We know how to pack a serious punch into something compact – our new small articulated loaders are just the latest example. The loaders feature pure toughness and durability built into a compact machine that’s less than 48 inches wide.
Ideal for landscaping and grounds maintenance, the nimble loaders allow operators to take on big challenges in small spaces. The machines feature a tight turning radius, comfortable cab, impressive lifting capacity – up to 1,534 pounds – and minimal ground disturbance. They’re so good, we’re dubbing them a landscaper’s dream machine.
So what exactly goes into making this dream machine a reality? We’re giving you an inside look.
The Beginning of Bobcat Small Articulated Loaders
Bobcat Company is one of the first North American manufacturers to design a small articulated loader. The new project, which started four years ago and was announced to the public in October 2019, began with a thorough investigation into the market.
“We’ve been very successful with mini track loaders,” says Martin Miller, senior product manager for the Bobcat articulated loaders. “And some of our North American dealers were showing interest in the idea of a Bobcat small articulated loader.”
“The first few months of the project, we learned about different standards that applied to these machines,” says Scott LaCoe, lead engineer on the small articulated loaders. “We benchmarked the competitive landscape, and we identified some things that we liked about different models. We wanted to compete in a similar size and capability class, but we also identified several areas that needed to be improved on for our customers.”
Designing the New Bobcat Loaders
After completing their research, the team worked together to start designing and building prototypes. The collaboration allowed the team to make modifications in the design to help make production easier.
“We had great input from all aspects of the business,” Martin says. “As the engineers were designing the prototypes, manufacturing and the sourcing employees were involved. The engineers built the first prototypes and the next set was built by the manufacturing employees. All departments were heavily engaged from start to finish.”
Coming into the design, teams focused on how to help the target customer – primarily landscaping companies and tree services – tackle big projects without tearing up established, landscaped lawns. That meant balancing impressive lifting performance with low ground disturbance.
“The great flotation and light footprint let you turn, go into backyards and haul dirt in and out all day and hardly ever know that you’ve been back there,” Martin says.
It was also critical for the machines to be nimble so they could easily maneuver through fences and gates, as well as around small backyards for tree removal applications.
“If a tree falls down in someone’s backyard, a crew is going in with their chainsaws to cut it up, and then they’ll use the machine to haul big stumps out and feed them into a chipper,” Martin says. “It’s great because they can go in and do fast work. The machine is small and compact, and it doesn’t disturb the ground when you’re turning.”
Designers also knew that many landscaping companies transition to snow removal during the winter months. It was important to design the small articulated loader to adapt as well. It can be paired with snow removal attachments and its less than 48-inch width fits on sidewalks to clear snow and ice.
Building the Small Articulated Loaders
With excitement to start the new loaders at an all-time high, Bobcat employees began applying for positions to work on the line in January 2020.
It takes a whole team to keep the Bobcat articulated loaders moving and get them ready to send off to customers. The assembly team builds the L23 and L28 loaders from the ground up, starting with a bare frame and assembling everything right on the line, installing different parts into the machines as they go. By implementing several checkpoints and working in sub-assemblies, the line workers are able to ensure a higher-quality product.
Production is always fast-paced and exhilarating. The excitement of putting out a new product for the customer and hearing how eager they are to receive it is one of a kind. The team takes pride in their work and nothing beats hearing positive feedback from customers and knowing that they had some part in making that machine.
Sending Off the Latest Compact Loaders
It’s felt like a long time coming. The small articulated loaders project, which kicked off four years ago, wrapped up in March with the first of the loaders rolling off the line in Bismarck, North Dakota.
“It’s a sense of pride, like a new parent,” Scott says. “You work on something for so long, and you can’t tell anybody about it. So when the project you’ve been working on for years finally comes off the line, you can share it with your friends and family, and you see a truckload of them go down the interstate, there’s a lot of pride in that.”
Ready to learn more about Bobcat small articulated loaders? Check out this full Q&A with senior product manager, Martin Miller.