From agriculture to construction, why machine operators often know which engine is best

Volvo Penta’s engines are used in a wide range of equipment and applications, often powering machines that are vital for society to keep running. To ensure its products perform as needed, Volvo Penta puts a lot of focus on understanding an engine’s full spectrum of users, from OEM to end-customer and the machine’s operator.

Mighty Jobs Episode 9

Whether it’s a firefighter truck, rock crusher, forest harvester or other heavy-duty equipment, the people in the operator’s seat are often in the best position to judge an engine. They more than anyone know what it needs to do to ensure their machines perform. For this reason, Volvo Penta’s product development teams invest a lot of time in reaching out to operators for their feedback. 


“Our products are used in so many different machines that it is impossible for us to know the machines ourselves but what we do know is how to make our engines behave in specific ways,” explains Christer Hedström, Director Product Planning, Volvo Penta. “So, if we get input from an operator on what they need the engine to do, we can then fine tune it to best serve their needs.”


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In developing a bespoke engine for the unique needs of forest harvesters, Volvo Penta talks directly with foresters.


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Volvo Penta has a long history of supplying engines for industrial applications, however in the past decade, it has made a concerted effort to develop and expand its range for versatile off-road applications including mining, construction, agriculture, forestry and other on- and off-road vehicles. In that time, Volvo Penta has added the D5, D8 and D11 to the D13 and D16 in order to complete its range for off-road applications, as well as adapt and update each to cover all legislations globally. In 2019, when Stage V emissions regulations came into force in Europe, Volvo Penta invested significantly in updating the range again. In addition to meeting the new tougher emissions standards, new features were also introduced to further improve power and performance. Many of these improvements were based on feedback from operators.


“What differentiates us is that we really listen to our customers and offer a wide variety of options that they can choose from so that we can tailor make a solution,” says Christer Hedström. “This not only includes our direct customer, the OEM, but also their customers, the end-users. That’s where we really get to understand what our products should deliver.”


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In many off-road vehicles, it’s those behind the steering wheel who are best placed to know what is required from the engine.


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To get this input, Volvo Penta regularly runs field tests, which are a great opportunity for its engineers to meet operators directly and initiate a dialogue. For example, what is important when harvesting forests? In what situations is it important? What is needed from the engine? Overall needs vary greatly between different segments. Mining and construction typically need durable and robust engines, so Volvo Penta has designed additional options that can make the engine more robust. Agriculture and forestry on the other hand, typically need smaller, more flexible engines that are small enough to be installed easily while still delivering sufficient power. In short, there is no one-size-fits-all solution, which is why the operator’s perspective is so valuable.


The success of this approach speaks for itself. Since 2014, with the launch of its first updated range, Volvo Penta has seen volumes in the versatile off-road segment grow by 35 per cent every year. Like Mighty Jobs, it’s built on the idea of meeting the person behind the wheel or on the operator’s seat and listening to their story.


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Fire-fighters are just one example of the many users of off-road vehicles whose daily work is essential to society.