Setting Out to Provide Exhilaration to Operators through Function and Design
Dry-Field Kubota M7001 Series Tractors
Win Design Awards in Japan and Germany
In 2016 the Kubota M7001 Series won the 2016 Good Design Award and in 2017 they won – for the first time ever among Japanese agricultural equipment manufacturers – the iF Design Award.
To gather information regarding the concept and design considerations for this remarkable Kubota Tractor series that so efficiently undertakes large-scale, dry-field operations, Mr. Yoshitaka Higashikawa and Mr. Yoshihiro Kushita of the Kubota Research and Development Headquarters (KRDH) Design Center were interviewed.
- Japan: Good Design Award
- Responsible for bestowing this prestigious award is the Japan Institute of Design Promotion that has Japan’s only comprehensive design evaluation and commendation system. All fields of design are considered and comprehensive screening takes into account such aspects as the process leading to the design along with its accompanying philosophy and significance.
- Germany: iF Design Award
- Bestowed by the International Forum Design Group headquartered in Hannover, Germany, this award recognizes outstanding industrial designs from around the globe. Together with America’s International Design Excellence Awards (IDEA) and the Red Dot Design Award bestowed by the Design Zentrum Nordhein Westfalen in Essen, Germany, it is currently considered one of the three most prestigious design awards in the world.
Developing Dry-Field Tractors Capable of Meeting Global Demand
There was a time when Kubota concentrated primarily on the development of compact, lightweight tractors having a notable tight-turn capability while operating efficiently in the sticky, muddy conditions of paddy-field applications in Japan and other Asian countries. Of course, such tractors have not been limited to paddy-field operations as they are also perfectly capable of undertaking dry field applications.
In the process of becoming a ‘Global Major Brand’ that contributes to solving food supply problems all around the world, however, the focus has expanded to include larger, more powerful tractors capable of efficiently undertaking operations in the more expansive fields commonly found in Western nations – cultivation areas that tend to be roughly 4 times larger than those for the cultivation of rice. The result of this undertaking – the first of its kind among Japanese agricultural machinery manufacturers – is the M7001 Series of dry-field tractors for which Mr. Yoshitaka Higashikawa and Mr. Yoshihiro Kushita have – since 2012 – been charge of design and development.
Mr. Kushita reports, “The developmental concept for the Kubota M7001 Series Tractors included being able to undertake and perform speedy, efficient agricultural operations simply and comfortably through the use of versatile functions while providing owners and operators a feeling of exaltation in the process. What is required of a designer is to achieve a suitable as well as an interactive balance between the operational features and a pleasing appearance.”
When observing the Kubota M7001 Series Tractor models, one is likely to be strongly impressed with their powerful sense of presence. Further, they exude a solid appearance that conveys the assurance that they will remain cool, efficient, and perfectly able to easily handle heavy-duty tasks even with heavy implements attached.
According to Mr. Kushita, “Special emphasis was placed on the design of the Bonnet to make it the instantly recognizable face of the Kubota M7001 Series Tractors.”
Numerous Trials, Numerous Adjustments
Mr. Kushita further explains, “Throughout the design stage, one of the goals was how to best adhere to the Kubota brand concept. With the aim of placing the M7001 Series in a prominent position among the ranks of Kubota Tractors, we decided on creating a unique design that would be instantly recognized without having to check the emblem. Accomplishing this required numerous trials and numerous adjustments until everything was just right. In fact, the design of the Bonnet required starting all over from the beginning several times in order to ensure such necessary factors as superior visibility during operations and sufficient space for the tires to achieve tight turn angles.
This was in addition to overall size adjustments, changes in manufacturing processes and materials, and redesigns of such parts as the Grill. No step was overlooked to ensure optimal operational and design excellence.”
Mr. Higashikawa goes on to report, “Using the highly-precise and easy-to-use 3D design programs that are currently available, a 1/5-scale mock-up of the Bonnet was made in the initial stage of development. However, a sensory feel of size was lacking. As a result, a full-size mock-up was prepared to meet our conceptual needs. Based on a process of trial and error, the final result is a powerful appearance with smooth, elegant bodylines that fully reflect our commitment to being able to offer the best possible design.”
The more the process of trial and error is repeated in the various stages of development, the greater the trust and affection to be felt for the finished product. Observing a Kubota M7001 Series Tractor, the commitment and passion of both designers are reflected in the powerful, distinctively Kubota front appearance, the streamlined bodylines, and the well thought out arrangement of the work lights for operational efficiency and effectiveness.
Total Operator Comfort and Ease of Operation
It is vital that the operator of a Kubota Tractor be able to undertake and continue operations effectively and efficiently even after long hours on the job.
