Caterpillar has developed a single-beveled blade for truck applications that is primarily meant for snow removal and spreading sand on roads during the winter. The product is being marketed for the first time this winter in Michigan. Mike Lazzara, product support sales manager for Michigan CAT, developed the idea for Caterpillar to market single-beveled edges.
Michigan CAT made the request to Caterpillar for a single-beveled edge. The Caterpillar representative that received the request didn't know what they were talking about. Michigan CAT told Caterpillar that the customers in Michigan do not want an edge that has a bevel on the bottom of it. This is the cutting edge that makes contact with the ground.
The Caterpillar representative was under the impression that a double-bevel is required for all grading applications. The top bevel is necessary for the edge to fit into the recess of the moldboard and contributes to retention stability. The bottom bevel is designed for optimum penetration when the blade is operated in the typical cutting orientation, with the top of the moldboard about two inches in front of the bottom of the edge.
The reason given for the request was that the bottom bevel of the edge is thinner and wears off quickly, so the single-beveled edge is thicker on the bottom and therefore lasts longer.
Normally a bevel is installed on the bottom. This sharpens the edge so that it can penetrate the ground better. The Caterpillar representative's initial reaction was that Caterpillar couldn't supply the single-beveled edge, but Michigan CAT was persistent with Caterpillar. So the Caterpillar representative agreed to come up to Michigan and look into it. What he thought he was going to find was that people were using their motor graders incorrectly with the moldboards at an incorrect angle. So, he thought he would be coming to Michigan to give them a lesson in operating the motor graders correctly.
But then he visited the different counties up here and he understood what this was all about. The blades they were requesting were underbody blades for trucks, not motor graders. They were using motor grader edges on trucks. Once he understood that, it made sense.
He discovered that far and away the largest use of motor grader edges at the Michigan county sheds is on truck underbodies. Trucks have become the preferred snow removal tool in the state because:
- They are versatile. Trucks have the capability to spread sand and salt, clear snow with the underbody blade or use a snowplow (wings) in the front for particularly heavy snowfall.
- Trucks are relatively inexpensive to own, maintain and operate.
- Trucks are relatively easy to operate and learn how to operate.
- Trucks can get to the site quickly and safely.
- Trucks can remove snow at higher speeds.
Several county operation and maintenance managers told the Caterpillar representative that the bulk of snow removal in Michigan today is being accomplished with trucks, leaving the more difficult jobs and banking snow to the stronger motor grader.
It appears that the counties are assigning just one motor grader to a sector to support from six to 20 trucks.
Once he saw an underbody blade arrangement on a truck for the first time, the single-bevel edge request made perfect sense. Because the moldboards must travel under the chassis of trucks, they cannot drop to the proper motor grader digging angle to the ground. The blades are back in a dragging orientation (somewhat like a squeegee), and the cutting edge immediately wears flat. In fact, the bottom bevel contributes nothing to penetration, and just like Caterpillar was told, it only reduces the wear material and the effective life of the edge. In most cases, the top bevel is still required for the moldboard recess.
There were stacks of single-beveled edges in every county shed that the Caterpillar representative visited. Several counties claimed to order multiple truckloads per year. The Caterpillar representative said that when the underbody grader blades were examined, they showed signs of extreme heat generation.
The typical truck speed during snow removal operations is from 30 miles per hour to 60 miles per hour. Caterpillar recommends a top speed of 6 miles per hour for motor graders in order to prevent heat buildup that reduces edge life. It appears that the underbody blades are melting away more than wearing out, according to the Caterpillar representative.
Caterpillar uses a made as ordered (MAO) process. The company went through that process with this single-beveled edge and had blades made that way. MAO is something that has really taken off in the last few years. The reason is that more people are becoming savvy about ground engaging tools, performance, how that performance affects production values, fuel consumption, and so on. The MAO process at Caterpillar has increased approximately 400 percent in the last three years. There have been so many of the single-beveled edges ordered that Michigan CAT will keep them in stock.
What makes Caterpillar's product unique is that the steel is hardened all the way through. It has metallurgy and different types of alloys in it. Hopefully, the hardened process is going to increase the life of the blade. The single-beveled edges that the Caterpillar representative has seen are case-hardened or just hardened on the surface. He said that orders for the single-beveled edges have exceeded Caterpillar's expectations.
"One of the advantages of using a Caterpillar cutting edge is that it has a lifetime guarantee for breakage. If it breaks, we will replace it," Lazarra said.
"This is a ground engaging tool. One of our initiatives in my area of the company, which is product support for parts and service sales, is to grow our ground engaging tool market. So, with my experience in sales, I used to call on municipalities. Municipalities have hundreds of trucks and every truck has an underbody blade. So, I looked at this as a great opportunity for us to increase our ground engaging tool sales."