Grouped together in a farm field in Maricopa, Arizona, a fleet of Magnum tractors sat outside some large white tents, which were set up to accommodate several weeks of Case IH dealer training days. The Magnums looked a lot the existing models from a distance, but that was an intentional ruse by the brand’s marketing staff. The tractors sporting last year’s hoods were actually very different from the existing models.
That “camouflage” kept curious passersby from getting a sneak peak at what the red brand was about to debut in a few weeks at the National Farm Machinery Show in Louisville, Kentucky.
These were the new AFS Connect Magnum models in disguise.
“The beauty of this tractor is so much more than skin deep,” said Matt Boom, a high horsepower tractor specialist. “It’s down into the mechanics of the tractor.”
The tractors won’t be wearing last year’s clothes when they hit the market, but arguably it is in the digital component rather than their new appearance where they have the most to offer, hence the AFS Connect Magnum name, referencing the brand’s existing telematics products.
“We’ve changed some stuff on the exterior of the tractor too,” added Bill Weber, high horsepower marketing manager. “It looks a lot like the autonomous tractor we launched back in 2016. The reason it looks like that is because this is the next generation going toward autonomy. It pulls all the tractor electronics together so it can communicate, connected, so you can control it throughout the field.”
“Being that this is the AFS Connect Magnum, the tractor itself is only part of the solution,” Boom went on. “We know what our customers want. We’ve kind of adjusted how we’re taking this to market, from a technology standpoint.”
The difference in the cab
The new Pro 1200 monitor in the cab greatly expands on the functions of the previous Pro 700. In fact, most of the tractor systems can be controlled through it, and it makes guidance inputs much simpler.
The software that runs the Pro 1200 is based on the same Android technology most people are familiar with in their mobile devices. And that didn’t happen by accident.
“Vision Pro utilizes an Android-based operating system in order to control this tractor,” said Weber. “The global market share for Android is 88 per cent as of last spring. So the reason we ran Android is because of the similarity with hand-held devices. So it’s easy for out customers to get onto the technology and use it.”
But to avoid shocking previous Magnum owners who are used to the previous control layout, the new AFS Connect versions will have two or three ways to activate systems. Those who are familiar with manual controls on the armrest will still find them there, although some will be in different locations.
“(There is) Freedom to customize controls,” Weber went on. “We have maintained the old and jumped to the new. You can run this tractor old school or new school, meaning all the buttons and switches of the old model are still in the tractor. (Or) Everything can be run the Pro 1200.”
“We’ve retained all those buttons, the tactile feel, for customers that like that,” said Boom.
The new system now lets farm managers remotely monitor the tractor and see what the operator sees on a mobile device. It can also facilitate mobile diagnostic efforts by a mechanic directly from a dealership.
“We have three main areas of AFS Connect: fleet, farm and data. Farm, being agronomic visualization; fleet, being unit visualization,” said Boom. “That can be anything from location to fuel level to fault codes or some of the issues you may see in the field, as well as notifications. For example if I have an operator in the field pulling a planter and I don’t want him going faster than six m.p.h., I can set an alert. If he does that, I know immediately.”
“And of course data transfer takes a big leap forward with the Pro 1200. Even guidance lines can be transferred between machines wirelessly.”
These digital features won’t remain unique to model year 2020 tractors; the technology is backwards compatible. So it can be retrofitted onto existing late model Magnums as well.
“As we continue to develop our products moving forward, we’re not forgetting about the products we already have in the market, making sure we have a solution that allows those products to be monitored remotely as well,” said Boom. “Everything I’ve shown you so far is not just applicable to these tractors, it’s everything back to the Tier 3 time period. Anything that currently exists, we can retrofit this on there.”
And guidance is run through a new receiver that incorporates all the necessary guidance correction hardware into it, eliminating the need for a second computer inside the cab to facilitate corrections.
“Our receiver does a better job. It moves terrain compensation to the top of the cab and does a better job holding the line,” said Weber.
Hardware changes too
When it comes to the tractor itself, there is a lot to mention there too. New hood and cab designs in particular. Slimmer cab pillars and a new, brighter interior colour along with more creature comforts give it an updated feel.
“Freedom from cluttered cabs,” noted Weber. “We have a brand new cab on this tractor. There is better storage and more visibility out of it. We now have a full door. There is no longer a B post. The full glass door is easier for entry.”
And the Magnum further addresses operator comfort with updated suspension designs.
“To address ride with our Pro 1200 operating system, we came up with adjustable front axle suspension, controllable through the monitor,” he continued. “New with this tractor, we came up with a semi-active cab suspension.”
As he talked about the capabilities of the new tractors, Chris Dempsey, AFS Connect marketing manger, said he sees it this way: “It’s not just a tractor and it’s not just the software part of it. It’s a true, complete solution. Now we’re offering integrated technology and proven horsepower in one package for a true solution.”
That one solution aspect will form a major part of how marketers at the red brand present this tractor, and all the rest of the product line, to potential buyers in the coming months.
Says Boom, “It’s the largest technology launch we’ve had in the last 10 years, arguably. So we look forward to expanding on this and seeing where it takes us.”