Concerning this, both Mr. Higashikawa and Mr. Kushita focused on ease of operation, operator comfort, and maximum visibility from within the Cabin.
Mr. Kushita states, “Unobstructed visibility during operations is a vital factor due in part to the fact that implements can be fitted to the front, sides, and rear of Kubota M7001 Series Tractors.
Another vital factor is ease of operation. Operators are often required to spend not only long daylight hours on the job, but to also continue the job at hand deep into the night with the lights turned on. To maintain maximum comfort at all times, the height of the Arm Rest along with the location and position of the Operational Levers are vital factors not only for comfort but also to minimize resulting tiredness.”
He goes on to report, “The larger the tractor, the more diverse operations become. This often necessitates multi-functionality requiring complex handling. Some of the tractors offered by competitors have multiple buttons and controls located helter-skelter around the interior of the Cabin to accomplish this. For Kubota M7001 Series Tractors, however, we concentrated on placing the right button in just the right place to make it easier for the operator to simply and easily accomplish the various functions required to get the job done.”
I, the person at the editorial desk, once experienced a hands-on demonstration of a model in this series. The exhilaration I felt from the moment I sat in the operator’s seat is one that I shall never forget. From my position high above the ground, I was treated to an exceptionally wide field of vision.
Glancing down at the instrument panel, I was fully able to grasp all relevant operating conditions.
In addition, the convenient, close-at-hand locations of the operating controls contributed to performing
operations with optimal results. I don’t believe such feelings can be experienced when operating an ordinary passenger vehicle.
Mr. Higashikawa adds, “Operators often spend long hours carrying out prolonged operations. As a result, we focused on being able to provide an environment within the Cabin that is not only calming, but that also bestows a feeling of exhilaration that comes from being in command of a remarkable tractor!”
The Joy of Designing Useful Products
Mr. Higashikawa reports, “Before we had our first opportunities to gather user input concerning our designs, we had worries about user acceptance – about whether or not the results would be of sufficient value. When we eventually visited actual operational sites with the engineers, we were able to communicate directly with users and receive their input. More recently, we attend overseas dealer meetings where we are able to learn how much emphasis the dealers and their customers place on design. From such domestic and international input we have learned that there are strong preferences not only for tractors having notable ease of operation, but that are also attractively designed.”
Regarding these tractors in the M7001 Series, Mr. Kushita affirms, “They feature evolved designs that incorporate input gathered directly from users. Based on having heard with my own ears the high evaluation of the series following its launch in Europe and the fact that it recently won two prestigious awards, I have confidence that our efforts are successful. As a result, it is my wish that as many users as possible have access to our Kubota products. I further wish to have more opportunities to communicate effectively with dealers and users.”
The KRDH Design Centre is responsible for the innovative design of agricultural equipment such as the Kubota M7001 Series Tractors. To ensure maximum product effectiveness, usefulness, and design now and into the future, there is a constant, continuing process of trial and error along with the adoption and adaptation of such emerging technology as VR (Virtual Reality).
According to Mr. Higashikawa, “The KRDH Design Centre contributes not only to the design of agricultural and construction machinery, but also to a range of products such as utility vehicles, vending machines, air cleaners, and the plant facility operation panels used for water-related infrastructure. A comprehensive manufacturer that gives designers the opportunity to take part in such a wide scope of products is rather a rarity in the trade. Given the characteristics of the various business lines handled by Kubota, the company makes positive contributions to society through its products.
I am immensely pleased to be involved as one of the designers! The happiest moments for me are when I – the person in charge of the design process for the Kubota M7001 Series Tractors – witness first hand the surprise and excitement people express when viewing or operating these products.”
Mr. Kushita adds, “Soil, climate, and crops vary significantly from place-to-place. That being the case, a designer of agricultural machinery for global applications needs to go directly to the sites of usage in order to fully realize what is necessary to bring forth the best product possible. Looking to the future, we will continue visiting active operational sites to familiarize ourselves with the emerging needs of users in order to incorporate the appropriate solutions. In this way we will continually be able to offer unique Kubota designs accompanied by the desired functions and thereby generate great excitement among customers.”
In addition to the functionality that is required on the frontline of agricultural operations, Kubota design incorporates futuristic visions as well as technology while embodying even the pride and aspiration of people involved with the job. What will be the next new Kubota product to emerge from the Design Center following the M7001 Series? Such anticipation stokes excitement!
- From Kubota Press (Japan)
- Kubota Press (Japan) is Kubota’s owned media that covers the fields of food, water, and the environment from the perspectives of people, technology, and communities to convey where Kubota is today and give a realistic picture of where we work.