A Game of thrones


If you are a bulldozer or tractor operator, a welldesigned seat can make all the difference between working and suffering.

Companies like KAB specialised in making sure you are sitting comfortably, so that you can work both safely and efficiently.

Working with a construction or a farm vehicle can be very physically demanding. You spend 8 to 10 hours in a small cabin, have to adapt to all weather conditions, on pothole-ridden roads, slippery slopes and potentially dangerous terrain. Above all, you need to stay focused and efficient, in spite of being shaken around like a martini! Very much like astronaut training.

Fortunately, there has been a lot of progress in this field. The wheels or tracks, the structure, the material and vehicle design have all been improved in order to dampen the effect of shock and vibration associated with operating vehicles in harsh environments. The seats are at the very heart of this evolution.

What’s the next thing we can do to make the vehicle more comfortable? That’s the question we ask ourselves every day” says Gary Hamberg, CVG Product Line Manager for Off-Road Seating. “We invest the most in R&D, in terms of both time and money, to answer this question.“

T2-Super High Left

Occupant comfort has been an area of focus for KAB seating since 1968. The UK company, acquired by the CVG group in 2001, specialises in the design and manufacturing of seats for industrial vehicles. It has earned a prominent position in the field of construction vehicles, from light to heavy duty (in particular in hydraulic excavators). Volvo, Caterpillar and practically all major players in the sector have become its customers. Seats are also sold to small OEMs and for the aftermarket industry.

In a nutshell, the evolution of comfort solutions aims to isolate the operator from the shock and vibration of the vehicle, which are not only exhausting, but also potentially harmful.

Today, KAB and the other seat brands of the CVG group (Bostrom, National, Stratos) have a great asset, a reputation for high performing, durable seats, which has been built up over 50 years. “Mention our brands,” says Hamberg, “and people will tell you about our suspension systems!” 

Positioned underneath the seat, systems developed by KAB now comprise of up to 6 shock absorber axes. “They not only protect the operator from forward and backward motion, but also up and down and side to side.“ Air suspension systems (more efficient, precise and adjustable than traditional mechanical suspensions) initially high-end, have gradually become the standard. Considerable means have also been invested by CVG in the development of integrated, adjustable dampers. 

Other parts of the seat are also important comfort-wise. For instance, its form (seat back height, armrest type, etc.) can be optimised for each specific vehicle application. Or its air conditioning (heating, cooling, ventilation) can be integrated in the seat in order to ensure the best possible conditions for the operator’s body.

T2-Comfort Left headrest and armrest

Other integrated functionalities are more to do with health than with comfort, for example lumbar support. Or even more so, active back massage, stimulating blood flow and counterbalancing the operator’s long periods of immobility. These technologies are in addition to safety measures, such as OPS, sensors which are capable of detecting the presence or absence of an operator, and in the latter case, shutting down the operation of the vehicle.

All in all, a high-end seat is a true concentration of technology. “People often don’t realize how much is integrated in there.

For sure, evolution of technology will not stop in the future. Seats will certainly follow the global trend of “always more electronics”: automatic adjustment to the operator and his/her working position, personalised seat position and inclination, dampers adjusted according to conditions (roads, construction sites, fields), connection to mobile apps… KAB and the CVG group cater to every requirement. All ideas are weighted according to two criteria.

The first criterion is reliability. Industrial vehicles are expected to last a long time, often several decades and electronics do not withstand dusty and dirty off-road environment for long. The second criterion is price. “This market is very very cost conscious” notes Mr Hamberg. Unlike in the automobile industry, there is no place for gadgets or luxury.

In short, it is out of the question to cut back on the benefits of comfort (less fatigue, better productivity) and provide lower reliability or durability. On a construction site, all downtime has a very high cost.

To be able to propose competitive prices and to meet the extremely varied requirements of its customers, KAB Seating has been focusing on providing modular solutions. “Our range of products relies on a common base model. Customers can select the standard model or go all the way up to the Premium. They do not pay for unnecessary options.” This applies to the choice of materials (from black cloth to leather with coloured twin stitching) or functionalities (seat height, armrests, massage system, etc.)

In case, after having read this article, you feel like sitting in a KAB seat, the good news is that you do not necessarily need to climb into a bulldozer or a tractor. The brand sells office chairs as well. These chairs occupy a niche market suitable for up to 24-hour use for high usage environments, whether users work on a construction site in Rio or in the Corn Belt, a call centre in Mumbai or an office in the City of London. Across both industrial and office, the user needs are satisfied in the same way, offering the best possible comfort to those who have to remain seated for long periods of time.

Northwire & CVG

Through KAB and its other specialised brands, Commercial Vehicle Group (CVG) manufactures hundreds of thousands of seats and other component systems every year. The vast majority are intended for intensive use like trucks and school buses, or heavy-duty applications, such as construction vehicles, tractors, military land vehicles. 

These extreme conditions put a great strain on various systems. Therefore, CVG requires particularly robust and reliable interconnection solutions. They have found in Northwire, LEMO’s US cable manufacturer, a solution provider specialised in such environments, combining expertise, innovation and responsiveness.

CVG’s commitment to provide the best possible engineering service has truly become a group effort with Northwire”, says Jason Cornwall, a lead application engineer for CVG. ”Northwire’s willingness to collaborate and educate CVG engineers about cable design has greatly improved CVG’s ability to provide our customers with value engineering in cost reduction projects and with new product development.

Projects they have successfully partnered on for global off-road heavy equipment manufacturers include retractile cables for joysticks in construction equipment, diesel, fuel and chemical resistant wire and cable for camera harnesses and numerous other extreme environment applications where superior performance is required.