Smart tractors from TAFE

Tractors and Farm Equipment Ltd. (TAFE) has launched Smart series of tractors in the 40-60 hp range, and premium utility tractors in India.

Story by:

Bhargav TS

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The Rs. 93 billion tractor major, TAFE, has introduced ‘Smart’ series of tractors in the 40-60 hp range under its Massey Ferguson brand. Established in 1960 at Chennai, and claimed to be the third largest tractor manufacturer in the world, and the second largest in India by volumes, TAFE has also introduced premium compact utility tractors in India. These are aimed at enhancing productivity, efficiency and utility. Emphasis on ergonomics provides superior operator comfort. The Smart series tractors, and the premium compact utility tractors are indicative of the changing requirements of buyers and a rise in farm mechanisation.

An Amalgamation Group company, TAFE entered into the production of tractors in 1960 in collaboration with Massey Ferguson of Toronto under the leadership of S. Anantharamakrishnan. The estimated demand for tractors in 1960 was 12000 units per year. Today, it is estimated to be in the region of 5,00,000 units. In 2015, the domestic tractor industry clocked sales of 5,00,000 units, and in a challenging environment. Estimated to grow 10 per cent this year on the basis of good monsoon, and against a drop of 10 per cent in 2015 due to drought, industry sources claim that the new tractors from Massey Ferguson have arrived at the right time. TAFE operates three tractor brands. Apart from Massey Ferguson, it operates Eicher and TAFE brand of tractors. Massey Ferguson and Eicher tractors are sold in the domestic market whereas the TAFE brand of tractors are exported. The export markets include Africa, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and some European markets. Speaking at the launch of Smart series and compact utility range of tractors, Mallika Srinivasan, Chairman and CEO, TAFE, said that they are positioning the Massey Ferguson brand to showcase technology. The Eicher brand, she said, will showcase robust performance.

Clocking tractor sales of over Rs.8000 crore, TAFE is planning to sell 1.55 lakh units in India. In the exports market the company plans to sell 18,000-20,000 units. Last year it sold a total of 1.45 lakh units. Optimistic about tractor sales clocking good numbers in view of rising mechanisation, and inculcation of technology that is making tractors more efficient and reliable, TAFE, said Srinivasan, will launch two new tractor platforms under the Eicher brand. This will be done with the view of introducing Eicher brand in the export markets. The idea, claimed TAFE source, is also to ship out a sizeable number of 100 hp tractors to African markets under the TAFE brand. Srinivasan averred that she expected the tractor industry to grow at a rate of 6-8 per cent in the next three years. TAFE’s growth, she added, will be faster than that of the industry.

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Smart and compact utility tractors

Sources at TAFE claim that the premium compact utility tractor the company has launched is first of its kind in India. It is a sophisticated yet rugged 28 hp machine, they mention. Offering versatile operational capabilities in applications like orchards, haulage, and for a range of infrastructure tasks, the permium compact utility tractor can be equipped with implements like front-end loader and back-hoe loader, which makes it a true all-rounder. The premium compact utility tractor, claim sources, has been engineered to find year round use. “With the launch of the new premium compact utility tractor, I believe we are creating a new segment, given the evolving needs of young farmers and their changing expectations with regards to versatility and ease of use throughout the year. With the Smart series tractors we will be redefining customer experience with respect to productivity, efficiency and ergonomics by setting new standards in the industry,” explained Srinivasan. “We will also expand the application portfolio for the products and pave a way to precision farming,” she added.

TAFE manufactures a range of tractors in the sub-100 hp segment based on both, air-cooled and water-cooled platforms. It markets them in India through a strong distribution network, which covers the entire length and breadth of the country. Apart from India, TAFE products, claim sources, have found excellent acceptance in over 85 countries across the world. These, they add, include developed countries in Europe and the Americas. Apart from tractors and farm machinery, TAFE also manufactures diesel engines, silent gensets, batteries, hydraulic pumps and cylinders, and gears and transmission components. The company has business interests in vehicle franchises and plantations. Committed to Total Quality Management (TQM), three TAFE tractor plants have been certified as ISO 9001 and ISO 14001.

R Murali Krishna, Senior Vice President,

Product Management, TAFE

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Why has the new tractor range been named as the Smart series?

