:
- Amount of material in a finished bale
- Final weight and mass of the bale
- Ease and efficiency of which bales are stacked, stored and transported
- Productivity and efficiency of the baling process
- Tractor horsepower required for optimum operating efficiency.
“Our classification system is based on the most measurable factor affecting the density of finished bales and with it, buyers can more easily select from a wide variety of choices from one or more manufacturers,” he explains.
Allred says the use of kilonewtons (224.8 pounds of force) in the classification system follows the cab monitor readouts to which forage producers are accustomed and Hesston has always used the metric measure in its engineering.
Video interview from the National Farm Machinery Show with Daniel Schmidt of AGCO explaining the approach the company is taking in classifying square balers. https://www.farm-equipment.com/articles/13770-agco-introduces-classification-system-for-square-balers
“Some baler manufacturers use a percentage measure, but that relates to power inputs from the tractor and it doesn’t work well in a classification system. The plunger force measure is much more precise and, given our large part of the baler market with Hesston and Challenger products, many producers are already familiar with it,” he says.
How likely is it that other baler manufacturers will adopt AGCO’s system across the industry?
Allred says the system was designed primarily to help AGCO’s customers make more precise decisions on equipment purchases, but since all square balers use plungers, the plunger force comparison would be quite feasible across all brands.
“We’ve visited with other manufacturers and they have agreed the system would be helpful and useful in marketing their products. Also, our marketing organization is actively presenting this system to various industry groups such as the Assn. of Equipment Manufacturers (AEM) and engineering organizations,” he says.
“Even if the others don’t choose to adopt it, we think it will be very valuable to our customer base, which represents a large percentage of the market. I think it will drive a lot of customers to start thinking about balers in a new way,” he adds.