Bobcat: 50 Years Of Skid-Steer Loaders

By Jeff Griffin, Senior Editor | August 2008 Vol. 63 No. 8
Cyril Keller, co-inventor of the compact loaders, is shown using the original Melroe skid-steer loader for a marketing demonstra

"When I went to work," he says, "we had three groups of skid steer loaders with a variety of models. With introduction of the hydrostatic equipment, training users in the benefits of the new design was a top priority. The clutch drive operated differently than the newer hydrostatic models – just the opposite, in fact. It took several years to help operators understand the benefit. Our field people always have been demonstrators. We simply went out and explained it and showed how to use it and once they adapted to it, it was easy to see they could be much more productive."

Changes today are more subtle, says Anderson. Operating current equipment is much different than older models with manual controls.

"Hydraulic over hydraulic and electric over hydraulic drive controls are what we see today," he continues. "Bobcat uses electric-over-hydraulic. Manual controls are very finite, and going to joystick controls, the operator can lose ‘feel' of the machine. For someone who has become proficient with manual controls, it's a big change. Yet, younger operators who grew up playing computer games with joysticks are not at all intimidated.

"In 1990, we incorporated the first microprocessor which was a big service related change. Today everything is microprocessor based."

Attachments were already an important element of the business when Anderson joined the company, and there was a good selection of varied attachment tools.

"In the early days, just about any idea for an attachment would be tried," Anderson says. "Many of them could not be made to work and were never developed, or were redesigned several times and made available years later. Improvements in hydraulics also was a factor."

The list of attachment options has never stopped growing. "There were landscape tools, then hydraulic breakers," he says. "Breaking up paving is a very demanding application, and the breaker attachment took the breaker out of the hands of a worker and put it on a machine, improving productivity dramatically."

There is increasing demand for land clearing equipment, Anderson continues. Bobcat's forestry cutter attachment can convert trees and underbrush from overgrowth to a carpet of mulch on the land being cleared. Stump grinder attachments also are in demand.

Anderson believes a primary reason for Bobcat's success is the relationships the company has developed with its customers.