Challenges Overcome by the MU5501: Bringing Greater Possibilities to Indian Agriculture
The biggest distinction: A superior engine that delivers both power and fuel efficiency
The engine was regarded as the feature that set the MU5501 multi-purpose tractor apart from the rest of the pack. The goal was to achieve high efficiency, which meant improved fuel efficiency, and output power that could deliver high traction. The technical team was tasked with achieving both of these two important goals. The responsibility for this was assumed by the Engine Engineering Department’s Takashi Onishi and Kentaro Nagai.
“To keep price down while ensuring high levels of performance and serviceability, we opted for the existing mechanical control system instead adopting the fully electronic-controlled common-rail injection system that is standard in Europe and North America. The challenge was to achieve compliance with Indian emissions regulations while matching the level of fuel efficiency delivered by the common-rail system with mechanical control. To meet this challenge we deployed the concept of “high-combustion efficiency” by developing a high-pressure fuel injection system, a system that had until then never been accomplished with a mechanical system, and enhancing the turbocharger system. (Onishi)
Nagai was in charge of the actual engine design, and development progressed rapidly with the employment of 3D printers significantly reducing prototyping periods. He explains in detail how the team overcame the difficult challenge of complying with exhaust regulations while achieving high fuel efficiency and power output.
“It was a process of trial and error. We succeeded in dramatically improving combustion efficiency by adopting a four-valve cylinder head with two intake and exhaust valves per cylinder for more efficient and uniform air intake, and opting for center injection. On the other hand, we slowed the combustion rate and reduced exhaust components by recirculating the exhaust gas into the intake air. We cut exhaust while achieving higher output power and fuel efficiency by optimizing the match between supercharging, highpressure injection and the combustion chamber.” (Nagai)
Thus, the new “E-CDIS (Center Direct Injection System)” engine achieved fuel efficiency far ahead of the engines being offered by our competitors.
Achieving high durability and operability through optimum customization for the Indian market
Meanwhile, the mechanical team was tasked with achieving durability and operability capable of withstanding long hours of use. The Tractor Engineering Department’s Norifumi Adachi and Tatsuyuki Kashimoto were assigned this challenge. In order to accommodate the different types of soil and farming in each state, long-duration tests using prototype tractors were conducted in India. Based on measurement data, the team adopted durable axles that would improve the strength of the tractor; and thorough customization for the Indian market realized high operability with special attention given to details such as the optimization of pedal structure and the positioning of the operation lever to reduce fatigue.
“I travelled to India many times to get a handle on what was really needed. This tractor was realized through the market-in concept. The experience helped me to truly comprehend the importance of getting the feel of user needs.” (Adachi)
“Adapting to the Indian market was difficult, but we were rewarded for all the effort we put into the project with the smiles of Indian farmers. I felt a great sense of fulfillment.” (Kashimoto)
This is how the dream of the MU5501 multi-purpose tractor became a reality. Mass production began at SIAM KUBOTA Corporation Co., Ltd. (SKC) in Thailand in October 2015, and sales began in November of the same year.
Expanding dealer networks to expand sales Kubota’s culture of valuing customers
Now that a year has passed since the MU5501 was launched, Kubota is working to move sales toward an expanding trend with KAI Product Manager Pankaj Kadam working alongside Sales Management & Planning Director Yoshiaki Fujii on the frontline to implement marketing strategy. Kadam joined KAI because he was impressed by Kubota’s philosophy of embracing challenge.
“Our dealers and their sales staff hold the key to expanding sales. We currently have a network of 150 dealers, and we are looking to double that number in the near future. We also have training programs designed to further enhance the quality of sales staff. Kubota has a deep-rooted culture of valuing customers, which I believe is a great weapon in promoting sales.”
We also interviewed Mr. Ajay Bhosale, President of Surya Automotive, a leading dealer. The company had been selling products made by other companies but made the decision to switch to Kubota. “I knew that it would be a challenge that came with some risks, but I decided to invest in the future potential of Kubota because of the clear superiority of their products. This is only the first season, but I am looking forward to the further expansion of Kubota product line-up and local production in India in the near future.”
That expansion has already begun. Following on the heels of the 55-horsepower MU5501, Kubota is preparing to introduce a new 45-hp model, the power range that enjoys the highest demand.
Visiting a local sugar cane farmer Experiencing Kubota’s high quality and superior performance firsthand
We interviewed a sugarcane farmer in Satara, Maharashtra, who had purchased an MU5501. Mr. Sandeep Yadov already owned a B-series tractor, so the multi-purpose tractor was his second Kubota product. “Kubota’s superiority was immediately clear with the B-series tractor’s great engine fuel efficiency and economic low maintenance; and I am completely satisfied with the comfort of operation and high engine performance that the MU5501 offers.”
Mr. Hammant Thorat, who also cultivates sugar cane, had been using domestic tractors and hadn’t been familiar with Kubota. “A few acquaintances of mine mentioned the company, so I thought I would take a look. After a test drive, I was convinced Kubota offered performance that other companies simply couldn’t match and decided then and there to buy one. I was especially impressed with its traction and output power, and the stylish design added to its appeal. With the power the MU5501 delivers, we have been able to improve transport efficiency and reduce costs.”
Expansion of MU5501 sales contributing to India’s economic development
The popularity of the MU5501 has been spreading among Indian farmers. KAI Managing Director Akira Kato talks about the significance of this and his aspirations.
“In the future, we would like to make India the sixth core market following Japan, Europe, the United States, Thailand and China. The success of the multi-purpose tractor is our key to making the leap to becoming a major global brand; and we are convinced that the expansion of MU5501 sales will improve Indian agriculture by increasing productivity and profitability, and eventually contribute to the economic development of India and solutions to food issues. Local KAI employees and Kubota dealers are confident of the future as we advance together towards a common dream. My role is to help them realize that dream.”
The “dream” that Kato speaks of is the future success of the MU5501. A new era for Kubota has begun with the introduction of this multi-purpose tractor to the agricultural industry.