New product technologies for agricultural tractors, in particular with regard to electromechanical transmissions

situation characterisation of innovation potentials examination of an example -electromechanical tractor transmission- derivation of a technology application schedule

1. situation

Serious structural problems and high rates of unemployment in the industrial countries have made aware of the essential importance of technical innovations for economic industrial success, or even for whole economies. However, these innovations can mean the creative destruction of existing structures. Improved margins or even monopoly gains can be achieved using products with technological advantages (figure 1). Timely recognition and the correct judgement of technical innovations and development trends is therefore an important task within the framework of any long-term company planning process.

In the case of agricultural machine manufacturers, especially those producing tractors, this results in the necessity not only to take consideration of innovations in the own branch, but to observe carefully the general technical development. Special consideration must be given to new technical solutions as well as to lasting changes in the application areas of known solutions. This can take place as a continuing process or in certain intervals (i.e. every three years).

Suitable approaches and methods have been developed in the past years by several university institutes and consultant companies1,2. However, this paper will not discuss this subject in a detailed manner. The basis are the analysis of available technologies or those available in the near future, the derivation of technology trends and the subsequent comparison with requirements resulting from the analysis of the product under consideration and its future expectancies (figure 2). Currently, important technology trends are the lasting, fast-paced evolution of power electronics and microelectronics, which have lead to the high-growth markets in mechatronics and microsystem technology. Several current new developments in the agricultural technology area such as improved controls for split power transmissions, steady state controls for combustion engines, the CAN-bus and precision farming are derived from these. Further promising application areas in improved or completely new products result from careful analyses of the weak points in current products, the clients demands and the change in the markets.

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