Alton Agronomy

Chuck Moen can certainly empathize with any farmer who’s put in a 12-hour day during planting or harvest season. As plant manager of Alton Agronomy in Hillsboro, North Dakota, Moen and his team often put in similar hours moving up to 4,400 tons of fertilizer per day. That means the company’s two Cat® 938K wheel loaders equipped with 6 ½-yard buckets have to keep up the pace.

œOur busiest times of the year occur during the three to four weeks each spring and three to four weeks each fall when farmers and applicators are putting on fertilizer, Moen relates.

Nearly all of that material, he explains, is unloaded from rail cars, loaded into bins and then unloaded again before it’s dumped into a truck for transport to the farm using the wheel loaders. While urea is marketed and distributed within about a 50-mile radius of the plant, potash and MAP (monoammonium phosphate) see an even wider distribution.

œIf the truck drivers have everything in order, we can move 27-ton loads in and out in about seven minutes, Moen continues. œConsequently, our wheel loaders and Butler Machinery are very important to the operation. We can’t afford to have a machine down when we’re in the middle of our peak periods. Moen says they almost learned that the hard way a few years ago when they purchased a competitive brand wheel loader from another dealer.

œWhen we first opened this plant in 2004, we had a Cat 924 wheel loader that we were using, he explains. œHowever, we found ourselves in need of a second loader, which led us to purchase a competitive model. The machine worked okay, but we found that it wasn’t built as well as a Cat. The bigger issue, though, was that the service from the dealer wasn’t anything like we get from Butler. One time we were down for 20 days with a computer problem before they got it fixed.

Needless to say, Moen went back to Caterpillar when the business needed a newer loader last year. The new Cat 938K they purchased from Butler
performed so well that the company bought a second one this past winter.

œWe really like the Cat machines, Moen insists. œThey’re really fuel efficient and reliable; but the biggest selling point is the service we get from Butler and the on-site scheduled maintenance.

Moen says their Customer Support Agreement (CSA) with Butler has been especially valuable, since it provides the assurance that the equipment is
always serviced and inspected on a regular basis.

œIt also means we don’t have to keep oil on hand or figure out how to dispose of used oil, he adds. œButler technicians not only change the fluids as needed, but run an oil analysis to ensure against excessive wear or other problems.

Chuck Moen isn’t the only one who’s happy with the Cat machines, though. Chuck’s son, Nick Moen, is one of the wheel loader operators who is on the machine nearly every day.

œI really like the LCD display, which lists fuel usage, along with other machine information, he says, noting that fuel consumption is in the range of 2 ½ gallons per hour. œThe display is right there by the joystick, so it’s easy to see at a glance.

Nick says he also likes the Rimpull control feature, which allows him to match available tractive power to underfoot conditions. That is especially valuable, he relates, when loading urea.

œThe floor in the urea bin can get pretty slippery, he explains. œSo I just set it for ˜ice™ and I™m able to get a full bucket load. It’s just the opposite on potash and phosphate, because you need more torque to fill the bucket in those bins. So I find myself adjusting the Rimpull control quite often.

Nick says he also likes the backup camera display for safety when backing out of the bins, even though the mirrors can be power adjusted from inside the cab.

Tim Kuznia, who operates the other 938K loader has his own preferences, including the automatic climate control, which makes those 11-hour days a lot more comfortable. œThe whole cab is really comfortable, he says. œIt’s about like riding in a car. However, I also like the fact that you can adjust the bucket height and arm height from inside the cab.

Like Nick, he also appreciates the Rimpull feature, noting that, œYou can adjust the power on the fly if you want. It somehow limits the torque on the wheels so you’re not spinning out all the time.

Both men also like the Fusion quick coupler, which provides coupler flexibility without compromise in breakout force and dump clearance.

œIt couples the bucket a little closer to the loader arms, Nick notes. œIt also uses a tapered pin so it stays really tight.

œWe™ve absolutely had no problems with the Cat loaders at all, Chuck concludes. œEven before we bought them, Kevin Sikich, our salesman at Butler, was real good at explaining what each model could do and what it couldn’t do. That’s part of the reason we selected the 938K. It seemed to offer everything we needed. We won’t ever have anything but Cat again.

Butler Machinery would like to thank Alton Agronomy for participating in this article.