We have named the new tractor range Smart because it will redefine customer experience with respect to productivity, efficiency and ergonomics. We have worked extensively on the engine and transmission. We source engines from our group company Simpson. With our inputs, they have redeveloped the engine to address changing customer needs. We developed the engine as per the customer preferences. We have been working with the customer. For example, if the wheels are slipping, and the tractor is not getting enough power, we have worked with our customers to identify the problem. Leveraging our experience, and with an aim to get more work done with less fuel consumed, we developed a technology called FST. The SJ series engines, earlier used in our export models, marks a new powertrain.

How does technology in Smart series tractors address demand for fuel efficiency and productivity?

We have developed FST technology to address the rising demand for fuel efficiency and productivity. This technology is about utilising energy to the maximum. It has been developed to offer the right amount of power and torque to achieve high level of productivity. It is not just an engine but a combination of factors that make the Smart series of tractors excel. If, for example, the transmission does not respond to the engine, there will be no synchronisation. The need is to integrate the two to achieve the best results. Similarly, the hydraulics have to work. There is a need to ensure that the implement ploughs deep, and the wheels do not slip. To increase productivity and efficiency we have worked on all areas of the tractor.

Hydraulics play a major role in tractors. Does the Smart series offer anything new?

We have employed esmart electro-hydraulics in the Smart series. Hydraulics is controlled mechanically. In this case, it is controlled through esmart, and with high level of precision. The electronics that we have incorporated ensures that the hydraulic mechanism responds at the right phase. This ensures uniform plough depth in a ploughing operation. We leveraged the knowledge we have gained over the years to create intelligent technology. Our competitors have tried to benchmark their products against ours. It is good that our hydraulic technology has inspired others. We believe that electro-hydraulics in the future will dominate the tractor industry. It will help to improve productivity; it will help the farmer to get a better yield. It will also help the farmer to drop the seed in the right place.

Is the electronic content in tractors set to increase?

The electronic content in tractors is evolving rather than increasing.

So, what about the use of electronics to elevate efficiency?

The use of electronics to elevate efficiency is a valid argument. It has however to be used in a right way. It is necessary to look at multiple technologies to achieve this goal. Multiple technologies have to be well integrated. In a tractor, electronics, hydraulics, mechanical parts, thermal systems, fluid systems and various other components interact with each other to deliver the final result.

What is unique about the Super Shuttle transmission?

The Super Shuttle transmission has eight forward and eight reverse gears. If a loader is being used, and the tractor is moving forward at the same time, there is no need to engage reverse gears if the need arises. Simply push the lever and the tractor changes the direction of travel. The 16-speed transmission is thus not provided to confuse the driver, but to aid him to perform his task efficiently.

Demand for driver comfort is rising. How is TAFE responding?

Our products support superior productivity and comfort. In the new tractors we have provided trilux seats. These have been developed by Harita Seatings, and can move in all the directions. Engineered to provide higher degree of comfort and visibility, the switches and levers are placed such that they are within easy reach of the driver.

Why did you feel the need to develop a compact utility tractor?

In many parts of the world, compact tractors are used for specific applications. In India, multi-utility tractors have been used. We developed the compact utility tractor by keeping in mind the need of the customer

What are you doing to reduce emission?

We are a global player, and follow the Tractor Emissions (TREM) norms. We are currently selling tractors like 2607H in the most advanced markets of North America, where emission standards are the most stringent. We are thus confident of meeting the new emission norms that are expected to be implemented in India.

Smart tractor from TAFE

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Tractors and Farm Equipment (TAFE) Limited will introduce a ‘smart’ series of tractors under the Massey Ferguson brand. These will have a power output in the range of 30 to 60 hp, and have been built with inputs from farmers. Rather than explain the nature of engines the tractor series would employ, TAFE has chosen to emphasise on the range of transmissions the series will be available with. There will be a 12-speed Rototrac, 16-speed Supershuttle and the 16-speed confimesh transmission on offer. The tractor series will be equipped with a HAV dual clutch, claimed to be suitable for heavy duty applications like loading, dozing, hauling and harvesting. Particular attention has been given to the hydraulics. The tractor series would come with a Combi-boost system, which would speed up the lifting process in the case of heavy loads. To enhance productivity and operating cost, the tractor series will feature electro-hydraulics. Apart from featuring flex-links, which enable easy hitching and unhitching of equipment, the tractor series will be equipped with MDSS brakes and an iLead technology, which would facilitate remote controlled tracking and locking of the tractor. The ‘smart’ tractor series will come in two-wheel drive and four-wheel drive; manual or power steering with tonner axle option, and a larger wheel base to ensure superior traction and stability.